If you’ve been following this site you’ll know we’ve been debating the value of a degree when trying to get into television and in particular the value of a media studies versus an academic degree.
Vicky Edmonds got in touch to add her voice to the pro-media studies supporters. Here is her story:Vicky Edmonds
“I wanted to work in television from the age of about 9, but not having any contacts in anything remotely media related it seemed like a bit of a closed shop to me (I remember my mother saying something about “pipe dream” but was supportive none the less). I applied to all the local TV and radio companies when I had to do work experience in Year 10 but was told that I was too young for their insurance and also that they would only take students on a ‘relevant degree’. For my local ITV company, Meridian, this was as specific as only being one course at one institution – the BA (Hons) TV Production degree at Bournemouth University – and so I made it my aim to get onto this course.
At college I took Media Studies A-level, along with English Language and History and a City & Guilds in TV Production where I learnt a few practical skills. I was generally advised by many around me to do a ‘proper’ degree like English, and after gaining 3 A grades I certainly had the option to do so at very strong universities should I have decided to listen to their advice.
However, I realised that if I wanted to get into television, I would need to have some practical experience and the only way that that seemed open to me at the time (not having any means to live in London doing unpaid work experience even IF I had been able to secure some) was to get on that local intern scheme – for which I needed the media degree.
Thankfully I got into Bournemouth (which is actually pretty selective and is only a small course) and was able to get onto Meridian’s intern scheme in the summer of my second year, as well as gaining some other work experience placements as part of my course. This all meant that by the time I graduated in 2004, I felt I had a reasonable chance at actually being able to earn a living in TV. So I made the leap of moving to London and secured my first proper telly job, which I was told I got directly because I’d studied TV production and had got some experience.
The other reason I think my media degree helped me was that Bournemouth had great facilities and a fully functioning TV studio. We were encouraged to try out all the different roles and it was by doing this that I discovered the job of Gallery PA. As the BBC only offered PA training to staff members (but stopped this around 2007) and most other companies weren’t investing in training FTC staff I ended up funding my own training with Avril Rowlands in early 2007, partly assisted by Skillset.
I am now working as a freelance Gallery PA, with credits including Newsround and Match of The Day, but I don’t know if I would have taken the (costly) risk of funding my own training had I not had a chance to actually try the job out whilst I was at Uni.
It is annoying to have to defend your decision to study a media degree and take comments about “Mickey Mouse” or “cushy” courses on the chin. On our course we had around 22 hours of lectures a week plus studio/filming days and editing which often spilled over to late evenings and weekends. Although enjoyable, it didn’t feel cushy at the time but we all got a lot out of it and consequently the vast majority of people from the course are working in TV or video production now.
I can see why some people are dismissive of ‘meeja’ degrees – there are certainly some students who graduate feeling that they are established directors with a raft of arty ‘films’ under their belt and should therefore be able to bypass the lower levels of production jobs like Runner. However, this slightly deluded attitude and unwillingness to start at the bottom can also sometimes be applied to people coming in just because a family friend who happens to be a Head of Production has got them a job.
What I’m saying is, it’s all about your attitude and approach to working and finding work, rather than what you did or didn’t study at university.
If any criticism can be raised about media degrees, then it should be directed not to the graduates, but to the course leaders and universities who offer more places on courses than there are jobs available and market their courses as guaranteed entry into a career in the media, which encourage some students to feel like they are ‘above’ the entry level jobs.
But ultimately if a media degree has helped open the doors to someone who then works hard and does a great job then how can they be a waste of time?
I for one don’t think that I would have had the opportunities that I’ve had without my degree”.
Well said, Vicky, and thanks for sharing that. Good point about the responsibilities of those leading the university and college media courses. Graduates must be prepared for the real world!
Any thoughts? Leave them below.
You can find previous articles on this subject here: http://wanttoworkintelevision/category/how-to-get-into-television