Media studies is a newer branch of the social sciences, and as such, most universities with established social science departments offer graduate programs in media studies and the likes. The London School of Economics (LSE) is one university whose one-year MSc in Media and Communications program has gained notoriety around the world; it is estimated that more than 70% of this year's class are international students. Professor Robin Mansell, who teaches the New Media, Knowledge, and Innovation Systems course at the LSE, discusses why many students are drawn to graduate programs in this field: Postgraduate training in the field of media gives one a better understanding of the media around us. The graduate will be able to relate things going on in the media to other things of our time like democratization, citizenship, and globalization. The skill set and breadth of knowledge a graduate of the MSc program in Media and Communications will attain will allow the person to step back from simple claims and assess issues at a greater level.
Professor Mansell also talks about the career benefits of having a graduate degree in Media: :It is also an entre to a more senior level of employment. Having a Masters will regard the candidate as having a number of skills that someone with a Bachelor's does not have. And what types of careers do media graduates embark on? A surprising range of careers, says Robin, some have a deep interest in journalism; some go into public relations; and more go on to issue-specific sorts of careers like working for NGOs. Interestingly, some get into the legal profession; particularly those interested in new media regulation.
The University of Melbourne, in Australia, also offers Masters degrees and PhD programs in Media and Communications, and attracts students from all over the world. Students taking Masters degrees can elect from a wide range of courses like Stardom, Media, Culture; The Contemporary Publishing Industry; Cultural Policy and Power; and Literature and Film in Contemporary China, to name a few. The MA in Global Media Communication focuses on the impact of globalization, but also offers practical experience students are given the opportunity to intern at a media-related business in order to get that hands-on experience they may be seeking.
Should I specialize?
There are myriad options from which to choose, regardless of your study destination.
UC Berkeley's Graduate School of Journalism, for example, offers the two-year Master of Journalism (M.J.), which allows students to specialize even further Photojournalism; Environmental and Science Journalism; Documentary; Radio; Urban Reporting; and New Media are a few of the programs of study offered by the school.
Tomorrow's journalist craving the international experience can apply for the Universiteit Van Amsterdam's European Masters Program in Journalism. The course enables the student to study in a variety of European countries. The first semester commences in Denmark; the second in Amsterdam. Students then have the option of studying in Germany or the UK. In the ever-shrinking international media world, graduates with this kind of experience will be amongst the most in demand in their field.
Analysising topics such as political communication and the impact of health campaigns in the media are just two areas where the study of media and communications connect firmly with their social science roots.
Future film and television directors can take a comprehensive three-year graduate program at New York University's famed Kanbar Institute of Film and Television at the Tisch School of the Arts. With famous directors like Ang Lee, Lars Von Trier, and Peter Bogdanovich conducting lectures, film creatives will become even more passionate about their field. But of course, a program like this is fiercely competitive and creative portfolios will be evaluated prior to admission.
Should I look into a PhD?
For those looking to achieve academia's highest degree, the PhD degree in various media-related fields is offered by universities around the world. The PhD is invariably awarded to students who conceptualize and carry out a practical and original piece of research that will positively contribute to the academic field. 100,000 words is the norm for many PhD theses, in media, and beyond. It is not traditionally a taught degree; the student is expected to undertake independent research, and liaise with an academic advisor.
Admissions requirements for PhD programs vary from country to country. In the UK, for example, many programs ask the candidate to propose their intended research project, explaining in a 3,000-5,000 word document the what, how, when, and where of the project. Intended methodology will also be expected as will an existing intellectual framework in which your proposed topic will fit.
If you want to be a professor of media the PhD is the way forward. Just keep in mind that it is a serious commitment. You must be passionate about your subject and dedicate the next few years to extensive research, pursuing your own vision of this rapidly altering academic field.
Do I need a media background?
Students come from all backgrounds, but graduates of undergraduate social science courses like history, sociology, psychology, anthropology, literature, and political science often comprise a large portion of postgraduate media courses. You'll even find that while many of the lecturers in the field of media may have a background in media, many will come from other disciplines like sociology or psychology. Where there is a more technically based media program, such as filmmaking or journalism, some experience will be required and can be demonstrated either through formal work exposure, or some relevant background gained during your undergraduate studies.
What's the competition like?
In terms of admission to a graduate course, competition depends on your choice of school or program. Career-wise, the media industry remains a competitive one. The media industry can be risky, especially if you value a varied and flexible schedule, as do many media types. Professor Mansell agrees: Flexible working and freelancing are more frequent in the media business opening up new opportunities and also making the path more risky. The good news is that there are always opportunities in media and the future foresees steady growth. Even with the digital switchover, says Mansell, the BBC will still exist.