Common misconceptions of a media studies degree

It is now January and for thousands of A level students across the country this is a very stressful month. It is the month where they need to finish writing their personal statement, gather all their teacher references and get their university application sent off to UCAS. It may have been 7 years ago for me but I can still remember what an anxious, overwhelming time it was. I decided to study media at university as it has always been my dream to write for a magazine (there is still time!) and I really enjoyed the subject.

Once in university, when I started to meet new people and tell them what I was studying, rarely were they that interested, let alone impressed. You see, many people have this fixed idea in their heads of what a media degree is all about, they envisage lazy students sitting around watching films while making the odd note or two, maybe. If you are a school pupil interested in studying media one day or a parent with a teenager hoping to fly the nest and pursue a media degree this September, I am here to tell you this is not the case.

I want future students to not feel the need to justify the degree they have chosen to other students who think they are superior, just because they are studying something more traditionally academic, I absolutely loved university but I had to work damn hard to get a first, there is a lot more to it than you may think.

Here are some genuine, common misconceptions of what people think it is like to study media…

1. It is an easy course to get in to – Wrong! When I was applying in 2009 you needed two C’s and B at A level. Granted, it is no where near the three A’s or whatever it is you need to be a doctor but you do need to achieve decent grades to get in. You can’t just show up on the first day of term, with a couple of F’s in your back pocket and except to be accepted because it’s just a media degree.

2. You just watch films all day – Nope. Of course media students have to watch some films but it is never just for fun. You watch them because you are later going to be analysing a particular scene, looking at the camera work, the semiotics, the political context or the feminist undertones. Not once did we just sit and watch a film. Unless you’re doing a film studies degree, watching films is only a very small segment of a media degree, usually only one or two modules.

3. You can name every actor/director in every film..ever – Ugh, this one really annoys me. Yes I studied media but please don’t be shocked when I ask you who that actor is or I don’t know what year a certain film was released. As I mentioned above, media lecturers are much more concerned about the deeper meaning and technical side of a film, rather than the people acting out the scenes.

4. This course must have been your second choice – Strange as it may seem, some people want to get a media degree. They enjoy the variety, the creativity it allows and learning about the history of the media and discovering how we arrived at the digital age we live in today. It is a really interesting subject and people who study it should be taken more seriously.

5. It is easy – Like most university courses, it is as easy or difficult as you want it to be. You can get by doing the bare minimum and be disappointed three years later when you don’t get the result you wanted. Or, you can work hard, listen in lectures, write essays to the best of your ability, study for your exams and then ,hopefully, you will get the result you deserve at the end. The work itself varies and differs slightly in each university but I wouldn’t say any of it was easy. When I was studying we learnt about several different media theories, video and radio production, writing for newspapers as well as online journalism. Not once was I given an assignment and thought ‘oh yay, this is going to be easy’.

6. There are no jobs once you graduate – Isn’t this the case for so many graduates though, no matter what they have studied? There are plenty of graduate schemes out there in the media sector, you just need to look and apply, apply, apply! Apply until you can’t bear to look at another application form ever again. The jobs aren’t going to just come to you, you need to put in some hard work and be prepared to sometimes work for free. So many companies want people with experience and sometimes the only way to get this is to do some good old fashioned, unpaid work experience. My life took a bit of a dramatic turn after I graduated, I ended up pregnant a few months after receiving  my degree and any career of any kind has been put on hold ever since. I know with hard work and determination, when the time comes for me to go back to work, there will be media jobs waiting for my application. Nothing is certain when it comes to a career and you shouldn’t choose a degree you are not passionate about, simply based on an assumption that there is a job guaranteed for  you at the end of it.

Did you or your child study media at university? Before reading this post did you share any of these common misconceptions? Have you ever had to justify your academic/career choices to other people? I would love to know what you think. I hope more people start to realise that a degree in media isn’t just an easy option and that the students are often really creative and actually, 100% of the time, they have a brain in that head of theirs.

If you want more information on studying a media degree at university, here are some useful links –

20 important reason to study media
What can I do with a media studies degree?
University rank tables for communication and media studies degrees 2016

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17 Comments

  1. January 9, 2016 / 9:10 pm

    I had no idea what I wanted to do when I did my uni course so ended up doing Travel Industries management which had a lot of tourism in, to be honest the only bit I've used since is the marketing part of the course which comes in handy with blogging 😉 but then I was pregnant before the end of my foundation degree 😉

    Thanks for linking up to #PickNMix

    Stevie x

  2. January 11, 2016 / 10:19 am

    Well said! There are so many misconceptions about different degrees and later on, about the jobs as well! My other half took a film course at Uni and it was very hard work!!! But the difference is when you love what you're studying, you don't mind it. He definitely loved what he did.

  3. January 11, 2016 / 12:25 pm

    There are misconceptions whatever you study I think. I did a library degree – there wasn't a module on telling people to be quiet! It is annoying when people parrot them at you though.

  4. January 11, 2016 / 2:32 pm

    Well at least it has helped you with your blogging. Ahh these babies, they do choose to come at the most inconvenient times don't they?haha. Thanks for hosting xx

  5. January 11, 2016 / 2:34 pm

    Yes I agree, this happens with lots of different courses/career choices. I just don't think I was prepared for all the negative comments I got when I started uni. Ohh I am sure your husbands degree was difficult, I always found the film modules the hardest. xx

  6. January 11, 2016 / 2:36 pm

    It is soo annoying! As if a uni would waste teaching time on a module on how to keep people quiet. A library degree sounds pretty awesome to me..xx

  7. January 12, 2016 / 3:31 am

    I think loads of people judge degree choices. Especially the ones which don't seem to be particularly vocational. I've had loads of funny comments about my choice, psychology. 'No, I can't read your mind.' is my most common response to questions about it.

    Thanks again for linking up to #fartglitter

  8. January 12, 2016 / 6:23 pm

    People actually asked that? Oh dear. Yes, lots of degrees unfairly get a bad rep. I think everyone needs to stop being judgemental and let people just get on with what they want to do. Thanks for hosting xx

  9. January 12, 2016 / 9:04 pm

    When I first started community college in 1995, I was actually a theater major and I got a lot of flack for that one too but I didn't care because I loved theater. However, I didn't get my degree in it. I was pressured by family to get a different degree or to get a job because theater wasn't going to get me anywhere. I don't regret it though. I ended up studying English Literature, which I loved, then Child Development, which led me to create my own degree in Child Advocacy Studies. It is hard for everyone to find a job in their chosen field these days because of the economy and has nothing to do with one's degree. I had considered once to major in Mass Communications (that's what media was called back then) that offered a variety of different media-related courses, including news reporting, but it wasn't for me. I know the courses I was told I had to take back then weren't easy courses by any means so Media doesn't come across to me as an easy major. People who think that are seriously misinformed. My oldest son is interested in Media. Mostly, he wants to write scripts and possibly direct and maybe do some sort of sports or gaming reporting but whatever he decides to do, I'm behind him on it. #abitofeverything

  10. January 13, 2016 / 7:14 am

    I feel your pain. Media studies is ironically the media shorthand for Mickey Mouse degrees but it is a lazy stereotype.

    I got some baffling reactionso for studying politics ('isn't he very nice then?'). I studied because I was interested in the topic not because I wanted to be a politician.

    There is a lot of snobbery about humanities but it's not an us or them situation. The two disciplines can learn from each other. Much of the horrendous science coverage can be due to a lack of understanding of science by people schooled.in humanities so it can cut both ways!

    Thanks for your thought provoking post

    #abitofeverything

  11. January 13, 2016 / 9:13 pm

    My friend did film studies and she had very similar questions asked bless her, I can only imagine how annoying it is when you are studying hard for something. Popping over from #fartglitter

  12. January 14, 2016 / 7:48 pm

    Aww, I feel her pain. It is very frustrating xx

  13. January 14, 2016 / 8:35 pm

    I did a joint degree I majored in Pyschology with media and popular culture. Strange mix I know but I loved it. Media is definitely not an easy option. Thanks for linking to #PickNMix

  14. January 14, 2016 / 10:24 pm

    I have had pretty nasty comments as I gave up a professional career/degree to be a writer. Still do but I just shrug it off now. Back to husband, when we were both in Uni, I excitedly said I'll watch ALL the films you have to watch for your course with you – they were doing like a film marathon at school…well, the excitement soon dissipated! It wasn't just go watch, it was a lot of note taking, analysing and discussion. After he finished the unit, we never saw and enjoyed a movie quite the same way anymore. LOL…hazards of the trade.

  15. January 16, 2016 / 9:49 pm

    Thank you for your comment! I think if you love what you are doing it shouldn't matter what other people think. It can just be frustrating when people think what you're doing is a bit of a joke. I am glad that although you didn't stick with your original major, you still went on to do something you enjoyed. Good luck to your son in whatever degree he chooses xx

  16. January 16, 2016 / 9:53 pm

    This is all very true. I am unsure why the media are always so quick to judge media degrees and students. All courses are important otherwise what would be the point in training people in these different fields if their skills are never going to be needed. Thanks for your comment xx

  17. January 16, 2016 / 9:54 pm

    Ohh I like the mixture of courses. I bet it was a lot of hard work. Thanks for hosting xx

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