Some people believe a media degree to be an ‘easy ride’ through student life.
I’m not so sure. In my experience, most industry-accredited courses demand high levels of student activity these days, especially around placements, internships, contributions to productions and publications etc. Hardly a walk in the park then! Media is not a generic subject either. All the degrees are quite specific: Broadcast Journalist, Digital Film Production, Media Production (TV & Radio) and more.
Nevertheless, there is a question of relevance. Is it worth spending £27,000 on a degree when you may be able to learn more at the coalface?
Certainly, if I were entering the halls of education today, I would want to know a lot more about who was doing the teaching and their level of experience. Do they have good contacts, are they inspiring, what’s the standard of outside lecturers like? Is the curriculum up to date?
The concern from the outside world is that those who do the teaching are out of kilter with the modern world.
I explored this theory on twitter. Like everything else, there is good and bad. That said. I was 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. There are few better than Spark FM in Sunderland and all of them offer experience in building 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. Future employers demand 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. Those that do benefit all round. However, this is far from a universal approach.
So is a media degree worthwhile?
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. It annoys me that in 2014, ‘playing the game’ is still something you have to do.
On the other hand, a degree is no guarantee of a job. The vast majority don’t even look to see if you have one, but student life can be transformational, why miss out on that?
It is not for everyone. 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 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. To succeed, you need real experience at some point and there has to be much greater emphasis placed on outcomes rather than process.
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 the people they like – so like-ability is really, really important.
They want someone with an opinion who can project their thoughts.
They look for people skills and a terrific attitude. They also seek a creative and confident swagger. That applies to nearly every company by the way, not just in media.
Above all, the jobs go to 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 – no matter what!