Journalists come in all shapes and sizes, from photojournalism to investigative – but how do I become a journalist?
What GCSEs do I need to be a journalist?
Whichever route you take into journalism you will need English and maths at grade A* – C (7+ – 4)- The GCSE grading system changes this year; we have an article which explains the new grading for you.
Your GCSE performance can be a good indicator of how well you’ll do at A-level or other advanced studies, such as BTEC extended diploma. For instance, five B grades and five Cs grades at GCSE could roughly translate to a predicted CCD at A-level, while straight A and A* grades would suggest AAA is possible.
Many sixth forms and colleges will work out your predicted grades based on your total GCSE results (this is called a G-Score prediction)
GCSE results are only a prediction
However having said all of this, they remain solely predictions and do not automatically translate to higher or lower A-levels. In either case nothing is guaranteed. In contrast though a low you score in your GCSE grades could lead to your choices of colleges or sixth forms being limited, however it is always worth checking whether they can be flexible with their demands.
What are my educational options after GCSEs?
The short answer is loads – A-levels, the baccalaureate, vocational study or an apprenticeship
If you are thinking of doing an apprenticeship you do not need to have passed all of your GCSEs when you start, but you will be expected to achieve English and maths GCSEs as an apprentice. There are four levels of an apprenticeship and the apprenticeship that you do is highly dependent on your qualifications.
The new junior journalist apprenticeship is an advanced, Level 3 apprenticeship and is approved by the NCTJ (National Council for the Training of Journalists). The journalist apprenticeship standard is still in development. For usually a minimum of 18 months, all new apprentices will have to complete their Diploma in Journalism in addition to producing a work-related project towards the end of their participation.
There are plenty of other options such as more specialised colleges for those of you who have already began to find an interest in a particular area of journalism. An excellent example of this could be BIMM’s (The British and Irish Modern Music Institute), if Journalism in music is what sparks your interest.
What do I need to do to study journalism at University?
If you have completed school all the way through A-levels, a Level 3 vocational programme such as a BTEC or your baccalaureate and you think that you are ready to begin the life of a university student then there are plenty of different factors which you should take into consideration.
You need to analyse the grades which you have either been predicted or have achieved. These grades are what will allow you to aspire to enter the best achievable universities offering a journalism degree. Maybe however you would like to add variation to your degree and go for joint honours, meaning to incorporate journalism with another subject, or in further contrast you might find that you do not necessarily want to commit to studying journalism at university and instead would prefer to study something different such as English literature or media, both subject which could still lead to a career in journalism without having to dive into the unknown.
Finding a job in journalism
You might feel as though you are ready to enter the world of work, in which case you should be thinking about what area within journalism you would most like to specialise. Whether your passion lies in broadcasting or investigative journalism, photojournalism, sports journalism, communications, social media or public relations, the options are numerous. You need to build up a strong CV including different forms of work experience or courses you have taken to find yourself working within one of the branches mentioned. Starting from the bottom and working your way up.
What skills do I need to be a journalist?
There are several skills and attributes you need to have acquired to begin a career as a journalist, including:
- A practical understanding of the news
- Clean and clear writing abilities
- The ability to write about varied stories for varied audiences
- A clear understanding of how the news is portrayed, how it is consumed by readers, viewers or listeners.
- Shorthand is also a skill which may be required. Shorthand is a rapid handwriting system used to put spoken word on paper, including using various techniques and symbols to simplify existing letters, words and phrases.
For first-hand advice from journalists working in a variety of media we also recommend this MindMap Q&A – you can scroll around the map and highlight the responses that interest you. Very neat.