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Study abroad : Subject Guides

What can you do with a Media Studies degree?

A University of Brighton students tells us all you need to know about a Media Studies degree

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A relatively recent subject, the history of Media Studies can be traced back to the mid-twentieth century, where it emerged from a number of different established disciplines all reacting to the growth of the mass media. As a fairly young subject Media Studies has occasionally suffered an unfair reputation as an ‘easy’ degree option, but with the contemporary growth in digital and social media it’s importance has only increased, and many universities are developing dynamic degree programs to serve these needs. The stereotypes about Media Studies being a subject where students simply watch television shows were always wrong, but are even more inaccurate now.


More so than many other subjects, the way Media Studies is taught varies from country to country: in Germany, for example, Media Studies isn’t as prominent – the emphasis is on Communication Studies, whereas in certain Australian states, for example Victoria, Media Studies has been a part of secondary education alone since the 1950s, making it a world leader in the discipline in general. This means it’s an exciting subject for students who wish to study abroad: every nation has its own particular Media Studies culture.


What does Media Studies entail?



It’s common to talk about ‘the media’ as an abstract entity. How often have you heard somebody complain about the way ‘the media’ is presenting an issue, for instance? We all know what is meant by this: newspapers, magazines, television – or more specifically, the news on television – often have a particular agenda. But what makes these things ‘the media’, and what do they have in common with other things that are also forms of media: video games, or Twitter? At the most basic level, what we’re really talking about when we talk about the media are the various forms of mass communication which exist. This means there are many different types of media – print media, broadcast media, social media, and digital media, to name but a few.


Due to this diversity, its rapidly changing nature and the differences in Media Studies as a discipline from country to country, no two Media Studies courses are the same. Don’t believe us? Here are some examples:


  • The University of Brighton, in the UK, offers an Environment and Media Studies BA which looks at how the media has become “central to the ways in which environmental issues are communicated to and understood by the public, on a local and global scale.”
  • The University of Westminster, in the UK, teaches a Digital Media and Communication BA, designed to take “Media Studies into the 21st century” by not limiting students “to a particular media industry,” but recognising “the ongoing practical and conceptual convergence between technologies, industries and ways of communicating.”
  • The University of Pittsburgh, in the USA, has developed a Media and Professional Communications BA providing “students with a rigorous education in the theories of mass media process, history, and ethics as well as the opportunity to specialize in one of three professional practice areas: corporate and community relations, writing for the professions, or digital media.”
  • Students at RMIT University, in Australia, can take a Bachelor of Communication (Media), which delivers "innovative content for a wide range of existing and new platforms including film, television and radio, social and mobile media, and the web."


These examples don’t just show how diverse Media Studies can be, but how cutting edge a subject it now is – and how relevant it is to sections of the global economy that are expanding very rapidly.


As well as having an emphasis on the form that media takes, many Media Studies courses are also concerned with the content of the media, asking questions about the way media represents race and gender, for example. In this sense, Media Studies courses often offer a great balance between theories of the media, what it is and what it does, and practical work: whether designing your own website or producing your own broadcast. Paula Hearsum, Academic Programme Leader for a number of courses at the University of Brighton, including ‘Media, Industry and Innovation’ and ‘Media Studies and Environment’ describes this process as taking “theory into media practice and take media practice into theory.”


How can I get onto a Media Studies course?



Sadly, being good at watching Netflix won't get you a place on a Media Studies course, and there will be entry requirements for any Media Studies degree you decide to apply to. Luckily these requirements tend to be broad, and most Media Studies courses accept students from a variety of different academic backgrounds – English Literature or Language (or an equivalent) tend to be popular paths, as may be expected. As with any degree you may be required to demonstrate your interest in, or passion for, the subject, either through a written application, an interview, or both.


Paula Hearsom told Hotcourses Abroad that having a good personality is a quality of particular importance when students apply for her courses at the University of Brighton. "Media students have great personalities and that comes out in their statements," she said. "Most media work is collaborative so being able to demonstrate that you are as able to work independently as well as with others is a great bonus. Wanting to do that is something we work a lot on to enhance, so willingness and openness are also great indicators of a candidate's ability to grow their capabilities."


If you are applying to study as an international student, there will be a number of specific requirements you must meet, and it’s particularly important you pay attention to what visa is needed for the country you are applying to (otherwise you may not even be able to enter the country!). If you are applying to an English-language institution and you speak English as a second language, you may also be asked to provide evidence that you can understand written and spoken English to a certain level.


Where will Media Studies take me?



In the UK, Media Studies has often faced an unfair reputation, but a study by the Office of National Statistics in 2013 showed that after Medicine, Media Studies students were the second most employable. This is even more incredible when you consider that 3 years previously Media Studies graduates in the UK had the second highest rate of unemployment, according to one report.


One reason for this is undoubtedly the growth of the social and digital media sectors, but it may also have something to do with the way Media Studies students are thoroughly trained across their degree, with many courses requiring a compulsory industry placement before students graduate. As we have said, this practical approach is accompanied with a focus on theories of the media, which means Media Studies are also trained to think critically and analytically in a way students of traditional subjects are, and which students of other more vocational subjects usually aren't.


But where do these skills take Media Studies graduates? While television and broadcasting was traditionally (and stereotypically) seen as the desired career destination of every Media Studies graduate, the changing media landscape means graduates have far more fruitful options today than ever before. Indeed, many of the Media Studies students and graduates we spoke to saw their future lying in PR and marketing, rather than film or television.


For Laura Arens, an international student of Media Studies at the University of Brighton, the course has been invaluable in shaping her future, because "media is a business in which your English has to be perfect, no matter which country you work in. So, by studying abroad I am not only showing that I am an independent person, able to take risks, but also perfecting my language skills."


Now Laura feels her "future is open as I have never seen it before. I now have the ability to work all around the globe because my bi-lingual skills are requested everywhere. The university is really supportive and this combined with the placement we did in second year has shown me that the marketing sector is definitely what I am interested in doing as a career. Wherever that might be, I now have the abilities to find out!"


If you want to follow in Laura's footsteps and study Media Studies abroad, there are many excellent institutions to choose from - take a look!

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