Can you teach someone to become a journalist?

The age old debate will always be, do you really need a degree and as I come to the end of my fourth year at university, I think I finally have the answer.

The age old debate will always be, do you really need a degree and as I come to the end of my fourth year at university, I think I finally have the answer.

At 17 I applied for university and celebrated with a few lemonades when I received an unconditional offer from my first choice. I then spent the next few months preparing myself for the party lifestyle, living away from home and blowing my student loan on shoes. I never once thought about the actual outcome of university—getting a degree—it was all about the uni life.

First year is exactly how everyone describes it—fun and pointless. You scrape by doing the bare minimum the day before a deadline whilst downing some Lucozade to sooth last night’s Jager hangover, still not actually thinking about the end of university.

Then summer comes and you go home and forget that you are actually even a student and June to September becomes one massive freshers-style party.

Before you know it, it’s your first day back on campus and your first day as a second year—a year that actually counts towards your degree. Yes your degree, remember that? You make a promise to yourself to go out less and focus on your work more. This promise lasts 3 days.

You begin third year full of regrets from second year. Oh if only I hadn’t gone out the night before, oh if only I did this differently, if only I revised a little more. You begin to knuckle down in third year, as it soon sets in that you are months away from a degree and entering the real adult world. The Christmas holidays pass and with only 5 months left of university, it finally becomes your main priority. Social lives are a thing of the past, as are relationships and the gym. Your only focus in life is getting that 2:1.

You begin to apply for jobs and realise that there is nothing out there for somebody with your degree in your area, you panic.

But is it worth the panic, the stress, the money and the time?

Recently for one of my final ever assignments as a university student I had to address the issue of whether a journalism degree is necessary and after not having to delve too deeply into the industry and speaking to numerous journalists I realised that actually no, a degree is not necessary.

One journalist told me that in fact a journalism degree is just a very weird thing. You cannot teach somebody to be a journalist, or to be interested in the news and their surroundings or to in fact write a well-structured news piece. Journalism is a passion you are born with—it is something you can either do or you can’t.

Now don’t get me wrong, I’ve loved university and I’m glad I went, but my actual degree? I learnt more during my work placements in London. Moving to London for a month to do them was the best decision I made during my four years at University. This decision paid off, as during my first post uni interview for a journalism job the only thing they questioned me on was my experience, my degree was never brought into it.  The industry is very different to a lecture theatre.

Another journalist said he believes that around 60 per cent of his colleagues do not have journalism degrees, they may have a degree or an NCTJ, but not journalism degrees and he himself has no degree and no journalism qualifications but has the natural passion that is required to be a journalist and has now been in the industry for over 30 years.

To say I learnt nothing during my time at university would be a little harsh. I have learnt a lot and will take a lot away from my course and the knowledge of my lecturers was invaluable, but would I do it again? No. Was it better than my first hand industry experience? No.

If you want to be a journalist, be proactive and make it happen. You can teach people about journalism, but you can’t teach them to be a journalist.

What do you think? Is a journalism degree worth it? Have your say in the comments section below, on Facebook or on Twitter.