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Working in the media

Leaflet P 01
July 2011

The media industry includes newspapers, magazines, radio, TV broadcasting and film production companies. Its glamorous image means that competition to get started is tough. Many people working in the media are graduates, although entry is possible with lower-level qualifications.


Britain's media industry is huge, and covers a wide range of jobs. As working in the media is such a popular career choice, the more training and relevant experience you can get, the better. This leaflet outlines the main employment areas – leaflets describing specific careers in more detail are listed at the end. Many people work on a freelance basis.

Media career areas


Journalists work for the local press, the national press, news agencies, the vast range of weekly and monthly periodicals (including the 'trade' press), online news sites, radio and TV. Most new entrants start in trade magazines or the provincial press. Here, trainee journalists can learn the basic skills under less pressure than on the national papers.


For every presenter on the radio, there are hundreds of station managers, reporters, editors, producers and broadcast assistants, many of whom do not even get a mention on air! There are few starter jobs for people without experience, so determination, persistence and a range of useful skills are needed in order to get a job.


Design is communicating by visual means, through print, drawings, photographs or combinations of all three. Media work can include book illustration, advertising and packaging, technical illustration and website design.


As well as opportunities for press photographers and photojournalists, much high-quality photography is needed for advertising, magazine features and publicity. Photographers usually attend a college course and gain recognised qualifications before starting work.

Film and TV

There is a wide range of jobs in film and TV production – from producers, directors, sound and lighting technicians and camera operators to post-production roles. However, it's a small industry and getting started is very difficult. As well as film and TV production companies, it may also be possible to find work with companies producing DVDs for a wide range of uses besides entertainment – for business training, teaching, and for publicity, advertising and public relations.


Publishing is a competitive business. Editorial skills, commercial judgement, marketing and advertising skills are vital. Book publishers may produce educational, technical or scientific books; others specialise in either fiction or non-fiction. There are also opportunities with magazine and online publishers. At the editorial level, publishing is normally a career for graduates.


Advertising is tough and highly competitive. Advertising firms need people to manage accounts, designers and photographers to supply the artwork, and copywriters to provide the words. Scriptwriters and production crews work on TV, radio and cinema adverts, whilst media planners and buyers make sure that, once made, the advert is seen by its target audience as many times as possible!

Entry and training

It's not easy to generalise about suitable education and training routes into an area of work where there is so much variety. A high proportion of people working in the creative media industries hold a degree, however, many roles in the industry don't actually require that level of qualification.

A typical entry route is to take a basic-level job and work your way up. Entry through Intermediate and Advanced Level Apprenticeships, which offer structured training with an employer, are a possibility in some areas of work.

There are courses in specialist subjects like journalism and graphic design. There are also more general media courses leading to GCSEs and AS/A levels in media studies, the Diploma in creative and media (available in England) etc. These may or may not help you get a job. Relevant foundation degree, HND and degree courses are available. Many media people have degrees in subjects other than media, followed by a postgraduate media course or training.

There's a wide range of media courses. Look carefully at what they offer; courses with similar titles vary in their content and emphasis. Find out about the balance of practical work and theory, whether the course has a particular vocational slant, what links there are with employers, if there are work experience opportunities and what former students have done after the course.

Skillset, the Sector Skills Council for creative media, operates a kitemarking scheme called the Skillset Tick. Courses or institutions awarded this quality mark have been assessed as offering industry-relevant training and have strong links with employers. Institutions in this scheme include those in the Skillset Media Academies Network– centres of excellence that are spread across the UK. Similarly, the Skillset Film Academy Networkconsists of three institutions considered to be centres of excellence for film education and training. For more information and a search facility for courses that have the Skillset Tick, see the Skillset website listed at the end of the leaflet.

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For Further Information

Skillset– the Sector Skills Council for creative media. For information and advice about media careers, call the free helpline: 08080 300 900 (in England and Northern Ireland) or 0800 012 1815 (in Wales), or see:

Creative & Cultural Skills– tel: 020 7015 1800. The Sector Skills Council covering design and visual arts etc.

The Media Courses and Multimedia Courses Directory– from the British Film Institute and Skillset – is available on:

The Knowledge– an online directory of contacts in the film, TV, video and commercials production industries:

The following books may be available for reference in Connexions/careers libraries.

Working in Creative & Performing Arts– published by Babcock Lifeskills, £9.50.
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