Are there too many media graduates?

NOW 106 APPLY FOR EVERY JOB

Did you know that there are more people graduating from media-related courses this year than there are jobs in the whole of the British media?

If this is correct (it’s a quote – can anyone find official confirmation?), then it’s pretty shocking.

Should we be talking about the fact that we have record numbers of young people in record levels of debt rushing into an industry that is on its knees?

Are universities conning them out of their money?

Some other stats (definitely true this time!):

- There were 106 applications for every graduate media role in 2010. That’s a rise of over a fifth (22.6%) compared with 2009.

- We don’t yet have stats for 2010, but in 2008 and 2009 the number of graduate vacancies in media fell by 57%. That’s right – it more than halved.

And yet… the number of journalism and media studies students has never been higher:

In 1999, 7,400 students were on undergraduate media studies courses. Ten years later? There were 25,400. That’s more than triple.

In 1999, 1,970 students were on undergraduate journalism courses. A decade on? There were 8,095. Again, that’s over than three times more.

(When looking at postgraduate students on journalism and media studies course, the numbers are smaller but the sharp, upward trend is the same).

Plus, the financial prospects are pretty bleak:

The latest High Fliers report insists the average graduate starting salary in media is £31,500 – but Graduate Fog would love to know where these well-paid jobs are hiding? The average salary for journalists  is £24,500 – but for a junior reporter on a local paper, the salary can be as low as £12,000. And then of course there are those of you who work for absolutely nothing… For months… With no guarantee of paid work, ever…

New research from university guide Push says that the students starting their degree in 2010 will be in an average of £25,000 of debt when they graduate.

If you’re a journalism or media studies graduate, I know I don’t have to tell you how tough it is to break into media is right now.

Two of the most popular pages on Graduate Fog are:

How to get into media

and

How to get a job in journalism

And you probably don’t want to read more ‘downer’ news, when you already feel like you’re walking through treacle.

Most likely, you’re working unpaid (or paid very little), gaining bylines and experience but with zero idea when (or if) your investment will ever lead to a full-time, paid job.

Many of you tell me you’re falling out of love with the industry you used to have enormous passion for.

I don’t meant to be the Angel of Death – really I don’t.

(And, incidentally, I think many of you who don’t ‘make it’ into media ‘proper’ could realise in a few years’ time that you’ve actually dodged a bullet. I fear the road is set to get even rockier in this industry, before things get better. Plus, I actually think media and journalism grads are in big demand in other industries – not because you can work a camera or know shorthand, but because of the sort of person you’re likely to be. On-the-ball, outgoing, motivated, interested…)

But I do think it’s important that we talk about what’s really happening here – to tens of thousands of you every year.

We have huge numbers of young people in enormous levels of debt rushing into an industry that is in big trouble – and showing no signs of recovering any time soon.

Ignoring this situation and telling you to “Follow your heart”, “If you want it badly enough, you’ll get there,” and “Don’t settle for anything less than your dream job” is unrealistic, bad advice.

And Graduate Fog doesn’t give bad advice.

Even if it is what  you want to hear.

(Far better advice: Head for areas in this industry that are growing, not declining!)

I think the time has come to stop ignoring the facts.

These figures raise important questions that demand our attention.

So I’m going to ask them:

- Were media / journalism graduates made aware of your odds of ‘making it’, when you signed up? In introducing (and increasing) tuition fees, students have become customers – and universities have become businesses. These institutions now work on a principle of supply and demand. The more popular a course is, the more places they will create. Did you understand this when you enrolled? My instinct is that many students assume that getting a place on a journalism / media studies course means at least a decent shot at a career in these industries. (I know I would have done, aged 18). If when you started your course, you were asked to estimate your chances of landing a job in media once you finished your studies, would you have said “One in 104″? If not, do you think someone should have sat you down and talked you through your decision, before you enrolled on your course? Or would you have gone ahead anyway and hoped for the best?

- Is there any point in learning skills you won’t use? Employers bang on about wanting graduates with ‘skills’ – but surely these must match the kind of jobs available? Is it sensible that we are continuing to usher tens of thousands of students into courses that will equip them for an industry they have only a slim chance of finding paid work in? Surely a course is only ‘vocational’ if its students end up actually using the skills they’ve learned. No?

- If we agree that the mismatch of graduates versus jobs is a problem, should we cap the number of places on extremely popular courses like media studies and journalism? And whose job should this be? I’m not happy at the idea that a universities’ admissions officer might effectively be given the power to decide who gets to have a crack at ‘making it’ in these industries. (Who are they to make that call?) On the other hand, isn’t it borderline-unethical to take your money when they know your chances of finding a job (and then building a career) in media are so slim?

*Thoughts? Questions? Comments?
If you’d known how tough it would be to find paid work in media, would you have done a different degree? Or not bothered with uni at all? Do you think schools and universities should equip students with realistic information about their chances of ‘making it’ when the media industry is in crisis – or is it important that we let students follow their dream at all costs?

If you’re a media or journalism grad struggling to find work, are your career plans changing? Would you like to know more about what career options are open to you now, in related industries where you’d stand a better chance of finding paid work? Or do you just want to throw tomatoes at me for being such a downer when you’re trying to get your career of the ground? ; )

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