Media Career Pathways & Advice
The media industry offers a wider range of jobs and opportunities than most people think. Without a doubt, you’re surrounded by what people working in media are doing all day, every day. If you have the TV on in the background, tweet about documentaries, listen to the radio or to podcasts, watch YouTube, look at websites, scroll through news apps or read magazines, then you are directly benefiting what it has to offer.
So, do you like finding out about things? What about writing, talking, and meeting new people? How about doing creative things, like making videos or going out with your camera to take cool photographs?
If this sounds like you, you could fit right into a job in the media.
There are many different jobs and many different types of media organisation, and with the way that we consume our media constantly changing there are more ways than ever to get involved – including starting out on your own and launching your own blog, vlog, website, podcast, magazine... the list is almost endless.
Of course, you could also follow the traditional route and join an established publishing or media company, which will provide you with a great support network and the opportunity for strong career growth.
The media is one of the most exciting, constantly changing and challenging industries to work in. It’s an industry that’s evolving at lightning speed, and you’ll need to be ready to keep up with the challenges that it will throw at you. Get ready for an exciting ride!
It takes a certain type of person to work in the media – one that’s diligent, proactive, socially aware and hardworking. It’s an industry that’s difficult to break into, so you’ll need to be ready for knock-backs – you aren’t going to be editing a national magazine or hosting a radio show within your first few months!
Other skills that are essential to work in media include:
- Commercial Awareness
Career progression can be difficult in the media, as there is no set way to ensure you progress neatly through the ranks. As a general rule, you are likely to start with “assistant” or “executive” in your title, depending on your particular area of the sector, before taking on more responsibility and taking control of a particular area of the business. This could be a section of a website, for example, a particular type of client, or a segment on a radio show.
Later in their careers, those working in the media might take charge of projects or publications, whether as publishers, editors or commissioning editors. Many of those that have successfully established clear skills and strong connections might decide to go freelance, where they may be able to command higher rates of pay than is possible in-house.
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.
The media is a much sought-after industry, which means salaries aren’t huge, especially as a graduate. 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
- Journalist – £23,552
- Broadcast journalist - £25,843
- Magazine editor – £28,039
- Commissioning editor - £30,428
- Copywriter - £24,500
- News reporter – £20,250
- Graphic designer – £23,236
- Marketing executive - £25,490
Types of jobs in Media
Qualification requirements & subjects to study
In general, a degree such as history, English or law – or any social sciences or humanities subject – is a good stepping stone to begin a career in the media. Alternatively, degrees in film, journalism or any other aspect of media production will train you for the job and mean you don’t need to take any courses after university, if you’re sure early on that this is an area that you want to pursue.
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.
How to get there
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.
Contact media companies to see what they have on offer, and what the terms/timings of an internship or work experience placement might be.
When you’re there, make sure you take every opportunity possible and take advantage of the chance to network with and help out the established employees with everything you can – yes, including making the tea! Transcribe, research, get on the phone – and don’t underestimate how much value this can have, or how much it’ll make people remember you.
When you’re done, follow up with thanks, an offer to help out again if needed, and a clear intention to stay in touch. Follow your new contacts on social, and interact with them regularly to make sure they remember you.
As mentioned previously, an NCTJ qualification is likely to be very helpful in teaching you the basics of the industry alongside direct work experience.
Most importantly of all: keep at it! It might take you a while to find a role within the industry, but if you’re talented, determined and a bit savvy, you’re in with a very strong chance of success.