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Distance learning

NCTJ journalism qualifications can be studied by distance learning, which is perfect for those unable to study at a centre-based course.

Studying for an NCTJ qualification via distance learning is the perfect way to study at your own pace and in your own time.

Many people have other commitments to consider when embarking on study and this online resource means you can fit learning around your life.

Learners are able to access the NCTJ’s interactive and engaging distance learning materials online via the Journalism Skills Academy platform.

They can also interact with other learners on our online forum, and learn more about the journalism industry through our bi-monthly distance learner newsletter.

The courses available include the NCTJ Certificate in Foundation Journalism, the Diploma in Journalism and the National Qualification in Journalism.

National exams for the Diploma in Journalism are offered in Nov/Dec, April/May and July each year.

National exam timetable

National shorthand exams are held for external candidates in September, January and May.

Shorthand National exam timetable

Tutor support is available as part of the distance learning package and learners will be able to arrange a one-to-one session with one of our tutors. All learners can access a 60-minute tutor support session for the modules they are enrolled on; and are particularly helpful in preparation for exams.

The exceptions are practical modules (editing skills for journalists, video journalism for digital platforms and radio news) as a sample exam session will be made available (instead of tutor support), prior to the live exam date, via Zoom. This provides an opportunity to sit a practice exam under exam conditions, to ask any questions and to have a sample exam marked with feedback provided.

Please note that should you wish to have your sample exam marked and feedback provided to you, this will be your one-hour tutor support allocation and so any further support required will need to be paid for at a cost of £30+VAT.

This is a popular resource but do plan ahead to book a slot ahead of the busy exam season.

Tutor support booking form Pay for additional tutor support

Certificate in Foundation Journalism

This level 3 qualification is ideal for those looking for an introduction to journalism, or those wishing to use journalistic skills for a specific purpose, such as blogging.

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Diploma in Journalism

This level 5 qualification will prepare learners for the demands of a newsroom, teaching the skills needed to work as a professional journalist.

National Qualification Journalism

This level 6 qualification will qualify those with the Diploma in Journalism and 18 months’ experience to be senior journalists.

Qualification in Practical International Journalism

This level 5 qualification covers all the core elements of being a working journalist operating in an international arena.

Leadership and Management for Journalists

This level 7 qualification is designed for current and future editorial executives. It aims to enhance and improve the quality of leadership and management across the industry creating more effective editorial leaders and managers.

NCTJ distance learning – Frequently Asked Questions

  • What are the entry requirements?

    There are no entry requirements for the distance learning course, however when applying for jobs reporters are usually required to have a minimum of five GCSE passes or equivalent – one of these must be in English.

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

  • How many credits do I need to complete the diploma qualification?

    You must complete the four mandatory skills modules plus a selection of elective skills modules to reach a minimum of 82 credits overall. The mandatory skills modules are worth a combined total of 47 credits. A further 35 credits minimum are required from the available elective skills modules. The credits are shown in this handy chart.

  • What is the pass grade for each module?

    To pass a module, learners must achieve a grade of A-E (if taking shorthand, a minimum speed of 60 words per minute is required). Learners should aim to achieve an A-C grade in each module to reach the industry gold standard which is recognised by journalist employers.

  • Do I have to pay for the distance learning modules in one purchase?

    No, you can purchase the modules in one bulk order or one at a time. We would recommend that you purchase the mandatory modules package first and work through those before purchasing the elective options. The mandatory modules will equip you with the essential knowledge and skills you need to operate effectively as a trainee journalist and the elective options build on those skills in specific subject areas.

  • Do I have to study the modules in order?

    Not necessarily but it is strongly recommended that you complete the core modules first as they form the backbone of learning.

  • Are textbooks included in the course cost?

    Textbooks are included in the price of the modules.

  • How does it work for international shipping?

    Shipping overseas costs extra. Price depends on where we are shipping to.

  • Do I need to arrange work experience?

    If you are not already working in the journalism industry, you should 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. Work experience is just as important as the theory side of journalism otherwise you are going to go out looking for a job at a disadvantage compared to other applicants.

  • How long does it take to complete the diploma course?

    It depends on individual learning speeds and your available time to study and dedication.

    Typically, learners can achieve the qualification within 12-18 months.

    We strongly recommend that you aim to complete the Diploma in Journalism within 24 months.

    The structure, requirements and availability of modules can change because the NCTJ reviews and updates all its diploma materials to reflect the needs of the industry.

    The NCTJ will communicate any significant changes to the qualification to learners in advance and annual updates to individual modules are communicated each year in September.

    The estimated number of learning hours per module required by a typical learner to gain the qualification (please note, this is for guidance purposes and not a requirement) are below:

    Mandatory skills modules Learning hours
    Essential journalism 220 hours
    Essential journalism e-portfolio 120 hours
    Essential journalism ethics and regulation 30 hours
    Essential media law and regulation 100 hours
    Elective skills modules Learning hours
    Business and finance journalism 70 hours
    Editing skills for journalists 70 hours
    Journalism for a digital audience 70 hours
    Media law court reporting 70 hours
    Practical magazine journalism 140 hours
    PR and communications for journalists 140 hours
    Public affairs for journalists 70 hours
    Radio journalism 70 hours
    Shorthand for journalists 140 hours (to 100wpm)
    Sports journalism 70 hours
    TV journalism 70 hours
    Videojournalism for digital platforms 70 hours
  • What is gold standard and how do I achieve it?

    Learners who achieve grades of A-C in each module completed (if taking shorthand, a minimum speed of 100 words per minute is required) will be awarded the industry ‘Gold Standard’ Diploma in Journalism.

    To set yourself apart and increase your employability, all learners should strive to reach industry ‘Gold Standard’ level.

  • How do I access tutor support?

    Each Diploma in Journalism distance learning unit you have purchased includes 1 hour of tutor support time.

    Tutor support is flexible and you can choose how to use your support time.

    A tutor can help with content queries, review your work or mark a mock exam for you.

    Additional tutor support time may also be purchased if required.

    To book your tutor support.

  • Do I have to take exams on certain dates?

    Yes – national exams are open to all diploma candidates and are scheduled throughout the year and can be accessed here.

  • What if I’ve booked an exam and then don’t feel ready to sit the exam?

    You will need a good reason to cancel the exam and receive a refund e.g., for medical reasons. Evidence will need to be provided for the NCTJ to offer a refund. As per our website, In the event of a cancellation or non-attendance, exams are non-refundable. Deferrals will only be considered in exceptional circumstances, in line with the NCTJ reasonable adjustments and special considerations policy.

  • "Distance learning has worked well alongside freelance writing. I like the flexibility it offers compared with a course with physical lessons."

    — Ivan Morris Poxton

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