Media Career Pathways For School Leavers
From the tv documentary that you’ve got playing in the background right now, to the app that you used to order a taxi home with last night - it’s hard to live in the western world and not somehow benefit from the creations of people working in the media industry, every single day. If that intrigues to you, then you’ll be pleased to learn that the media sector offers a huge variety of roles to young professionals and with great career progression opportunities too.
Have you discovered that you’re naturally inquisitive? Do you have a natural talent for writing and talking? Is meeting new people something you enjoy doing in your everyday life? Are you creative? Do you have a gift for getting those arty shots on your camera or find friends always telling you how entertaining your homemade videos are? If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, then perhaps the world of media is your calling.
The media industry makes sure to keep its working professionals on their toes. This is because the industry is constantly evolving in order to keep up with the amount and changing ways that people now consume and rely on media. This, in turn, has opened up a larger variety of ways that young people to forge their own route into the industry, such as by managing their own social media account or blog.
Alternatively, school leavers can take a more established route and pursue your first job in an existing media or publishing company. Here you’ll get access to mentors and resources.
While the end result of media tends to be to entertain or to inform us, it’s like that there will have been a lot that happened behind the scenes to get to the final result. And those that were involved will need to have been proactive, diligent and extremely hardworking. The industry is well-known as one that is incredibly competitive and tough to break into. That’s why those considering it should be resilient, patient, self-believing and have a “go get ‘em” mindset.
If you’ve completed an apprenticeship or vocational training in this area, you could consider going on to university afterwards in order to increase your professional standing.
As you progress in your career, you might decide that you want to specialise in a particular area – radio production, for example, or food writing. You may also want to develop your skills in areas such as editing, law or social media, in order to broaden your skill set and career opportunities. There are numerous courses that can help you specialise, and making a case to your employer could mean they can assist you with any training needed.
It goes without saying that you’ll also need to be willing to keep up to date with digital trends and technical progression within the industry, much of which you’ll need to research in your own time.
As an apprentice, you’ll earn a minimum of £3.70 per hour if you’re under 19 or in the first year of your apprenticeship, or the National Minimum Wage if you’re over 19. This works out at around £150 - £240 per week.
The media is an incredibly popular industry, which means salaries aren’t huge - especially for those at the very beginning of their careers.
It goes without saying that not many people get into the media for the money. Top TV and radio presenters, as well as well-known national journalists and broadcasters and (of course) successful bloggers/vloggers, bring in the most money, but we don’t need to tell you that this isn’t the reality for most of those working in the industry.
Here are average salaries for a range of media jobs, according to PayScale and Glassdoor:
TV producer: £36,237
TV researcher (BBC): £21,000 - £30,466
Film / video editor: £23,625
Radio host (BBC): £49,683
Radio producer: £27,117
Broadcast journalist: £25,843
Magazine editor: £28,039
Commissioning editor: £30,428
News reporter: £20,250
Graphic designer: £23,236
Marketing executive: £25,490
Qualification requirements & subjects to study
In general, having studied subjects such as history, English or law – or any social sciences or humanities subjects – shows that you have the communication, written ability and deep level of thought needed to begin a career in this industry.
To get a job in the media as a school leaver, it’s a very good idea to undertake a vocational qualification. A diploma, certificate or short course can give you the practical skills you need to get a job in this sector. Courses in areas like film or radio production, journalism or any other aspect of media production will train you for the job if you’re sure early on that this is an area that you want to pursue.
Professional organisations such as the National Union of Journalists (NUJ), as well as colleges, can provide or advise you on these qualifications.
Alternatively, you could look at apprenticeships in the media industry, which are increasing in numbers and popularity. Apprenticeships will see you studying and working for a company at the same time. You will work alongside experienced staff and will have one day off per week to study, usually at a local technical college or equivalent. This can be a great route for those who know what they want to do early and don’t want to burden themselves with the time and debt of university.
Traditionally, newspapers wanted a National Certificate for the Training of Journalists (NCTJ) qualification before they’d even consider an application. Whilst many of the larger media organisations will still ask for this (to guarantee that their staff are up to speed with media law, reporting and other essentials for the industry), the media landscape has changed so much over the past few years that you’re likely to find start-ups and small to medium-sized organisations won’t necessarily need it. These are still important things to know, though, if you are working in this space.
If there’s one thing you need to progress in the media industry it’s experience, and fortunately, there are many opportunities to gain this. Most media companies offer some form of work experience, whether they’re huge organisations like the Guardian or smaller, independent platforms.