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Studying a media studies degree

A media studies degree isn’t a passport to a media career, but you’ll pick up more useful skills than just watching TV will ever teach you. Read on to find out more.

What is media studies?

Media studies examines the ‘mass media’, which means things like newspapers, films, TV and radio. The subject was first taught in the 1970s, but as the mass media has expanded with the internet and digital broadcasting, media studies has become much more diverse. Alongside ‘media studies’ as a general subject, you can now study specific areas such as digital or film, often called different names.

What will I study on a media studies degree?

This depends hugely on the degree you choose, which is why it’s so important to do your research first. More traditional media studies degrees are often more theoretical. This means you’ll be studying the media in an academic way, looking at things like the history of the mass media, how it influences people and society, and different methods of interpreting films. Many theory-based media studies degrees crossover with other subjects such as English, politics and communication studies, and many universities offer joint honours degrees combining media studies with other subjects.

Other media studies degrees are more vocational, and are designed to teach practical skills like production, writing and editing for specific areas of the media. These more specialist degrees are often called things like ‘Radio Production’ or ‘Magazine Journalism’ instead of ‘media studies’. They might also include some work experience.

It’s worth remembering that almost all vocational media studies degrees will include some bits of theory, and some more theoretical degrees might include practical modules as well.

What qualifications do I need for a media studies degree?

Exact entry requirements vary according to where you want to study, and whether the degree is more theoretical or vocational. For theoretical degrees, many universities will want at least three A-levels or equivalent, which don’t necessarily have to include media studies, since many universities see English as more important.

A-levels are also good for more practical degrees, but many universities also offer foundation degrees as an entry point to these courses.

Where can it lead?

A vocational rather than theoretical degree is probably more useful if you want to work in a specific area of the media like broadcasting or print journalism.

This doesn’t mean that a theoretical degree is useless though. Many of the things you’ll learn like research, critical thinking and communication skills are useful for a range of careers such as PR, teaching or consultancy as well the media.

A media studies degree can also lead on to postgraduate qualifications, such as the NCTJ Diploma in Journalism.  

However, if you’re really serious about getting a job in the media, you need to remember that practical experience is more important than any qualification. Even if your course involves work experience, you need to do plenty of extracurricular activities like contributing to your student media or organising your own summer internships to get your foot in the door.

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