Think you’ve sat your last exam? Think again…

Remember that feeling, like you were drowning in words and letters, like the pages were going to come alive in front of your very eyes and smother you with all the information you had yet to learn? That feeling of hopelessness and being so sure that you would fail? The constant cycle of fear of exams and relief when they were finished was how many of us spent the last five or six years through sixth form/college and then university. At that time, it was difficult to visualise a life outside of the cycle and to imagine actually going to work and finishing the day without homework and further reading…

Then, the end was in sight. That glimmer of light at the end of a tunnel made of books, it wasn’t just the reflection from your glasses, or yet another clock timing your essay writing. That glimmer was freedom! It was the realisation that there was a world outside of your studies and that you would soon be thrust into it and forced to find a real 9-5 job, to sign up to a pension plan and to make your own pack-up lunches. Wow. How exciting it was to think that after three years of studying for the privilege, you would finally be eligible for your dream job – or at least one at the bottom of the rung with hopes of making it to that dream job. It might sound sad, but after three years of studying, reading, writing essays, of partying hard and staying up late, I was ready to leave that world and move on to a real career. I had finally worked out that I wanted to be a journalist or to work in the media and I was eager to sink my teeth into a new and real challenge.

I was lucky, I had put the time and effort into extra work experience, unpaid positions, and had made the connections needed to secure me a job early on, but I hadn’t realised how much work was involved when one decides to become a journalist! The problem is, when you leave university, you just assume that you have written your last essay, scribbled madly in your last exam, made your final presentation and submitted your final piece of group work. But the shock comes when you realise it’s not the case. Now more than ever, with competition so high for jobs and everyone reaching incredible standards of training, it is important to keep ahead of the game by taking advantage of as many types of training as possible.

I have two friends who studied English with me at university and they are now elbow-deep in teacher training, creating learning resources and endless amounts of paperwork – they arrive at work two hours before the children arrive for school and continue to work for several hours after they leave, barely breaking for lunch, then carry on with more work in the evenings. They work harder now that ever before, and although it will all be worth it in the long run, I’m sure that both of them would love to be enjoying a 9-5 job which sees them focusing on the children rather than the paperwork.

As some of you may have already read on my About page, I chose to take the job offered to me and to enrol in my distance learning NTCJ Diploma in Journalism course rather than fork out the few thousand to study the 10-week course – it was cost-effective and meant I could work straight away rather than miss the job opportunity. My problem was the fact that after studying for three years and paying more than £10,000 for the privilege alongside mountains of extra work experience, I was still not qualified enough for the job! This was such a kick in the teeth. I had finally found the career I had longed for and I was finally given the chance to work full-time, but I was to be penalised in my wages for not having my NCTJ qualification. I understand that I journalism, there are aspects such as shorthand and law that you need to study in order to protect yourself as a writer – but it doesn’t take away from the fact that so many graduates are finding themselves still not qualified enough for the jobs they are applying for despite studying for a full three or four years!

It is a very unfair part of the education system, but even more so for those who managed to enrol on a journalism course that didn’t take them through all the necessary exams or to 100wph shorthand – that must be very disappointing – to finish a three-year journalism BA and still have to pay for the 10-week course.It just shows you, you really need to push yourself to get every advantage that is available to you to stand a chance in the big, wide, world.


4 responses to “Think you’ve sat your last exam? Think again…

  1. Hi Lucy, I found your blog post on the NCTJ tag via Twitter. I agree with you it is very unfair of the system to have Journalism degrees which don’t include the diploma. I found it is a criticism voiced by members of the NCTJ board and lecturers at both my university and NCTJ course so perhaps we will see a change in the near future? I have wondered if perhaps the reason these degrees exist is because once upon a time the trainee positions which gave the option of taking a lower salary and learning on the job were widely available. Students might enrol on a journalism degree and their aspirations change, if not they have a degree in the field to put them in good stead when applying to such a position after graduating. Unfortunately today these trainee positions are just very hard to come by and as I saw on my own 14-week course many candidates enrol straight from college or sixth form – The fee being far cheaper than a degree and the qualification obtained far quicker. Luckily I knew about the diploma before enrolling on my degree, but the content taught at the unis which included the diploma didn’t suit my method of learning and, on top of personal reasons, I opted for a university which didn’t include the diploma so I could study modules in other topics. I also got a chance to study modules in broadcast and digital journalism, something I do feel that in this age the NCTJ criteria needs to incorporate, especially for those students who do opt to study only the intense course. I was fortunate enough to have the financial security to optionally take a degree without the diploma and plan to study it after I graduated, as I have done, and it feels great to have Gold standard at last. I was also very lucky in that my university tailored my timetable and gave me an opportunity to take on extra classes alongside my degree (even being taught by Marie Cartwright for shorthand) so I had some of the certificates which cut the cost of the NCTJ course. But this just isn’t the case for so many people and it just isn’t fair in this job market that these non-nctj-accredited-degrees exist! They don’t advertise the need for the diploma which is a shame. I found this post really interesting, lets hope budding journos will read it and be enlightened to what they need to look out for when applying to uni! Your site looks great by the way! Keep up the good work.

    • Hi Adele,
      Yes, hopefully we will see a change in the future, because I really do feel that there is no point in a journalism degree that doesn’t provide you with a NCTJ certificate – if just costs far more in the long run and takes a hell of a lot longer – time and money is something students just don’t have! I think you must be right in the reason for them existing, but as you say, they are rather redundant now! Your course sounds great – a good opportunity to study the more creative sides of journalism but also complete the diploma, but not everyone has this option. I personally couldn’t afford to study away again so I enrolled on the diploma distance learning course – which is another good option whilst working. I think there is a real lack of information available – journalism is not something that I was even made aware of while looking at courses at school – there was no information about courses or anything and I didn’t know where to look. I hope that the information they provide to applicants is more varied and useful than what I was given.
      I’m glad you found the post useful and as you say, I hope others will as well – perhaps it might give them a better idea of what they are in for. If you are interested, I wrote a guest post about my journalism studies for another blog: which might also be useful when comparing distance learning and studying in house.
      Can I ask – are you working as a journalist now? Or have you branched out in a different direction?
      Thanks so much for your comments.

  2. I see you mention not wanting to stay in print… I imagine you would enjoy and do well online! Similarly I like working with the digital platform but more on the PR and marketing side of things SEO PPC etc. Journalism-wise I’m particularly interested in broadcast, but still the writing side of it.. I focused on editing for radio at uni/for my dissertation I produced a radio documentary, but I still enjoy writing the most, just prefer doing so for the broadcast platform.
    Yep I’m currently sports ed for a women’s health publication. My ed is Anna Magee – so she is amazing to work under on a national publication. Our offices were opposite the London Eye looking onto the green which was a beauty but we’ve moved just this week! I’ve been doing this since graduating (with the exception of my diploma and travelling in the summer of 2013).
    I do freelance but to be honest I’ve taken a well earned break the last two weeks having only ended the course and got the results a couple of weeks ago!
    I’m financially ok at the moment, tough wood, so want to find temporary work until the summer of 2014 when I am going travelling for a month or so. Once I return from that I will want full time work in the field but not necessarily in Kings Lynn, I’d like to go somewhere with greater opportunities to progress in one location rather than keep moving about as I’ve sorted a deposit for a house etc.. scary times growing up and all!
    Re now – don’t shoot me for saying it but, while I have the luxury of only needing temporary work, I would like to try going to the other side (!!) and get some PR/Marketing experience.

What do you think about this..?

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s