Some people believe a media degree to be an ‘easy ride’ for students.
I’m not sure. In my experience, most industry-accredited courses these days demand high levels of student activity, especially around placements, internships and regular contributions to productions and publications. Hardly a walk in the park.
Some suspect media to be generalist subject. Big mistake! All the degrees are quite specific: Broadcast Journalist, Digital Film Production, Media Production (TV & Radio), etc
Nevertheless, there is a question of relevance. Is it worth spending £27,000 on a degree when some believe it’s much better to learn the job at the coalface?
Certainly, if I were entering the halls of education today, I would want to know a lot more about who’s doing the teaching. Who are you, what do you know, will you inspire me? Is the curriculum good enough?
The concern is that those who do the teaching are out of kilter with the modern world.
I explored this theory on twitter and was soon bombarded with woeful tales that might make any student ponder on the choice they’ve made. If true, it’s quite a damning indictment, so I spent the morning making a few calls.
Ben Cooper, controller of BBC Radio 1 suggests ‘on-air miles’ is much more important that A-levels or a degree. Their internship programme rarely asks for a CV, instead they seek evidence of a real desire to work within the industry. A video blog, podcast or a mix tape for example. Theory is of little interest here, personality, talent and passion are much more in demand.
R1 want communicators who are comfortable within a studio environment.
This is a key point.
It is why student radio stations are good places to be. They give you experience and confidence.
Over at ITV, a senior executive tells me that they are only after digitally savvy communicators.
Stuart Feather, a senior media executive in Scotland tweeted:
“Anyone who teaches and has been away from the front line for more than five years, knows next to nothing”.
A producer at The BBC emailed:
”far too many media students come unprepared for the modern workplace”.
Journalism courses remain highly valued with employers – which is good – and they want the focus to be on good writing skills and a solid understanding of the law.
Bauer, Global, BBC and UTV respectively have set up their own teaching academies. Many are working with Universities to ensure courses are relevant, but this is far from a universal approach. They prefer to champion people who’ve been through their own factories of learning, especially as they can control the teaching and spot the best talent early.
So is a media degree worthwhile?
Well, I don’t know. I bend to the yes vote but not entirely.
Yes, because many employers still operate a policy of ONLY hiring graduates. This means ambitious young people choose the university route as a stepping stone to employment. They want to be seen to be keen and going through the right doors at the right age. You have to play the game but it is nothing more than snobbery if you ask me.
No, because no paper whatsoever guarantees anyone a job. There are many, many routes into media. Most commercial radio programmers for example have no degree whatsoever. They’ve done OK.
My own son, Scott Myers, dropped out of University after the first year because what they were teaching him was years behind what he was actually learning on the job, at the then Galaxy radio in Leeds. It was absolutely the right choice.
The issue, for me at least, is the curriculum.
There will always be those who want to study the theory of media as a genuine intellectual and academic subject – studying the why of broadcasting as well as the how etc – but they are in the minority. Real experience is vital with much greater emphasis placed on outcomes rather than process.
Like everything else in life, some organisations do this better than others. They are well noted.
How do employers pick their employees from the vast numbers wanting a job?
Easy. They hire who they like – so like-ability is really, really important.
They seek someone with an opinion who can project their thoughts.
They look for good people skills and a terrific attitude. They also want those who can display a creative and confident swagger. That applies to every company by the way, not just media.
Above all, everyone is looking for the best communicators with the best ideas who can generate the best content – often to a tight deadline. Can you do that?
If you can, you’ve got it made!