What Qualifications do Television Employers look for?

Following on from the previous post about the ideal qualifications for getting work in television, we now pass on some information we gleaned from a little poll we conducted recently. Nothing particularly scientific and certainly not wide-ranging but 25 potential employers in the television and recruitment business responded to the following question:

Are you more likely to employ a TV runner with a media degree than one without?

The results:

43% answered: No – don’t care which degree subject

17% answered: Yes.

40% answered: Not bothered about degree qualification.

 And here are some of the comments from those who responded:

Alison, Executive Coach:

“I have hired people both with and without media degrees. I have had the pleasure of working with three people who (by coincidence) studied at the same university and they are the only three people I have worked with who have a media degree who have any idea how a film set works – who’s who, responsibilities and etiquette! Generally I have found that a media degree does not equip a graduate to work on a film set (ie drama) any more than any other degree. However, that is not to say that they will not learn essential skills if they want to work in factual or docs”.

Tony, MD at an independent Film & Television company:

“It is more often the case that graduates get the jobs and some of those may have a media degree. However it is just as likely that graduates with a more academic qualification and desire will win through. It always depends on general ability, willingness to contribute and passion and this could just as well come from somebody not suited to further/higher education”.

Phil, TV documentary producer:

“I would definitely go for runner with media degree as it demonstrates a strong desire and commitment to wanting to work within TV (media). With so many people wanting to get into the industry there’s no point in taking on and training up somebody who hasn’t got clear direction and motivation”.

Helen, TV Executive

“I vote for willingness, and if they could use a camera and had edited material then so much the better, media degree or no…”

To put this in perspective consider this:

Most television work is on short term contracts – generally the length of whatever production the company is crewing up for, which could be three, six, maybe nine months on average.  Someone looking for a runner is looking for just that and nothing else.  They are not looking to employ someone they can nurture for years to come, someone they consider capable of growing with the company to producer or director level – not unless they are the BBC or another major production and broadcasting company. So they are generally only looking for the sort of skills and qualification that suit the job they are recruiting for at that time.

They are not looking at your CV with a view to what you will become but what they want you to be right now, right here on this specific production.

There is a quite possible a generational difference going on here as well.  Degrees in media studies have been around for a while but only really started sprouting in the 1980’s and probably became really popular in the 90’s.  So my guess is the vast majority of TV employers over the age of 45, if not 40, won’t have a degree in media studies themselves.  Many people have a tendency to employ people similar to themselves – with similar backgrounds – and if the person interviewing you didn’t have a degree in media they’re quite possibly thinking you don’t need one either!

Just my theory….. and if I’m right then a few years down the line, when the media studies graduates have taken over us television dinosaurs (sorry, I meant us television legends!) in making those recruitment decisions, then a media studies qualification may start to become more valued!

Whaddya think?  Leave a comment below if you have a view, would love to hear from you – any of you!

And here’s the last post on this subject in case you missed it:


  • nick says:

    I think that really the quality of the candidate is much more important than whether their degree is in Media or not. And the name of a degree does not always give much away, so which ever job you are going for, make sure you sell yourself at the interview.

  • Emily says:

    I’m 15 and soon have to decide what I want to do when I leave school. Although I am confident I could get into a university as I am fairly academic, i haven’t even got A Levels yet and getting in to work seems so long away if I chose to get a degree! Six years in fact! I would much rather go straight in to work and earn money rather than spend £30,000 and am even considering not doing A Levels as there are no colleges in my area that I particularly want to go to. Instead, I’m considering leaving school at 16 and try to get one of the BBC North apprenticeships for school leavers. I’ve done work experience at itv, and soon I am getting some at channel 4 and know I want to work in production but can’t decide if this 18-month apprenticeship will help or hinder me. Decisions decisions! If anybody has advice, I’d love to hear it.

    • It is really hard for you guys making these decisions now, especially with the cost of a uni education. Hopefully others will jump in and offer their thoughts. My suggestion would be a compromise – get the A levels and then try and get an apprenticeship. There is huge competition even for such schemes and you may have a better chance with some A levels.
      I’ve got two people posting on here soon – one a successful producer with a media studies degree, one a successful producer without any degree!
      Whatever you decide you need to give yourself the best chance of getting into a TV job. Qualifications are still GOOD but there is an arguement to say three expensive years at uni may not be as good as three years practical experience in the business.

    • Mind you – if you are offered an apprenticeship for 18 months at the BBC that could be well worth grabbing while you can! You can always take A levels later on, or through part-time study…

  • Clare says:

    I’ve been reading through your blog for a while now and it’s really helped me in my decision making for the future. I’m 16 and really passionate that I want a job in TV production. There’s no doubt that I will be going to university but I really don’t know what degree to go for. If employers are looking for people with different degrees? As I’m quite certain I want to do a media degree but I don’t know if that’s l they want.

    • Shu says:

      Hi Clare. My personal advice is study the degree you most want to do, that way you get to enjoy your years at uni! There are many different opinions on this and some of my colleagues feel passionately that too many people are coming out of education with media studies degree when there aren’t enough media jobs to go around. They feel that the media degree may not be that useful if you end up going into a different area of work. However, media is changing fast and there may well be many different forms of jobs around by the time you graduate that are not necessarily the tradition TV jobs we are used to.
      Have you read this article? It may help:

      Anyone else got views on this topic and advice for Clare?!


  • Liam says:

    Hi Clare im Liam and im 24 I was in your position wen I was around the age of 18. Best thing to do is see what your field you want to work in, see what each degree has to offer from your chosen universities and suits you. Or you could take the route I did go to college, learn the basics with diploma courses and then go to University. But the choice is yours.

  • Geoff Motley says:

    I see many people with degrees in media studies. Very few are in any way creative and can think on their feet. I have to correct a lot of rotten English and appalling spelling in the material I am sent. Prog synopses are clumsy and not thought through. If someone has a degree in English I look at them twice. If they have a degree in art and design I look closely too, especially if they have studied in Europe for a while. Their degree should have been chosen because of self belief and a passion for the subject not necessarily a media career. The media world is a career canvas to which you apply your unique artistry.

  • Kanika says:

    I think it’s best to study a degree that you enjoy. Many companies are even looking for applicants with specialist knowlege in specific subjects, which makes that jump from runner to researcher slightly easier. You can always apply for work experience within tv whilst studying.

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