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.


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  • Comment number 1.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

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    Comment number 2.

    Jonathan Baker,

    My name is Esther Craddock-Taylor, I graduated from Exeter University in July 2012 and am now seeking a career in journalism. More specifically, I intend on applying for the BBC Journalism Trainee Scheme in September.

    I have been researching how to get into the journalism and broadcast industry for months, and as one would expect, everyone seems to disagree. Many blogs say that doing a postgraduate degree or MA in journalism is the best way of getting into this industry. Whereas, others recommend the BJTC or NCTJ which supply numerous courses which can train you to become a certified or recognised journalist.

    However, my concern is that I cannot afford to do either due to the demanding financial costs.

    In your opinion, without any of the above journalism courses or higher education levels, is it still worth my while pursuing and aiming for a career within the journalism and broadcast industry?

    I may not have certificates to prove my skills, but I have other work experience, volunteer work, societies, awards, extra curricular achievements as well as high achieving grades throughout my education.

    I really would appreciate your feedback on this subject and I look forward to hearing your reply. Esther Craddock-Taylor.

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    Comment number 3.

    Read The Gaurdian, vote Labour, have a liberal arts degree and understand balance and impartiality to mean having an opinion from the left and the far left....

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    Comment number 4.

    Jonathan Baker,

    My Name is Sher Muhammad and I am from Pakistan. I belong to Lahore city and I am student of Graduation, to become a journalist is my biggest goal in life and dream. Since my child hood I want to become a journalist to serve the people and speak against the evil. But some days ago an incident changed my life totally. On 9th October Taliban attacked on the 14 years old student Malala in Swat. That was one of the worst incident in my life. She just spoke about to open her school and they attacked on her. They are not humans they are worst then animals. We have been sacrificing our lives from 10 years. How long we will bear it? They are using Islam with their gout purposes. While Islam forced every Muslim man and women to seek knowledge. It is a duty of every Muslim man and woman to seek knowledge, then how they stop girls to seek knowledge. About what Islam they are talking about. This is not Islam which they are in effecting on us. It is enough, today they attacked on one Malala, and tomorrow they will attack on numbers of Malala. She talked about education and she is right. She is true face of Pakistan. I also want to promote the education in Pakistan it is my biggest aim and goal and one day I will be successed in it Insha Allah, specially the education of women because they have to face a lot problems to get their education. It is right of every one to get education.
    I am not a professional journalist and I am just a student now, and this is my first letter to any newspaper or website.
    I look forward to hearing your reply. Sher Muhammad

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    Comment number 5.

    Marium Khan,

    Have a good day.
    First of all in Pakistan there is a common trend for girls about education that education is not important for girls as compare to boys especially in the rural areas.Some people of Pakistan thinks that education is also important for girls but the rest of Pakistan thinks its opposite, hence the girls of Pakistan do not get better education.On 9th October Taliban attacked on the 14 years old student Malala in Swat.I may not have certificates to prove my skills and i am still just a student but i thinks that i have the ability to do such types of works which Malala do so kindly tell me that how can i do it?
    If you are impressed from my comment so kindly reply me.
    Thank you
    Best regards
    Marium Khan
    [Personal details removed by Moderator]

  • Comment number 6.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

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    Comment number 7.

    I had retired from a local Chinese newspaper as the Group Editor in Chief in 2006. I have more than 40 years experience in journalism. Currently I work for a Malaysian IPTV as an adviser. I am knowledgeable with multi media and proficient in English and Chinese. I am still capable to work. I would like to apply for a job in BBC. Please advise how to go about it.

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    Comment number 8.

    Dear Mr Baker,

    My name is Geetha Singarabiru. A University of Surrey graduate, with post graduate qualifications in journalism. Since completing both academic pursuits in 2010, I have worked for various publications and radio stations, as a reporter and sub editor, but such was the economy at the time, most of the work were short contracts/ freelance basis and I have struggled to find full time employment despite having the experience and excellent references from all my previous employers.
    I am constantly researching and keeping abreast of world events via the BBC world service and local news networks using twitter and new media platforms. I have multilingual skills and want to work for the BBC's world service, either in London or Singapore as I am a resident in both places. I would appreciate it if you could give me any advice or contact details as to who to approach and send my cv to.

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    Comment number 9.

    I am not a journalist but I am a social commentator. I find it rather irritating that you the BBC think that you know all about journalism. Your school of journalism is self congratulating and has several misplaced ideas, particulary about article writing - one aspect that I was paid well for over a period of 20 years. Your BBC journalists seem to be competing with each other to obtain the favourable stories which results in errors. Your so called expert who promotes a less than a 16 word sentence needs to go back to school to learn what a real English sentence is about. I am not from Pakistan by the way.

    Thank you.

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    Comment number 10.

    Having read all of the other comments besides mine, I must say they are not very impresive are they? Some people need to stick to a theme and not diverge on to tangents or political points.

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    Comment number 11.

    Esther Craddock-Taylor

    You won't get ino journalism with a degree or post graduate degree. If you want to get into it it will be slow. Write for your locakl paper, start with letters then offer them assignments, articles etc. If you are any good you will do well - your degree means nothing!

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    Comment number 12.

    Jonathan Baker,

    I am NKURUNZIZA RWANGABO Déogratias from Rwanda and I am studying in the National university of Rwanda, in the Faculty of Arts Media and Social Science; the department is Journalism and communication. I would like to start a career in journalism at BBC. I think I have needed skills and I would be happy if you helped me to improve my skills

    I'm waiting for your reply
    Thank you


  • rate this

    Comment number 13.

    My name is Muhammad AbuShaban, 26 years old, i speak english and french, I am so much interested in working with the BBC, I always get in touch with the bbc different broadcasts, the bbc website, the bbc tv world wide, the bbc five live radio station, and all programs of the bbc have your say.
    I have a wide range and rich cv that make me a strong candidate with so many people applying to the BBC.
    I am talented and professional with the TOT, Marketing, effictive business communication, human resources management, teaching, and reporting.
    I would highly appreciating receiving from you so that I can attach to you my CV.
    looking forward towards receiving from you,

  • Comment number 14.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

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    This comment has been referred for further consideration. Explain.

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    Comment number 16.

    Have a Nice day!
    I think its good way to join BBC. I like this.......

  • rate this

    Comment number 17.

    BBC news presenter is teaching a course on news presenting at Pinewood Studios.

    Might be worth having a look -

  • rate this

    Comment number 18.

    Good day Mr. Baker. I'm from Philippines and I found this section about getting into your company as a journalist. I am a journalist on our school and I am a High School graduate. Regarding this topic, may I ask if the vacant positions are available for non-UK citizens?

    I look forward for your urgent response and I would be more than willing to work for your company one day if given the chance. Thank you very much.

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    Comment number 19.


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    Comment number 20.

    bbc is gbbc not bbc and one of the inspirational motivational enthusiastic broadcasting giant in the world .and in my country gbbc is the essential part in preparing competitive eaxms .thats the the status of you in my country pakistan .Goodluck bbc


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