When high school came close to an end and I had to start thinking about my major of study and possible career path, it didn’t take long for me to decide. I’ve always been fascinated by the media and its incredibly influential role in society. With that in mind, I eventually decided to pursue my bachelor’s degree in Cardiff University, majoring in Journalism, Media and Cultural Studies.
Since my degree has a fancy, long name, when asked about what I study I simply answered with either “Journalism” or “Media Studies”. I usually got different reactions, though. When I say I study Journalism, they would immediately assume I was trained to be a reporter, and would eventually end up in television or a newspaper. When I told people I do Media Studies, though, most people would just tilt their head in slight confusion and nod politely.
While the two usually overlap (I’ll explain more on that later), Media Studies sounds more obscure to some people than Journalism. I mean, how exactly do you study the media? What do Media Studies students do? How do you research the media?
In this article, I’ll try to clarify some confusions about Journalism vs. Media Studies debacle and give you a little insight on what to anticipate if you decide to pursue this degree.
So what is the difference between Journalism and Media Studies degree? What should I expect?
The difference between Journalism and Media Studies is simply about the approach to learn about the media.
A degree in “Journalism” would normally place a strong emphasis on developing practical journalism skills. In the UK, such courses would mostly be accredited by the National Council for Trained Journalists (NCTJ). Therefore, you would focus on building skills for media production. You can expect learning about the different ways of writing news stories for various media platforms. Some universities would also allow students to specialise in print or broadcast media.
Meanwhile, a degree in Media Studies focuses more on media scholarship. This means that you would be using an academic and analytical approaches in order to understand the media. You would study about the production, content and history of the media, as well as analyse the role it plays and the effects it has in our society today. Media studies also often draw upon theories from sociology, politics and even a bit of philosophy.
I may have made the description of Media Studies seems to be incredibly intense, but it is actually very fun, especially for those of you with strong interest in mass media and culture. When I did my degree, the topics I studied include: History of Mass Communications, Politics and Journalism, Media and Gender, Popular Culture (yes, I got to study Fight Club and Lady Gaga for my degree), and many more.
More often than not, though, both sides – media production and media scholarship – would overlap. This would mean that even if you spend a lot of time learning about producing media content for your Journalism degree, you should expect to also have a couple of courses on media studies and analysis. However, I must add that there is no university offers the exact same course structure. So depending on your interest, you should carefully go through the program’s course structure before applying.
If I take a degree in Media Studies, can I still be a journalist?
That is one of the questions I was concerned about prior to starting my degree. Now that I have graduated, I wonder why I bothered asking such question in the first place. Because in reality, if you do really want to pursue a career in journalism, you don’t necessarily have to earn a media-related degree. However, having a degree in Media Studies would most definitely help you to chase that dream of becoming the next Anderson Cooper or Najwa Shihab. On the contrary, your Media Studies degree would prepare you to possess a critical mindset and gain the ability to construct an informed, well-reasoned argument. Such skills are invaluable and can get you ahead in your journalistic career.
Furthermore, your career prospect would not just be confined to journalism. The beautiful fact about the media industry today is that it continually evolves. To prospective students who are reading this, the subjects you would be studying in your Journalism or Media Studies degree would probably not have existed when I first started my study in 2010. That being said, career opportunities in the media field has expanded and it will continue to be. Just think about it, a job title like Social Media Officer did not exist until maybe about five years ago! My fellow graduates have all branched out to various fields. Some have gone to work in radio, TV, digital marketing, public relations, NGOs and research institutes. It is safe to say that if you intend to pursue this degree, your opportunities are endless and there would be a lot of doors open up for you before you know it.
So, what does it take to survive studying this degree?
What matters when you study Journalism or Media Studies degree is the passion for everything related to mass media, culture and society. You would need to be aware of what is going on in our world and the issues that we are facing. You would need to have constant curiosity for the world around you and dare to question what you see, read, and hear.
There would be times when your ideas and beliefs are challenged. You would be introduced to concepts and ideologies that may will sound like utter gibberish to you prior to starting the degree. I would suggest you not to fear because you will be trained to form your own reasoned opinion based on research and evidences throughout the study. So, you should expect spending a lot of time skimming through academic literature, journals, newspapers, and online articles. More importantly, most of the time, you would have to do your research or projects independently. Your lecturers or tutors would only be able to guide you and make sure you’re on the right track. Therefore, expect to get lost in research. And if you think you’re hitting a dead end, just turn around and find another path.
In a nutshell, to survive a degree in Journalism or Media Studies, you need to be willing to work hard and constantly challenge yourself. If you commit yourself to that, there is no doubt that by the time you graduate you would have become a more enriched, critical individual and ready to take on the world!