Written by Kimberley Startup | January 21, 2014
It’s widely recognised that the media can be an intensely competitive field, with initial opportunities often being very low-paid – that is, if they are paid at all. However, with some people having become successful journalists even without A-Levels, it is by no means an impossible dream with the right levels of passion and persistence. A good recruitment agency may help a budding writer to get off to a strong start, but there are seemingly as many different routes into journalism work as there are journalists.
Journalism is distinct from other fields like medicine and law, in its lack of definite educational requirements. While others may seek work experience before then approaching a recruitment agency, others may pursue a journalism degree or a postgraduate or short course. For those taking the academic route, one of the first dilemmas will be whether to undertake an undergraduate degree in journalism, or complete a course in another subject of interest prior to enrolling on a journalism postgraduate programme.
The latter route tends to be recommended most often by journalists themselves. But even taking this road to a career as a journalist can be fraught with difficult choices. Some may undertake a journalism postgraduate diploma or MA, usually lasting between nine months and a year, while shorter courses are also available through which budding writers can more quickly learn shorthand, law and other essential skills and knowledge.
Length may not be as important as the course being accredited by the National Council for the Training of Journalists (NCTJ), particularly for aspiring print journalists. Many journalists would also now advise those aspiring to enter the field to choose a course with a strong online element, covering digital technology and digital marketing, rather than specialising in print journalism. For those wanting to break into radio, meanwhile, accreditation by the Broadcast Journalism Training Council (BJTC) can be a major feature of a course.
Two types of shorthand exist, Pitman and Teeline, with the latter being a key element of many journalism degrees. It can take as little as four to six months to learn shorthand, although much subsequent practice will be required to master it. Those undertaking a course are also advised to use their time well by starting a blog and making industry connections. By blogging early on about a certain specialist subject, it could be easier to find opportunities through specialist publications and make further relevant contacts, including through a recruitment agency.
Work experience is also often vital in journalism, and can be obtained by emailing the editor of a publication that you would like to contribute to and telling them of your past experience and your interest in work experience – in addition to pitching a story idea, which appeals to an editor’s constant search for solutions. Of course, it is also vital for journalists to enjoy what they are doing – another factor that can make the job of a recruitment agency much easier when helping a candidate to find relevant opportunities.