Postgrad queries: Am I too old to become a lawyer? Can media studies lead directly to a job

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The Independent Online

I qualified as a school PE teacher a few years ago, but now realise what I really want to do is work in managing sports facilities. Are there any Masters courses that could help me move into this field?

If you want to move into sports management sooner rather than later, and have no particular appetite for writing an academic dissertation, you may be better served by acquiring a professional qualification short of a full Masters.

There are two bodies: the Institute of Sport and Recreation Management ( isrm.co.uk) runs a higher professional diploma in sport and recreation management; and the Institute for Sport, Parks and Leisure ( ispal.org.uk) has a wide range of courses, each with a narrower focus. These organisations will also be able to offer views on which Masters courses most closely match what you want.

It may not be necessary to do any additional study at all. Depending on the nature of your teaching experience and whether you have been involved in activities such as running community sports facilities on school sites, you may be able to sell your |current skill-set to prospective employers. If there are obvious gaps in your background such as marketing or business awareness, these might |be plugged by courses run by the two organisations above.

My daughter is doing a media studies undergraduate degree, but I can’t see her landing a job with that qualification alone. What sort of postgraduate courses might she consider, to give her training more closely related to the employment market?

Media studies degrees vary in content and focus, so it would be helpful to know what your daughter’s course covers and what her career ambitions are — journalism, publishing, film, broadcasting, and so on.

It is not impossible to get a foot on the ladder straight from a first degree. The key elements are a sound understanding of the industry, practical skills, often enshrined in a portfolio, and, above all, relevant work experience, whether obtained through university — for instance, via student journals or radio stations — or a placement outside. In any case, first-hand experience of work in a media organisation of whatever size is vital, even if she chooses to continue her studies, as postgraduate programmes in this field are themselves usually highly competitive.

Depending on your daughter’s interests, a Masters may not be the only way to go. There are diplomas and certificates, or even short professional courses that carry just as much weight in the media, which has always been more impressed by talent than academic qualifications.

I left university more than a decade ago with a history degree, and now realise that I want to be a lawyer. How should I go about this? Is it a disadvantage that I’m well into my thirties?

First, given different legal systems across the UK, I’ll have to confine myself to explaining options for a law career in England and Wales. As your degree is not in law, you need to take a conversion course called the Graduate Diploma in Law, still sometimes referred to by its previous name of the Common Professional Examination.

This diploma can be studied for one year full-time, two years part-time, or, in some cases, via distance learning. Before you finish this stage, you’ll need to decide whether you want to go on to qualify as a solicitor or a barrister. If it’s the former, you will need to complete the Legal Practice Course, and then apply for a training contract with a firm of solicitors. Aspirant barristers take the new Bar Professional Training Course, followed by a pupillage, which involves being a trainee in a barrister’s chambers. Both courses take a year of full-time study.

Whichever path you choose, you will have to think whether you want to specialise in an area such as crime, employment, family law and so on. And if you are a prospective solicitor, this is further complicated by the distinctions between different types of practice, from small high-street businesses to big City institutions.

Your age is certainly not a disadvantage. Most legal firms will value your greater maturity and any relevant experience you’ve picked up in the workplace.

For more information and advice, go to lawcareers.net.

Thanks to Liz Hagger and Gill Sharp, careers consultants for Domino Careers ( dominocareers.co.uk ).

Send your queries to Steve McCormack at steve.mcc@virginmedia.com

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