Sharon Boyd takes a look at the huge range of different university courses available to those looking to start out in the media industries:
It is clear that there are a wide range of media based degrees that exist and every University course is going to differ in what they teach you and how they teach you. Some degrees tend to be heavily theory based, while others focus more on the practical aspects of the media, and still others blend both theory and practice together. When researching what degree to choose prospective students need to understand what they are actually applying to do, and often there is a bombardment of search results which can make it hard to know where to start.
Understanding of what ‘media’ actually is will differ from person to person, some may think it involves discussing how cool the latest Tim Burton film is, while others have grasped that there’s more to it than that. In some media degrees the focus tends to be more on critical thinking and research. So if you want to understand who Walter Benjamin or Michel Focault are for example, then you need to understand which degree is right for you. If you’re someone who wants to have the experience of using a Z5 camera or working in a TV Studio, then you need to research more vocational based courses that will teach you these practical skills.
When searching ‘media degree London’, Google returns about 164,000,000 results. To narrow this search down, using sites such as Skillset can prove useful, though when putting in a search for all media based degrees we are returned with 172 results. This is a huge amount of information to take in when trying to not only choose a degree, but a University as well. In London alone there are over 40 Universities, and many of these Universities offer several different Media courses to study. For instance at UAL they offer over 20 media based degrees which include, Media Communications, Media and Cultural Studies, Live Events and Television, and Journalism. Each and every course is going to be different, so you need to have a thorough understanding of what you want to study.
In answering the question of what a good media degree looks like, it’s going to be different for everyone. If you want to become a floor manager on Deal or No Deal then maybe TV Production is the right course for you. However, some may consider such a course to be too specific and therefore limiting when it comes to career prospects. Some people wonder how beneficial having knowledge of critical thinkers is going to be when they want to be a Documentary Photographer. Well that’s debatable, isn’t all learning beneficial in some way or another? I remember listening to people ponder why they had to learn pythagorus theorem in Maths, their belief was that surely it would have no use to them in the future, but the point of it was to gain problem solving skills. Similarly learning to think critically is going to be a benefit in whatever aspect of the media you want to be involved in, so there’s going to be no harm in studying it.
It seems that the best degrees have a combination of theory and practical teaching, which assists students in using software packages such as Final Cut Pro and Photoshop, as well as equipping them with the relevant skills to analyse films from critical points of view. Having cross media skills makes you more employable as you are far more open to numerous career paths within the industry, whether that be in film/TV production, photography, multimedia, PR, communication agencies or marketing organisations. In choosing a degree that has a broad range of modules, it is also important that you will have an opportunity to specialise in an area of particular interest to you so you can attain the appropriate level of knowledge and skills.
My advice on choosing your degree is to use Skillset, look at University league tables, attend open days, ask questions and use online student forums to find out as much as you can. There really are too many media degrees that exist, but be thankful that you have a choice and an opportunity to find a course that fits your needs, even if it does require a huge amount of time and effort to find the right one.