Do I need a Journalism degree to be a Journalist?

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When you tell people you’re doing a Journalism degree, you tend to get one of two reactions. It’ll either be the “oh that sounds really interesting, what does that involve?”, or there’ll be the academic snobs. The ones that almost retch at the mere thought of studying a degree in Journalism, whilst trying to hide it behind a not-so-subtle, awkward smile. If you ask whether a Journalism degree is essential for getting a head-start in the field, to answer it simply, no it isn’t. You can make it as a journalist with just about any degree. But does it help to have a degree in Journalism? Yes.

A Journalism degree can be limiting in the options it opens up for a student after graduating - if they were planning on running for prime-minister later on in life, a Journalism degree probably isn’t for them, but for budding journalists, obviously it would make no sense not to study a degree in the subject. In a time where vocational practises and degrees are becoming increasingly common, more people are tending to flock towards these sorts of subjects in hope of securing a specific job in the future. It can sometimes be a gamble though. It can go two ways; end up in the job you dreamed of, or end up bleaching the Trafford Centre toilets.

Having studied Journalism, I often wonder if I’ll actually end up spending my life writing columns and features or sitting behind the till at Home Bargains for 40 hours a week. Whilst researching for a university project, I spoke to a bartender in a pub who told me he had done a Journalism degree at University 6 years ago - he went on to serve me chips with mayo. Needless to say this didn’t exactly fill me with confidence and reassurance of my future, but it goes to show that no matter what degree you graduate with, you never know where you’ll go. However, one thing is for sure though; taking up a degree in Journalism guarantees you skills you wouldn’t be able to find in other degrees.

Take shorthand for example – A skill taught in every Journalism degree yet not in any other subject. Whilst it may be one of the most mind-numbingly dull learning experiences out there, it’s an almost essential skill needed for any young person looking to go into Journalism. Graham Dudman, Managing Editor of the highly-intellectual and thought provoking newspaper, The Sun, says: “Shorthand is a crucial tool for all journalists. If you don’t have shorthand, you don’t get the job, simple as that”.

Unfortunately, there are, as mentioned before, the academic snobs in this world who hold a more bygone view on education and still haven’t realised we’re in the 21st century. They will always question the credibility of the Journalism degree, along with a vast array of other subjects; Sociology, psychology, media studies – the list goes on. If you walk into Tiger Tiger, you’ll hear the chants of “Uni. Uni. Uni” battling against the roars of “Met, met met”, encouraging a mild form of educational snobbery and rivalry. Albeit in good humour, underneath it all, it’s obvious the rival universities really want to have a full on scrap on the dance floor. It tends to be the newer universities who provide the more vocational degrees, but older universities are following suit. Despite a lot of redbrick universities priding themselves on their statuses, several of them are doing the unthinkable – Yes, they are adding more vocational courses to their prospectuses, including Journalism; much to the dismay of the stiff-neck professors who like to imagine students studying Latin by candlelight. Many now offer Journalism along with several older vocational courses of the same kin, such as performing arts -which, let’s face it, is a lot more questionable as a degree than Journalism. Good luck breaking into Hollywood with your 2:1 in drama.

As you’re sat at the desk in the offices of The Independent or The Times or, dare I say it, The Sun, being interviewed for a job, quite frankly, an employer would probably look more favourably at you if you have a Journalism degree with a load of experience rather than an English degree with a load of experience. So when you ask ‘is a Journalism degree needed for a career in Journalism?’, no it isn’t, but it’ll help a hell of  a lot.

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