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Careers Frequently Asked Questions

FAQ - Click on the question, or scroll down to find the answer on this page.

  1. Are there any accredited correspondence/distance learning courses in journalism?
  2. Are there any courses for news photographers?
  3. Are there any training schemes run by media companies?
  4. Can I get any help with funding to do a course in journalism?
  5. Can you recommend any books to help me improve my web writing style?
  6. Do you have to be a graduate to become a journalist?
  7. I often see adverts for distance-learning courses in journalism in the Sunday papers. Are these courses any good and what should I be looking for?
  8. I am a graduate and am thinking about journalism as a career. Where can I find out about the best courses?
  9. I am about to be made redundant from my staff job on a magazine and am thinking about freelancing. Do you have any advice?
  10. I am currently working in broadcasting but need to develop more multi-media skills. Where can I find out some information on short courses?
  11. I am planning to train as a journalist and would like to do this by distance learning since I am moving abroad next year. Do you know if these courses are well thought of? How do they compare with vocational training? I have no prior training in journalism.
  12. I can't afford to spend three years studying journalism. Are there any fast-track courses?
  13. I often see work advertised in newspapers for proof-readers to work from home. Where can I find proof-reading courses?
  14. I want to become a journalist. How do I go about it?
  15. I wrote for my student newspaper, undertook a week's work experience at a local paper and have worked in PR for three years. I also edit our internal newspaper. We are a large charity and this has a circulation of 10,000 people. I would like to look into journalism training, with a view of taking on some freelance work in conjunction with my career. Is this a feasible option? Would you recommend further training in the first instance? How do I go about convincing people of my credibility when I have not done any freelance writing before?
  16. Is 32 too old to embark on a career in journalism?
  17. I'm 25, have just graduated with a politics degree from the LSE and want to become a reporter. I have a little editorial experience from a volunteer placement with an NGO, but no experience of student journalism. Any advice on first steps?
  18. I'm already working as a reporter but I want to learn how to sub. Where can I find a suitable course?
  19. I'm doing a combined science degree but I would love to become a journalist. Will I be disadvantaged from someone who does a journalism course and what is the best route for me to take?
  20. My employer is talking about everyone working across our printed titles and online publications. I have no idea about html, web journalism or technology at all.
  21. Should I try and get work experience and how do I go about it?
  22. What skills are needed to become a journalist?
  1. Are there any accredited correspondence/distance learning courses in journalism?
    The only newspaper journalism distance-learning course we know about is the one run by the National Council for the Training of Journalists (NCTJ).

    The London School of Journalism runs distance learning courses in freelance journalism.

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  2. Are there any courses for news photographers?
    Yes. The National Council for the Training of Journalists (NCTJ) runs press photography and photo-journalism courses at The Sheffield College that cover photographic technique, basic news values and, for photo-journalism, reporting. Four GCSEs and at least one A-level (including English) are required.

    Detailed application forms are available from the National Council for the Training of Journalists, The New Granary, Station Road, Newport, Saffron Walden, Essex CB11 3PL. Enclose a 9x4 stamped addressed envelope. Suitable applicants will have to take a written test and, if successful, will be invited to attend a selection interview at The Sheffield College.

    The NCTJ's National Certificate in Press Photography/ Photo-journalism may be available for established employees.

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  3. Are there any training schemes run by media companies?
    Yes. There are a number of in-house training schemes. The BBC runs a news trainee scheme (careers@bbchrdirect.co.uk), as does the Press Association (tel: 020 7963 7000).

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  4. Can I get any help with funding to do a course in journalism?
    A few local educational authorities may award grants to meet part of the cost of college or university courses. Early enquiries should be made to local authorities because grants are extremely limited.

    For undergraduate courses, apply through the UCAS clearing system. For post-graduate courses, apply direct to the university.

    Companies may offer funding for in-house schemes. Contact the companies directly.

    The NUJ's George Viner Memorial Fund provides a limited amount of money to encourage more Black people to take up training opportunities. ITN runs a similar scheme.

    Unemployed people are able to access free training through CSV Media. There are also special arrangements for students with disabilities. See our page about bursaries.

    Before applying for funding, it is important to establish your requirements and find out about course fees, living costs and so on.

    More information:
    UCAS support
    Funding postgraduate study
    Funding for students with disabilities

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  5. Can you recommend any books to help me improve my web writing style?
    Many people find a book called Web Style Guide by Patrick J Lynch and Sarah Horton (Yale University Press, 2001) quite good. It covers every aspect of web design, including site architecture, browsers, graphic design, typography and so on, but Chapter 6, Editorial Style, probably gives most of the information writers need in 10 pages. The whole book is available on-line for free, or there is a print version costing £11.95.

    There is also book called Writing for your Website by Susannah Ross (Prentice Hall, 2001), which is a good basic text, and Creative Web Writing by Jane Dorner (A&C Black, 2002) for creative writers.

    Most of the material in these books and elsewhere comprises really quite fundamental tips for writing in general.

    More advanced writers may want to look at the W3C Quality Assurance Tips for Webmasters and Jakob Nielsen's articles about interface usability and website design for guidance on best practice for laying out websites and webpages.

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  6. Do you have to be a graduate to become a journalist?
    No, but an increasing number of people (about 80 per cent) entering the profession have a degree. It is not necessarily important what type of degree you hold. While journalism and media studies degrees are increasingly common, most employers will be equally happy with a degree in English, history, geography or any of the humanities, social sciences, languages or arts.

    Even some science degrees may equip you for a career in journalism. Much more important than your degree subject, however, is experience and evidence of a commitment to journalism. It is always good advice to get involved in college or community publications or broadcast organisations if you can.

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  7. I often see adverts for distance learning courses in journalism in the Sunday papers. Are these courses any good and what should I be looking for?
    A good journalism course covers a number of areas, including:
    • basic writing skills,
    • journalistic techniques of researching information, interviewing sources, getting ideas,
    • knowledge of the law covering journalism – libel, reporting restrictions, etc.,
    • skills involved in obtaining commissions, presenting your material to publishers,
    • business skills such as invoicing clients, keeping accounts, dealing with tax, etc.,
    • maximising income by using material several times in different markets,
    • journalistic ethics, such as protecting confidential sources, avoiding discriminatory writing.
    Good correspondence colleges set specific assignments that are marked and returned with detailed comments by tutors with experience in the industry.

    There is only one supplier of journalism correspondence courses currently approved by the NUJ – the National Council for the Training of Journalists (01279 430 009).

    There is an organisation called the Open and Distance Learning Quality Council that accredits correspondence colleges. You can telephone the ODLQC on 020 7935 5391 for further information, or to seek their views on other courses.

    Journalism is a job that involves a wide range of skills and hard work.

    Most professional journalists will have spent one to three years in degree-level, full-time education specifically designed to train students for a career in journalism, followed by at least 18 months working for a local newspaper, radio station or small magazine before they would be regarded as qualified.

    A correspondence course cannot be seen as a substitute for that level of career preparation. It should only be undertaken to enable you to write effectively for a community or voluntary publication, or as a hobby.

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  8. I am a graduate and am thinking about journalism as a career. Where can I find out about the best courses?
    You may be best advised to look for a job with a company that runs an in-house training scheme, such as the BBC and the Press Association.

    Among the best university-level providers are City University London, the University of Central Lancashire, and Cardiff University.

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  9. I am about to be made redundant from my staff job on a magazine and am thinking about freelancing. Do you have any advice?
    Good basic skills in writing or speaking may help, but freelances with a particular expertise are forgiven a lot when they are needed, so play to your strengths.

    The key to successful freelancing is to know your market and never undersell yourself. The NUJ's freelance fees guide provides a useful resource for freelances in the market, as does the Rate for the Job database maintained on London Freelance Branch's web site.

    The on-line NUJ Freelance Directory is a good place to advertise yourself.

    The NUJ runs courses to help people learn how to negotiate better freelance rates and provides members with a Freelance Fact Pack. The union also offers a number of courses for people starting out as a freelance journalist. Details are available in the main Training section.

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  10. I am currently working in broadcasting but need to develop more multi-media skills. Where can I find out some information about short courses?
    A full list of such courses is available through Creative Skillset, the national training organisation for the audio-visual industry.

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  11. I am planning to train as a journalist and would like to do this by distance learning since I am moving abroad next year. Do you know if these courses are well thought of? How do they compare to vocational training? I have no prior training in journalism.
    Although tutorial courses at the London School of Journalism are approved by the NUJ, the school has never sought accreditation from the union for its distance-learning courses.

    The only distance courses approved by the NUJ are those provided by the National Council for the Training of Journalists (NCTJ), which can be contacted at info@nctj.com.

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  12. I can't afford to spend three years studying journalism. Are there any fast-track courses?
    Many practical journalism courses last for one academic year, however there are some fast-track courses. Highbury College in Portsmouth, Lambeth College and The Sheffield College offer fast-track courses in reporting.

    The London College of Communication offers a number of journalism-related short courses and the PMA Group offers a nine-week, postgraduate course in magazine journalism.

    NUJ Training runs a number of one- and two-day courses which can be combined to provide a good introduction to journalism.

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  13. I often see work advertised in newspapers for proof-readers to work from home. Where can I find proof-reading courses?
    Many companies and academic organisations offer proof-reading as part of more extensive courses.

    The Publishing Training Centre at Book House, Wandsworth,
    London, offers a range of courses focused on the book publishing sector (tel: 020 8874 2718).

    Training Pages lists a number of proof-reading courses, although some of these have no scheduled start dates.

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  14. I want to become a journalist. How do I go about it?
    Reporters and photographers are recruited as trainees directly by regional or local newspapers. Some employers run their own training schemes. You will be expected to have a minimum of four GCSE passes or their equivalents, including English. GNVQs and BTECs are common qualifications but, increasingly, trainees are coming into the industry with A-levels or even university degrees.

    Training contracts generally last about two years and include a six-month probationary period. You may be enrolled on a day-release course and required to pass NCTJ examinations. If you wish to take this route, apply to the editor of a regional or local newspaper for employment as a trainee. Their details will be listed in current editions of Benn's UK Media Directory and Willings' Press Guide.

    Apply to the National Council for the Training of Journalists, The New Granary, Station Road, Newport, Saffron Walden, Essex CB11 3PL, enclosing 9x4 stamped addressed envelope) for details of recognised college or university courses (undergraduate and postgraduate) they accredit. These courses offer qualifications that are often accepted by employers, although it may help you meet the requirements for these courses if you have at least a few weeks' work experience in the media.

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  15. I wrote for my student newspaper, undertook a week's work experience at a local paper and have worked in PR for three years. I also edit our internal newspaper. We are a large charity and this has a circulation of 10,000 people. I would like to look into journalism training, with a view to some freelance work in conjunction with my career. Is this a feasible option? Would you recommend further training in the first instance? How do I go about convincing people of my credibility when I have not done any freelance writing before?
    We'd suggest that you offer some stories to publications in the area of your interest. Give them some solid ideas – possibly even finished features. If you're any good, your credibility is assured.

    The NUJ runs occasional Getting Started as a Freelance courses and a number of other useful short courses, details in the Training section. If you're not already a member of the NUJ, become a union member to benefit from the lower course costs.

    With freelancing, who you know is often as important as what you know.

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  16. Is 32 too old to embark on a career in journalism?
    You're never too old to become a journalist. It's a career that offers many opportunities for experienced people, particularly if they want to cover the field in which they gained experience in the first place. For example, quite a few teachers become educational journalists when they leave teaching – and the same goes for many other professions. If you're not already a professional, it may be an idea to take a course in the basics – and even if you are a professional, journalism training will help you when you're looking for work.

    Thirty-two is probably a good age to move into journalism: you'll have a few years' experience, but still be young enough to adapt easily. To take the next step, look at the NUJ Training pages for information about suitable courses. Try doing some writing or photography in your spare time, think about starting a blog or a website to show off your work and encourage feedback from your visitors.

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  17. I'm 25, have just graduated with a politics degree from the LSE, and want to become a reporter. I have a little editorial experience from a volunteer placement with an NGO, but no experience of student journalism. Any advice on first steps?
    Try writing to newspapers or broadcasters – particularly if your degree is a good one. However, cold calls and letters are better received by magazines and journals with smaller budgets. Many of these rely on freelance contributions and the best way to get work as a freelance is to come up with some good ideas for articles. In politics, this shouldn't be too hard. If you have contacts, use them.

    You may have better access to certain individuals than the magazines. You may simply know about things nobody on the staff does – there's likely to be work for people who can write knowledgeably about pensions or the situation in parts of Africa, say. If you can tie your ideas in to a particular event, you're likely to get even better results. Write to the Economist, the Spectator, the New Statesman or some of the smaller circulation political journals.

    You can get a list of titles and addresses from publications such as Willings' Press Guide (available in some libraries), and it's a good idea to ring up first and find out the name of a specific person to address your letter to – for example, deputy editor, features editor or politics editor. It's probably best to avoid writing to the editor unless there's no one else – s/he is likely to be too busy to read your letter. Address your letters to individuals, craft them so they read well, and follow them up with a phone call. If you have material that shows your writing style, enclose that with your letter.

    The other option for a recent graduate is a postgrad diploma or short course. You can use these courses not just to learn journalism, but also to make contacts. Many of the tutors are likely to be journalists or former journalists and may be able to help you find outlets for your work.

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  18. I'm already working as a reporter, but I want to learn how to sub. Where can I find a suitable course?
    The NUJ runs mid-career training courses for journalists, see the details in the Training section.

    PMA Training is an accredited mid-career training organisation providing subbing courses at various levels.

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  19. I'm doing a combined science degree but I would love to become a journalist. Will I be at a disadvantage compared with someone who completes a journalism course and what is the best route for me to take?
    Have a look at the other answers on this site for general help. If you want to write about science, having a science degree is your best possible start. After that, you may want to try studying for a 12-month, postgraduate diploma in journalism or a short course. You may get a job straight off if you can demonstrate decent writing or other relevant skills – so submit work to the college newsletter or try getting some vacation work with your local paper or radio station. If you want to know more about science writing, contact the Association of British Science Writers.

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  20. My employer is talking about everyone working across our printed titles and online publications. I have no idea about html, web journalism or technology at all.
    The NUJ runs a range of courses for beginners and also more advanced levels in internet publishing, internet research and in specific web-based software packages. The course list is being revised, but will be available through the Training section when the new list is launched.

    Other approved organisations providing similar courses are PMA Training and the NCTJ.

    Cornwall College, Bournemouth University Media School, BBC Webwise and Hotcourses also have details of courses that may be useful.

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  21. Should I try and get work experience and how do I go about it?
    Yes. Most editors will look for a commitment to journalism in any job applicants. Most media organisations will offer some work-experience opportunities, particularly during the summer months when full-time staff are often on holiday.

    You should make direct contact with those organisations that interest you – and be persistent.

    Contact details are published in books such as Benns Media, Willings' Press Guide and the Guardian Media Guide, all of which can be found in local libraries.

    Have a look at the NUJ's work experience guidelines.

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  22. What skills are needed to become a journalist?
    The skills you require depend on the kind of journalism you want to do. If pressed, most journalists will tell you that the most important skills are persistence, imagination, self-discipline and huge self-confidence.

    More specifically, journalism covers a range of tasks. In print, these will include reporting, feature writing, sub-editing, photography, layout, illustration and graphics and a host of specialist jobs from drawing cartoons and compiling crosswords to researching backgrounds and commissioning artwork.

    The NUJ also includes authors, translators, book-production staff and workers in press and public relations among its members. You may benefit from conventional skills such as shorthand, an understanding of the principles of linguistic or visual presentation, experience of research, and familiarity with office software.

    In broadcasting, you could find yourself writing scripts, reporting, presenting, producing or even editing audio and video. With the growth of digital media, broadcast journalism is changing radically and radio and TV journalists may have to acquire a whole new range of technical skills to go along with the conventional skills listed above.

    The rapidly expanding field of on-line journalism presents even more challenges. An increasing number of journalists have to adopt a "portfolio" approach to their careers. Even those who are not freelances find they may be required to work on magazines, web-sites and multimedia presentations in the same company.

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