student life

Does the NCTJ still hold relevance?

Since the start of my three-year Journalism degree last September, it has always been drilled into us that receiving the NCTJ gold standard was just as important as completing all of our assignments and walking away from Sheffield University in 2017 with a good degree. According to a recent study, such qualifications aren’t worthwhile and employers are more favourable for work experience.

Should I do an NCTJ

As I’m now going into my second year, I can’t really go into one big argument for one side. I’ve heard two different things, which does put students like myself in a very difficult situation with who to believe, university or employers?

Different requirements

The NCTJ itself is a national body in the journalism industry which offers qualifications for anyone wishing to work in journalism. You can take the national exams directly through the NCTJ, or you can enrol onto an NCTJ accredited course. At the University of Sheffield, students study for a BA in journalism as well as the NCTJ diploma.

The cost of exams aren’t cheap, and some people really do want to become a journalist, but don’t wish to pay to take the national exams. Hence why it brings work experience into the argument. Work experience is vital in the journalism world of today and employers often want you to have experience. It is however, not easy to get work experience in the journalism industry.

A lot of companies have very strict requirements. Some say you have to already have experience, others say you must have 100wpm in shorthand, must be in your second year or above of a journalism degree etc. Not forgetting that our beloved BBC ask for such detailed applications which means you have to beat off some stiff competition if you’re hoping to be successful and to be selected for a work placement.

Both: The true gold standard

Speaking as a first year, going on second year journalism student, I’ve had experience both with the NCTJ and work experience. Acheieving the NCTJ gold standard is not easy. Public Affairs is any students’ nightmare once you see the mark scheme for the NCTJ and when your tutors tell you that the NCTJ look to fail you, which is the complete oposite when university tutors try their hardest to pass you in all assessments.

I do feel that work placements are vital if you wish to apply for a job in the industry. Employers look for experience on your CV, they want to know what you can do and also where you have been before. The bigger and better your portfolio is, the more likely they’re going to shortlist your application and hire you! If you have the NCTJ qualification beside your name as well, then jobs-a-gooden. Sky News will not take on any journalist without 100wpm in shorthand. It’s a valuable skill for any journalist to have, and you sure will prove to be determinded if you reach that wonderful 100. 

I really do not feel employers prefer work experience over such a well-known qualification such as the NCTJ. Both would make your application stand out and you should aim for both, it’s not impossible. Study during term time, and during your summer break, carry out as many work placements as you can. You can build up your portfolio and CV in no time and you’ll thank yourself for it in the future rather than regretting not sitting NCTJ exams which means you will not be able to apply for your dream job or vice-versa.

What do you think? Is the NCTJ relevant? Does work experience trump it? Or are both still important in entering journalism? Have your say in the comments section below.