To convince an editor you have the skills needed to work effectively as a reporter you will need to be able to demonstrate an interest in current affairs, ability to write quickly and accurately, a hard-working attitude and, most importantly, determination and persistence.
There are two main routes into the newspaper journalism industry – direct entry or pre-entry via university, college or commercial course provider.
Route 1 – pre-entry via college, university or commercial courses
The majority of trainees are now recruited into the industry after attending full-time vocational training courses for both post A-level students and graduates.
NCTJ-accredited courses are held at colleges, universities and commercial course providers. Some of these courses are for graduates only; others require five GCSEs including English and two A-levels. This route is known as pre-entry.
Download an application form from the accredited courses section of the NCTJ website. The form must be returned at least six weeks prior to the start of the course.
Suitable applicants are required to take a written test, and if successful, will be invited to attend a selection interview at the college, university or commercial provider of their choice.
Fast-track courses are run at various colleges and commercial course providers - see the full list of accredited fast-track courses for details.
Most colleges will only grant places if the applicants have already been on a brief work experience placement at a newspaper. You should write to a number of local newspaper editors, explain why you think you would make a good reporter and ask if they will allow you to join their team for a few days. Try to pick a time other than June or July, when pressure on work experience places is at its greatest.
What will I study on an NCTJ-accredited course?
Training courses lead to a variety of qualifications. All NCTJ-accredited courses cover those aspects of media law, public affairs and news writing necessary to enable a journalist to perform competently by the end of the training period. As well as demonstrating competence in these and other practical areas, trainees are expected to achieve 100wpm shorthand.
If you have attended a full-time journalism course before obtaining employment, you will probably enter into an 18-month training contract - the first three months is likely to be a probationary period. At the end of the 18-month period you will be expected to sit the NCTJ’s senior qualification, the National Qualification in Journalism (NQJ).
Route 2 – Direct entry
Trainee reporters and photographers are sometimes recruited directly by regional or local newspapers and carry out NCTJ preliminary training under the terms of a training contract.
There are also those who may have secured employment with a newspaper group which runs its own training scheme.
Although this route is still available with some newspaper groups it is getting rarer all the time.
To find out if a newspaper group has a direct entry scheme contact the editor of the newspaper.
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. The majority of new entrants to journalism are graduates. There are exceptions, but they are rare.
The Journalism Diversity Fund has been set up by those in the industry who want to support the training of journalists from ethnically and socially diverse backgrounds.
It is aimed at people without the financial means to attend NCTJ training courses. Applicants will need to demonstrate a genuine commitment to journalism and the potential to be successful.
Please visit the website for details of the selection criteria and the application process.