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Will Sargeant is another former student who illustrates this point well. He’s been working as a Multimedia Journalist at The Times for just over a year but he acknowledges the fact that simply having a postgraduate qualification isn’t always enough, even at entry level.

Before I started my current job I worked in local radio for a few months, for Hallam FM and Real Radio. Prior to that I did seven different unpaid work placements and this is something I would recommend to anyone; without the experience I wouldn’t have much to put on my CV. My placement at Sky News, for example, was really important in getting noticed at The Times. In my experience, it really is all about who you know when you are starting out.

And the benefits? “It’s a job that I really enjoy and every day is different. I’ve met all sorts of interesting people from Jenson Button and Michael Johnson to Jack Straw.”

But for those considering splashing out upwards of £5,000 on a postgraduate journalism qualification this might be something of a shock; simply having some more initials after your name doesn’t necessarily mean that the days of working for free and making endless cups of

tea will be consigned to the bin. The competition for jobs is fierce and those who cannot or will not undertake work experience placements may find themselves at a distinct disadvantage.

It’s this aspect of postgraduate courses which may explain why many students struggle to find work once they graduate. Sheffield boasts an 80% success rate when it comes to getting its postgraduates into the media industry but even that inevitably creates a large number of disappointed and out-of-pocket aspiring journalists entering the job market every year.

But not all is doom and gloom. Postgraduate courses are versatile things, and several of my contemporaries have used the skills and experiences gained at university to find jobs in related fields. Chief among these is public relations, with both public bodies and private businesses alike keen to recruit skilled graduates with an in-depth knowledge of journalism.

One of those now working in the busy world of PR is Sally Catmull. She’s a Media Support Officer with the Environment Agency and has a very full-on role. “I work in the national press office in London doing anything from writing press releases and features to making short films for social media. I started a fortnight before the Cumbrian floods so it’s been pretty full-on, but really interesting.

“I don’t regret going down this road whatsoever, and envisage staying in PR for the foreseeable future.”

So is spending another year at university the best way to secure a job in journalism?

Many will baulk at the costs involved, and for those not lucky enough to have secured funding they may well have to consider deferring their entry for a year or two. The fact that such courses do not dispense with the need for internships and the like will also potentially act as a deterrent for those with no other choice but to watch the pennies.

But for anyone weighing up the pros and cons of postgraduate study there is one variable that they are definitely in control of. As Will Sargeant puts it

“It‘s amazing how many people do not listen to advice in this industry and think that they know it all. I’ve seen many people come and go at The Times because they wanted to prove they knew everything. Maybe I stuck around because I was willing to learn and be honest about what I did not know. My own enthusiasm was definitely the most important aspect in helping me get a job.”

And as for me?

I’m now a civil servant in Northern Ireland. I guess making cups of tea for free wasn’t as attractive a career option as I once thought...

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