Choosing an accredited course

Emma Robinson, the NCTJ’s accreditation manager, is here to answer your questions about choosing an NCTJ-accredited course:

As the NCTJ’s accreditation manager, I’m here to help answer all your questions about choosing an NCTJ-accredited course and what it means to study for the NCTJ’s Diploma in Journalism qualification. 

At the NCTJ, I am responsible for all our work with accredited courses, and liaise with all heads of journalism and course leaders, editors, and students on accreditation matters, ensuring that all of our courses give you quality training in journalism skills and the best chance of a successful career in the industry. It’s my job to make sure that all of our centres are teaching students to the highest possible standards to best prepare them for work in the media sector.

Before joining the NCTJ, I was a senior journalist at Newsquest Essex, having worked in a variety of different roles and newspapers at the company over six years, including as a crime reporter and a news editor. I studied on an NCTJ-accredited postgraduate course, achieving the diploma with gold standard, and went on to complete the National Qualification in Journalism (NQJ) when I was a trainee reporter at the Maldon and Burnham Standard.

Having completed both the diploma and NQJ qualifications, I know what it’s like to study on an accredited course, sit NCTJ exams, grapple with shorthand outlines and apply for my first job in journalism.

I’m here to help you with any questions you may have. I’ve answered some of our frequently asked questions below, but if you have any more, feel free to call the dedicated careers hotline on 01799 544944 and I’ll be happy to chat. 

Frequently asked questions

The most important feature of all NCTJ courses is employability – they open the doors to a whole range of careers in the media sector. Recent research into the job destinations of NCTJ diploma students found that 90 per cent of NCTJ alumni with a gold standard diploma (A-C in all subjects and 100wpm shorthand if taken) are working in journalism six months after graduating. All courses are designed to give you the best chance of getting a job in journalism.


Courses accredited by the NCTJ teach the Diploma in Journalism, a key qualification in the industry which editors look for when hiring trainee journalists. The diploma can be taught within an undergraduate or postgraduate degree, or as a standalone qualification (or as part of the junior journalist apprenticeship) - this means you can find the right course for you. 


Having the diploma qualification under your belt sets you apart from the rest and shows you have the knowledge, skills and aptitude to succeed in the newsroom. An editor will want to know: can you spot if an article is legally safe to publish? Can you write shorthand notes and therefore be able to report from court? Do you know how to structure a football match report? Having the diploma gives the editor this assurance.


Some editors may not even consider an applicant if they haven’t achieved the diploma, so why close off those opportunities? The diploma will equip you with up-to-date skills in digital developments, social media, video, media law, ethics and much more. 


Practical training in journalism is at the heart of all NCTJ-accredited courses and students are expected to report on patch, undertake work experience and take part in dedicated news production days. 

  • Students studying on NCTJ accredited courses are more appealing to employers looking for multi-skilled recruits who know the fundamentals of journalism and can already operate to professional standards.

  • By achieving the NCTJ Diploma in Journalism at gold standard, students gain eligibility for the National Qualification in Journalism (NQJ). Passing the NQJ means trainee journalists achieve senior journalist status and an accompanying pay rise!

  • Students are given online access to NCTJ learning resources, including sample examinations, to support on-course learning.

  • Student representatives on accredited courses are invited to attend an annual student council event hosted by the NCTJ to communicate their views on journalism training and meet with senior figures from the news media industry.

  • Students have free entry to the annual Awards for Excellence and shortlisted entrants are invited as guests of the NCTJ to the awards reception, dinner and ceremony.

  • Prospective students from diverse backgrounds who cannot afford their training and living expenses can apply for support from the Journalism Diversity Fund, which has assisted 347 individuals since 2005.

The 2018 Journalists at Work report found that 81 per cent of all qualified journalists have an NCTJ qualification. 


This reflects the fact that the diploma is a practical, vocational qualification which will equip you with the vital and up-to-date journalism skills and knowledge for professional entry level journalism. Employers in the media value the diploma because they know it means you can hit the ground running and require little supervision. 

If you think you will be spending your NCTJ training sitting in a lecture theatre and taking notes, then think again. On NCTJ-accredited courses you are treated as trainee journalists from day one, getting out there and doing the job.


You will be expected to find news stories by reporting on patch, making contacts, breaking news by writing copy to your course website or filming videos or recording podcasts, taking part in news days as a whole class and working on your news brand by delving further into social media and analytics.


The diploma qualification focuses on the vital skills of finding and telling stories accurately and to deadline, as well as reflecting how journalists work in digital and multimedia environments.


In addition to the core journalism skills, courses also deliver elective options to give students the knowledge and understanding of a variety of specialist skills, such as broadcast journalism, sports journalism, video techniques, digital developments, photography, shorthand and more.

NCTJ-accredited courses are expected to abide by a stringent set of seven performance standards to ensure that students are given the quality training and practical experience that they signed up for. The NCTJ regularly monitors how centres work towards these standards throughout each academic year, and visits centres with industry representatives.  


These standards are:

  • Quality of journalism education, training and results – we want you to receive the top-quality training in journalism to get those gold standard diploma results expected by the industry

  • Close industry links and practical up-to-date journalism experience - we insist that all our courses are allocated an industry adviser and have close links with journalists to provide opportunities for guest lectures, work experience opportunities and even students’ first job prospects. We also ask for your journalism tutors to keep up-to-date with industry practices by going back into the newsroom and working on professional development to ensure they’re teaching the most relevant skills

  • Professional delivery of the Diploma in Journalism – all our exams must be carried out and run to our exacting standards without incident

  • Commitment to diversity – we ask for centres to show a commitment to diversity through appropriate measures and initiatives, and for centres to foster a safe, supportive and inclusive learning environment for all students regardless of class, gender, ethnic origin, age, sexual orientation, disability or particular needs

  • Innovation, ambition and continuous improvement - Centres must be able to demonstrate that they have a commitment to continuous improvement and achieving high standards via the application of new ideas or initiatives to enhance the delivery of quality training, and that course content and delivery reflect the changing requirements of the journalism industry

  • Employability – we ask that courses have an effective and appropriate student selection process, recruiting students who will readily find jobs and be able to maintain high standards of journalism into the future

  • Communication, collaboration and contact – centres must be committed to clear and effective communication with students and the NCTJ

Development of NCTJ qualifications is always done with the industry in mind and we consult with a wide-ranging variety of media employers to ensure that the training remains relevant and reflects up-to-date skills and knowledge. We have strong links with the media to ensure that the training of journalists is in-line with current and new industry practises.


The NCTJ also carries out regular research into emerging industry developments, so that we can determine current trends and what will have an impact in the future. Senior working journalists are also members of our expert boards when determining updates and changes to any of our exams and qualifications.

No, all NCTJ-accredited courses will teach you the core skills needed to work in all journalism sectors and alumni go on to work in a variety of roles across broadcast, print, digital and more. The qualification reflects that the industry is inherently multimedia and skills in digital, video, photography and broadcast are still required for roles in newspapers.


It may be that you are interested in a particular type of journalism. Each course offers a particular set of diploma modules for students to gain the full diploma qualification. This means that some centres may offer courses with modules that suit your interests more than others. 


To find out which elective modules centres offer, please click here. Some of our accredited courses have a particular focus on sports journalism or broadcast journalism. To find NCTJ-accredited courses, please click here.

The NCTJ develops and awards distinct qualifications (such as the Diploma in Journalism and the NQJ). As an awarding organisation we are regulated by Ofqual, Qualifications Wales and CCEA. This means that if you study on an NCTJ-accredited undergraduate course, for instance, you can get a degree and the Diploma in Journalism. This also explains why you can study for the diploma on its own.


The Broadcast Journalism Training Council (BJTC) does not offer or award its own regulated qualifications and is therefore not a directly comparable organisation. Instead, it accredits existing degree courses, essentially saying those courses meet with their approval. However, the BJTC does not publish full details of its accreditation criteria so I can’t comment on the standards courses are expected to abide by.


The diploma qualification offered by the NCTJ is something that editors look for and is often even specified on a job advert. 


The 2018 Journalists at Work report shows that 10 per cent of qualified journalists have studied on a BJTC-accredited course, compared to 81 per cent on an NCTJ-accredited course. Among the journalists from a BJTC course, more than half (53 per cent) also have an NCTJ qualification, either because they studied on a dual-accredited university course or because they completed the diploma after their degree. Don’t assume that more journalists working in broadcast roles would have studied on BJTC courses; it’s not true! 


There have been many students who opt to pay again to study for the diploma qualification once completing a course not accredited by the NCTJ – you can find out more here. You can avoid this additional cost by making sure you study on an NCTJ-accredited course from the outset.

The NCTJ accredits many journalism courses throughout the United Kingdom to deliver the Level 3 Diploma in Journalism: at universities, incorporated within an undergraduate BA degree, or at postgraduate MA level; at colleges on fast-track or academic-year courses; or at independent providers who run fast-track courses. There are part-time and distance learning options too - see question 10.


As course structures vary, it is worth considering what type of course you want to study on and the length of time that takes. Consider the fees of each course, as they vary, and look into what specific subjects are offered on each course. Click here to find out which elective diploma modules each centre offers.


The location of the centre may also be a factor you want to consider; the NCTJ accredits courses all around the UK: in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

This is no problem; the diploma qualification can be studied on a part-time course or via distance learning. Many of our centres offer part-time courses so that students can schedule classes around their work or other commitments.


Often classes are delivered on evenings and weekends and for a longer period of time than the fast-track versions of the same course. Extra support is also given to these part-time students to ensure that they are given the same opportunities as other groups, including with securing work experience placements.


The great thing about the Diploma in Journalism is that it is so flexible, it can be studied part-time, via distance learning or on varying lengths of courses. Search for part-time courses on the accredited course search here.


The distance learning programme offered directly by the NCTJ is perfect for those unable to study in person at a centre running one of our accredited courses. For more information, click here.

A journalism apprenticeship is a perfect way for students to earn while they learn, completing the diploma qualification while also working in the industry. The apprenticeship standard for a junior journalist is an industry-designed training scheme offering a career path into journalism. It is aimed at those wanting to develop a career combining off-the-job learning with on-the-job training. 


It includes a recommended training period of 18 months. Apprentices complete the NCTJ level 3 Diploma in Journalism as a mandatory qualification and must gain the diploma to progress through the 'gateway' to the end-point assessment (EPA). The EPA consists of a work-related project and an assessment of an apprentice's qualities/behaviours.


To search for an apprenticeship vacancy, you need to research recruitment opportunities on company websites, search via the National Apprenticeship Service on or talk to your local apprenticeship training provider.

The entry requirements, start dates and fees vary depending on each course.


On university degree courses, the annual full-time tuition fees are usually about £9,000 a year (though the annual tuition fees for 2020/21 have not yet been set by the UK Government), and fees are less for shorter academic-year, fast-track or part-time courses.


For fee information for a specific course, you should contact the centre individually.

Courses accredited by the NCTJ equip you with all the skills employers want when looking for the next generation of trainee journalists, from up-and-coming techniques in digital, social media, video and broadcasting to the traditional reporting methods of writing clean, crisp copy to deadline and getting down an accurate note of an interview, or court hearing. 


Shorthand can often be used for breaking news, for instance if you need to take down a quick verbatim note of something said in a press conference before reading it out live on air or including it in a print story right before deadline. Most NCTJ-accredited courses still train journalists in shorthand as employers still ask for it, particularly in jobs where reporters are expected to cover court and council meetings. 


Sometimes I see non-accredited journalism courses which offer modules on court reporting but don’t teach shorthand. Given that you cannot take recording devices into a courtroom, this does not make sense to me.

There is no wrong time to study for the NCTJ Diploma in Journalism and there are many students who opt to study for a degree then do the NCTJ qualification afterwards, either on a postgraduate course, a fast-track or part-time course or as a distance learner. The NCTJ caters for students who have already completed an academic degree in another subject and then want to complete the diploma in a shorter time scale. 


However, if you are looking at degree courses in journalism, we would recommend choosing an NCTJ-accredited course in the first instance, rather than paying again to achieve the diploma.

University courses vary hugely, with some providing an academic outlook on journalism, rather than focussing on the practical skills which editors look for when they are hiring.


If you want to study for a journalism degree and also think you want to be a professional journalist, we would recommend looking for a course that is accredited by the NCTJ. This means you’ll get a degree, plus the Diploma in Journalism, and will be able to apply immediately for jobs where the diploma is a prerequisite.


I know that the NCTJ’s performance standards for its accredited courses are very exacting. We are proud of the universities that work with us as they have to make a considerable investment in teaching time, journalism expertise and practice, delivering the diploma, which not everyone passes. 


You can’t learn to be a journalist in a couple of lectures a week and the diploma exams are really tough - but I know from experience that they are worth all the hard work!

To check whether courses are accredited by the NCTJ, look out for the accredited course logo, which features on all of our accredited course web pages. All NCTJ-accredited courses also feature on our website.


Some universities may say that they have had conversations with us in the past, but unless they are accredited by us, you do not have that assurance that they will deliver the industry-recognised Diploma in Journalism qualification.


There is no such thing as an equivalent qualification to the diploma, which is recognised and often required by journalism employers.


Give yourself the best chance of success by studying for the diploma on an NCTJ-accredited course.