Skipping university is no barrier to a job in journalism

28 08 2012

At 16 some people are ready to commit themselves to a career.

Brighton Journalist Works graduate Caroline Wilson knew she didn’t want to go to university at 16, and shocked her teachers and family when she took up an apprenticeship.

By the age of 16 I’d had enough of feeling pressured by those around me telling me to “study hard” and “think about what you want to do when you grow up”.

So I decided to “rebel” against them all by dropping out and doing an apprenticeship in hairdressing.

This was much to the disgust of my school who even called me into the headteacher’s office to discuss the “shocking” career choice of this grammar school girl.

In her comment piece A degree is not the only way to a goal published in Brighton’s Argus newspaper on August 20, Caroline explains how work experience at her local newspaper confirmed the  feeling  journalism was the right career.

She was surprised to land a place on the Journalist Works fast-track NCTJ course in April this year without an A-level to her name, but now she has a string of gold standard results behind her without a degree.

If I’d stuck it out at school as the teachers had wanted and gone on to university I would have probably picked a completely random subject and after a lot of wasted time and money, still been none the wiser about what I wanted to be when I came out.

It took me until the age of 25 to know for sure what I wanted and though I appreciate everyone is different, I know a lot of people who have gone to university and either come out and not been able to get a job, or, ended up getting a job doing something completely irrelevant to their pricey university course.

Caroline is not an isolated case. Back in April tabloid journalist Fleet Street Fox told BJW students how she camped out at her local newspaper offices from age 14 until they gave her a job at 18. By the time she was 20 Foxy was chief reporter.

Hard work and determination saw her hit Fleet Street in her early 20s after studying for her NCTJ exams while working.

Another example of early drive is Suzy Talbot, who took charge of her first newspaper as news editor when she was 22.

Now aged 27 she is a deputy editor at Trinity Mirror Southern, with responsibility for the Harrow Observer, Buckinghamshire Advertiser and Bucks Examiner.

Both Suzy’s parents worked for the Bucks Examiner, which meant her face was known around the office when she had her first work experience placement at 15.

“I never wanted to do anything else, I knew from primary school I wanted to be a journalist,” he said.

During her school holidays Suzy returned on work experience placements and settled into a long-term stint during her year out from university.

She worked hard and the news editor encouraged her to apply for a trainee position where Suzy impressed the editor-in-chief during her interview.

I learned the job by doing the basics – it was a good way to start. I was lucky my colleague where I was based was a really good mentor and really helpful.

Everyone at the paper was really supportive. People might have viewed me as a burden, but everyone was supportive. Everyone mentored me.

A trainer told me before my NCE I wouldn’t pass because I was too young, now I sit on those editor’s panels and I’m at same level as the editor-in-chief who first interviewed me.

Suzy does not regret going to university as she isn’t saddled with an extensive debt and she has progressed further up the career ladder.

Her advice for future journalists is:

You don’t need a degree, but you do need your NCTJ qualifications.

You certainly don’t need a degree in journalism, do something else if you’re not sure, history, English, science, because if you study journalism and decide it’s not what you want to do, you’re stuck.

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31 10 2012
Unhappy birthday to me « Soup du Journalism

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