How do I get into a career in the media?

Getting into the media - image of open newspaper
Find out about routes into media jobs, both via university and apprenticeships. Investigate the subjects and work experience you need, and make sure you’re taking the right path for the career you want long term.

The media is mostly a graduate profession. This is particularly the case on the content creation side of the business, in other words for publishing, editing and journalism jobs. There are some routes in that don’t require a degree; for example higher apprenticeships and training schemes for newspaper and broadcast journalism, technical support, web development and broadcast production roles. However, there aren’t many of them.

The advice below applies to all media jobs, but we also have more specific information about particular media careers:

Getting media work experience

To get any sort of entry level job in the media you almost always need relevant – often unpaid – work experience, and often a portfolio of your own work. Be aware that, if you go to university, you may still need to do work experience after you graduate, even if you’ve already got plenty of it on your CV. Also, media organisations tend to be based in the UK’s most expensive cities, especially London, so working there for free or on a low salary can be a challenge. However, there are a variety of ways to build your employability, so you can balance experience in the workplace with cheaper, simpler options such as writing for a student newspaper or setting up your own blog or vlog.

Start thinking about getting experience as early as possible. If there’s anything you can do while you are still at school or college, that is great. You often need experience to get experience, so getting something small on your CV now will help you land more juicy experience in future.

For example, you could volunteer your services writing, proofreading, taking photos for or designing a school or community publication or website. This could help you to get onto a relevant degree, apply successfully for a few days’ work experience with a media employer or get a role on a university publication, radio station or TV channel. And these in turn could help you prove you’re the right candidate for a longer work placement with an employer.

What A levels do I need for a career in the media?

Generally, your choice of subject for A level, Scottish Highers or the International Baccalaureate won’t affect your chances of getting into the media with some obvious exceptions:

  • If you want to work in broadcast engineering you may need maths and/or science subjects to get onto a relevant degree or apprenticeship
  • Likewise, if you want to work in science, technical or medical media – for example as a journalist or editor – you should study a relevant degree at university and will need specific science and/or maths subjects to get onto this. Find out what subjects you’ll need to get onto a degree in maths, physics, chemistry, biology or medicine, plus get help choosing which science degree to study.

What subject should I study at university to get a media job?

There are lots of specialist undergraduate media and TV degrees. Alternatively, you could take a first degree in any subject followed by a media postgraduate course. This is a route taken by many undergraduates who want to become journalists and editors. In some cases you can take a degree in any subject and get in without a postgraduate media qualification. Read our articles on choosing the best degree for a career in editorial, journalism or print production, and choosing the best degree for a career in media production, media design and photography to explore these options further.

Which universities are best if I want a career in the media?

For most media organisations it doesn’t matter where you studied your first degree, although the journalism degrees and postgraduate courses at City, University of London and Cardiff University have always been very well respected. And, for certain types of academic media, it may give your application a boost if your degree is from a top university.

What grades do I need for a media apprenticeship?

There are apprenticeships for junior production roles and for a limited number of journalist posts in newspapers and broadcasting. Some employers value experience and portfolio above academic qualifications. Others want around five GCSEs including English Language and two to three A levels at grades A to C.

Is it possible to move between media jobs?

It’s possible to move between some media jobs but not others, so keep this in mind when deciding which area to go into. Starting out in a field that’s easier to get into won’t necessarily help you if it’s not where you want to be long term.

  • Newspaper journalists can move into magazine journalism. Sometimes this works the other way round but not always.
  • Moving from lifestyle media into business media or vice versa can sometimes be a bit tricky, but isn’t impossible.
  • There are precious few connections between book publishing and other areas of the media.
  • Many journalists end up working in PR for a range of organisations.

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