How to get into the BBC as a journalist

Friday 1 June 2012, 19:15

Jonathan Baker Jonathan Baker is head of the BBC College of Journalism

'How do I become a BBC journalist?' is a question every BBC journalist is often asked. We all give different replies based on our own experience, and of course there is no one definitive answer.

But as an organisation the BBC can offer some basic guidance and advice on how you might go about it.

The good news is that opportunities arise regularly because the BBC employs several thousand journalists and people are always arriving, changing jobs or leaving.

You can enter the organisation at every level: from work experience to full-time jobs on high-profile network news programmes. A good place to start when you're preparing for any approach or interview is here on the BBC College of Journalism website. This is a training area for BBC journalists that is freely available to all in the UK. It covers a wide range of editorial subjects and issues, and multimedia craft skills. The BBC College of Production also has a website you might find helpful.

However you seek to join the BBC, you'll find that competition is fierce. There are always far more applicants than posts. You need talent of course but you also need tenacity and an ability to distinguish yourself from other candidates.

A university degree is not required. Many of the BBC's top journalists did not have a university education. You might have other experience or qualifications which are regarded as just as useful or important.

The BBC is interested in personal qualities as well as educational achievements. It puts a high value on a proven commitment to a career in journalism and on qualities such as energy, enthusiasm, flair, imagination, passion, analytical skills, intellectual curiosity and a reluctance to accept things at face value. You certainly need to be literate and numerate, to be able to swiftly read into and absorb issues and arguments.

Having said that most BBC journalists are graduates, which suggests that a degree gives you a definite advantage. And of course a degree is concrete evidence of intellectual discipline.

Many people considering journalism as a career wonder whether they should choose a degree in media studies, journalism or English rather than other subjects. It is fair to say that many senior journalists are suspicious of media studies courses and doubt their relevance and value to a career in news. They look much more favourably on journalism courses which are more news focused.

But your degree need not have any obvious connections to a career in journalism. It is better to study a subject you like and feel passionate about.

If you might want to specialise in a particular area of journalism - such as science, economics, law or politics - then a relevant degree is obviously a great starting point. A second language is also an asset. Many BBC journalists have arts degrees and the BBC is always interested in widening the knowledge base of its workforce.

As for post-graduate qualifications, they are certainly good to have, but again not essential: you might have other experience or qualifications which would be regarded as just as relevant and valuable. If you secure a job in BBC journalism, you can expect to receive training inside the organisation.

Finally, if you are thinking about studying for a journalism qualification, what should you aim for? It is not up to the BBC to recommend one course or college over another. Ask around and do some research about reputation and course content. You might find these two organisations helpful: the Broadcast Journalist Training Council (BJTC) and the National Council for the Training of Journalists (NCTJ).

Many jobs in BBC journalism are not advertised externally. There could be a number of reasons for this - expense, for example, or a recruitment freeze which means vacant posts are offered in the first instance to existing staff.

You can keep up to date with everything that is available by visiting the BBC Careers website. Be aware that many jobs are not permanent vacancies but short-term contracts - covering maternity leave, for example.

Good luck.


Jump to comments pagination
  • rate this

    Comment number 21.

    Hello,This is Mahmud Al amin from Bangladesh.I am really happy and grateful to be a account holder of BBC.I have a dream that i will sent some news in BBC but i do not know what should i do.In response to my comment if you tell me what should i do or give me the proper way to sent news in BBC i will be happy and also grateful to you. Thank you.


Page 2 of 2

This entry is now closed for comments

Share this page

More Posts

Twitter for journalists: beyond gathering and distributing content

Friday 1 June 2012, 10:17

Hyperlocal breaking news: Whose role is it anyway?

Wednesday 6 June 2012, 11:32

About this Blog

A blog for the College of Journalism at the BBC Academy, discussing current technical, ethical, production and craft issues in journalism.

Blog Updates

Stay updated with the latest posts from the blog.

Subscribe using:

What are feeds?

Follow us on Twitter

New twitter image News and comment about journalism and interaction with the College:


Also from the College

Esra Dogramaci

Web analytics: The Basics by BBC digital consultant Esra Dogramaci


Mukul Devichand

How to be a digital innovator by Mukul Devichand, creator and series producer of BBC Trending


Writing for mobile

Writing for mobile by BBC mobile editor Nathalie Malinarich


James Montgomery

Leading innnovation in news by BBC News director of digital publishing James Montgomery


Other great places to follow debates about journalism and media:

George Brock: thoughts on journalism past, present and future from City University's head of journalism

The Media Blog: lively and often funny topical detail about UK media output

British Journalism Review: selected pieces from the authoritative quarterly journal

MediaShift: PBS monitoring of the changing media world from a US perspective

Arts & Letters Daily: more interesting ideas and good writing than you will ever have time to read

Alltop Journalism: links to the most recent posts on many journalism blogs

About the BBC: varied BBC blog about all things BBC-ish

Columbia Journalism Review: US academic perspectives

Facebook + Journalists: Facebook's own guide to its use by journalists

Jon Slattery: UK media news from the former deputy editor of Press Gazette

Meeja Law: Judith Townend's guide to media and legal issues 

Roy Greenslade: Guardian blog by the former Mirror editor now journalism prof

Wannabee Hacks: information and experiences from aspiring journalists.