If you’re serious about becoming a journalist and passionate about a career in the industry, then choose wisely and study for the NCTJ diploma.
This is the message from Megan Archer, chief reporter at the Express & Star in Wolverhampton.
After completing a journalism degree which wasn’t accredited by the NCTJ, the now 27-year-old landed her first job as a trainee reporter at the Wiltshire and Gloucestershire Standard.
However, in order to progress within the company – Newsquest – she discovered that she needed to achieve the NCTJ diploma, an industry standard qualification recognised by employers throughout the media.
She set about achieving the diploma by distance learning while working full-time, crucially achieving the all-important 100 words per minute shorthand.
She said: “When I was at my first paper, getting the diploma was invaluable in moving on up and becoming a senior reporter and climbing the ranks.
“My university course helped me get the job at my local paper, but they wanted me to get my NCTJ because I didn’t have shorthand and media law.
“Getting the diploma meant that I could get the National Qualification in Journalism and look for more roles. It gave me that pathway into journalism and a step up.
“I don’t know if I had left my job without the diploma whether that experience would have been enough to move on.”
For those who are passionate about a journalism career, Megan recommended studying for the NCTJ diploma from the outset.
NCTJ-accredited degrees ensure that students achieve the diploma as part of the BA course, stopping the need to spend extra time and money on studying for it afterwards.
Megan, who lives in Great Barr near Birmingham, said: “I chose my course because I wanted to keep my options open and see what kind of journalism I wanted to work in.
“The course had lots of different skills, such as TV, radio, creative writing, but there wasn’t any shorthand and we only had a small element on media law.
“The NCTJ is a direct path into the industry.
“If you know you want to be a journalist, you’re serious about journalism and you have that passion and goal, then definitely choose the NCTJ.
“It’s a really good option for people who know exactly what they want.”
Gaining the diploma gave Megan a new selection of skills integral to working in a newsroom.
She said: “One of the main skills I learnt is definitely media law, I wouldn’t be able to do my job without it. I even feel that it would be great to get regular refreshers, it’s such an important part of the job.
“As well as shorthand, I use it every day.”