Frequently asked questions

NCTJ qualifications are the standard for the UK’s journalism industry. The NCTJ's comprehensive journalism distance learning programme that leads to the Diploma in Journalism equips learners with the knowledge and skills for professional entry-level journalism. 

The qualification has three under-pinning values:

  • To focus on the vital skills of finding and telling stories accurately and to deadline
  • To reflect that most journalists work in a multimedia environment and that new and traditional skills should be fully integrated and embedded in training and assessments
  • To ensure the core essential skills are covered and assessed to a national standard but with flexibility to specialise

The programme is perfect for those unable to study at an NCTJ-accredited, centre-based course. It provides learners with a sound knowledge and understanding of each subject so that they are prepared for the exams.

This is also a great course to study while working, perhaps as an editorial assistant or junior reporter. The great thing about the distance learning course is that you can study it in your own time and at your own pace.

The NCTJ distance learning course is designed for UK journalists. Although we have many overseas students who complete the course and achieve the Diploma in Journalism qualifications, we are a UK national charity, not an international organisation.

The entry requirement for reporters is a minimum of five GCSE passes (grades A-C) or equivalent - one of these must be in English. However, in recent years it has become rare for a trainee to come into the industry at this level. Currently, most recruits are university graduates and the others have achieved at least two A-levels or equivalent.

We recommend that you complete a self test before purchasing the course materials.

To gain the Diploma in Journalism learners must complete four mandatory units and a selection of optional elective units at grades A-E to reach a minimum 82 credits. The four mandatory units are: essential journalism or news reporting; e-portfolio for journalists; essential media law and regulation for journalists; and essential journalism ethics and regulation.

The NCTJ's mandatory skill modules are: 

  • News Reporting/Essential Journalism
  • Essential journalism e-portfolio
  • Essential journalism ethics and regulation
  • Essential media law and regulation

Elective options can be purchased at the same time as the Diploma in Journalism core skills or at a later date. The following options are available by distance learning:

  • Public affairs for journalists
  • Media law court reporting
  • Shorthand
  • Broadcast regulation
  • Business and finance journalism
  • Videojournalism for online
  • Sports journalism
  • Production journalism
  • Business of magazines

The course materials for the core skills package consist of:

  • a DVDRom containing the units that make up the core skills
  • relevant programmes of study and sample exam papers
  • McNae's Essential Law for journalists textbook
  • details of the three hours’ tutor support
  • details of the e-portfolio

If you are not already working in the journalism industry, you will need to arrange your own work experience so that you can write stories for the portfolio element of the course. It is also important to get industry experience so that you can put what you are learning into practice. 

We recommend you spend your weekends and/or holidays doing work experience with newspapers, magazines, broadcasters and websites. Work experience is just as important as the theory side of journalism otherwise you’re going to go out looking for a job at a disadvantage compared to other applicants. An editor won’t take you on without experience. You will need to complete the portfolio while on work experience.

Employers may need several months’ notice, so be prepared to book up well in advance.

There are three hours of tutor support included in the core skills package and one hour of tutor support included in each of the specialist options.

Distance learning tutors are all working journalists or journalism tutors teaching on our accredited courses. They each specialise in certain areas of journalism and can advise you on areas you’re struggling with or have questions about. Learners can email the tutor detailing their queries and the tutor will either email back with a response or will arrange a time and date to speak on the telephone.

The NCTJ hold exam sittings three times a year. To apply for the national exams, students must complete the online application form. Students will be placed at the centre closest to the address provided.

You are not required to sit all of the exams in the same exam period.

Overseas learners can sit exams at a British Council. Please contact your nearest British Council before purchasing the materials to check they are happy to invigilate. Most British Councils will not hold the production journalism or videojournalism for online exam due to the software and set up that is required. Candidates will have to travel to the UK for these exams and also for shorthand.

There is no registration or membership fee and prices for individual units are listed on the relevant distance learning order form.

Delivery charges

Customers outside of the UK should contact the NCTJ for delivery charges: info@nctj.com

Replacement discs

If discs are lost or misplaced, there will be a charge of £50 + VAT for replacing each disc.

Exam fees

Exam fees can be found here under Diploma in Journalism examination fees (per part). Fees are per exam and there is no registration fee.

Unfortunately we do not offer any payment plans or discounts. It is possible to stagger the payments by buying the core skills and elective options separately. The distance learning programme does not qualify students for a career development loan.

If you are within the UK, please complete the relevant order form: UK order form, EU applicant order form or non-EU applicant order form.