Media and Communication


Steve Anderson
Saturday 30 July 2011 00:00 BST

What courses? Media studies; media production; media and communication; interactive media; digital media; media practice. Plus a host of specialist degrees in the likes of television production, digital film production and radio. Media studies is often studied as part of a joint honours, with popular combinations including media and politics, and media and English.

What do you come out with? A BA, or a BSc in more tech-heavy courses. An MA in Scotland.

Why do it? "Phone hacking? Twitter riots? Wikileaks? The media are part of everyday life, and essential to contemporary society, politics and culture. Whether you’re interested in working in the media, or are keen to get involved in debates about technology, or media ownership, or issues of privacy, or the aesthetics of film and television, media studies explores the roles all forms of media play in society, with an eye on issues of globalisation, history, representation, and social power. So turn on, and join the discussion." - Dr Brett Mills, head of the school of film and television studies, University of East Anglia

What's it about? Not just watching TV and reading newspapers, despite what the middle-agers harking on about “Mickey Mouse degrees” tell you. Media studies is about the way information is communicated to the masses, and how that is shaped by, and in turn shapes, society. Expect to learn about the history of the mass media, its economic structure, the development of media technology, globalisation of media, and the creation of personal identity in media. On top of this you're likely to encounter big thinkers like Marx, Sausseure and Habermas, and apply their theories to society’s interaction with the media. Of course, most programmes won’t be entirely theoretical, and more and more courses are allowing students to get stuck into their chosen discipline - whether that be TV, radio or print - and developing hands-on skills that will give them an advantage in the uberly competitive media job market. There are also an increasing number of degrees that are fully geared towards specific areas of media, such as film, television, public relations and journalism. The fact that there are over 1,600 different media courses on offer through UCAS for 2012 shows how popular and diverse these degrees have become in recent years.

Study options: Three years full-time in the majority of cases, or four years in Scotland. Very few places offer a sandwich year, although shorter work experience placements are often encouraged during holidays. Although not compulsary, a lot of media students choose to spend their spare time chasing stories for the student newspaper or honing their production skills on university radio.

What will I need to do it? Anything goes mostly, although an A-level in media studies has obvious advantages. English, sociology and politics all have their advantages too. Entry grades vary between institutions – at East Anglia and Sussex it’s ABB; at Nottingham Trent it’s BBC.

What are my job prospects? While many dream of being the next Huw Edwards or Chris Moyles, the reality is that a large proportion of graduates will not head into the industry. Transferrable skills lend them to a variety of positions in commerce, the civil service and other professional industries. However, the ones who do head towards the media may find themselves in TV production, PR and marketing, media policy-making and journalism. Prospective media students won’t need to be told that the industry is one of the most competitive out there, and a degree is only the start - expect weeks, or even months, of unpaid placements before you land your first job. According to The Times’ Good University Guide 2012, 36 per cent of graduates are in graduate-level jobs within six months of finishing, while 14 per cent are unemployed - one of the highest rates of all subject areas. Graduate salaries average a humble £17,351. Although this does all sound a little negative, there are jobs out there, and they’re up for grabs to the most determined graduates.

Where’s best to do it? Warwick comes top of the Complete University Guide 2012 for communications and media, but doesn’t actually offer a media studies degree, only a BA in film and television studies. East Anglia and Nottingham Trent, however, both offer media studies at undergrad, and came second and third respectively. Students at Southampton said they were most satisfied, but again, a general media degree is not offered there (only a BA in film) so East Anglia comes out top for satisfied media students as well.

Related degrees: Journalism; broadcasting; film studies; marketing and advertising; history; sociology; anthropology.

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