In December an event was organised by the Leicester Learning Institute giving PGR’s the opportunity to have a session with an experienced journalist. Journalism has always intrigued me so I signed up straight away and was lucky enough to get one of the limited spaces. All the spaces were taken very quickly so there’s clearly a demand from PGR’s for this type of event. The session gave me some good information, unfortunately that information made me feel that journalism might not be for me. This isn’t because I don’t want to write, I would love to communicate science to a wide audience, however I was left feeling that my PhD is essentially useless in terms of helping me progress down this route. Let me explain…
Firstly we went through the options available as a journalist and these included TV, radio and print. Then we moved onto experience. I fully understand that experience in the field you want to work in is nearly universally required these days, that’s fine. The problem was that our speaker appeared to think he was talking to an audience with as much time available as undergraduates. While some work experience options he mentioned, such as student radio, seem feasible for PhD students the suggestion of undertaking internships is unrealistic for most of us. He just didn’t seem to have an understanding of the hours that go into a PhD and just viewed us as students with free time. It was made clear everyone we would be competing with for journalism jobs would have these internships. We were essentially told that our PhD counts for nothing and that undergraduates are more likely to be employed over us. I can of course see why someone with on the job experience at somewhere like the BBC is going to have an advantage. What really put me off was the fact that despite a PhD leading us to be “experts in our fields” as we’re so often told, it in no way seems to qualify me to communicate my field. We were told you don’t get a job as a science journalist, you get a job as a journalist and one day hope to make it as a science journalist.
For those interested in a career in journalism some important things I learnt:
- Get experience, student radio or newspapers, internships if you can.
- Always know the days news! Any interviewer will expect you to be current and up to date on what’s happening in the world.
- Do activities that demonstrate you have essential skills e.g. time management is a key priority in both print and broadcast journalism where tight deadlines exist.
I hugely appreciate events like this being put on, it’s important to know which future career ideas are realistic and which aren’t. What I took from the session is that journlism, as much as I may enjoy writing and science communication, is unlikely to be for me. I’m not unwilling to put in the effort and gain experience, but I am unwilling to consider a career where I believe my PhD would be disregarded despite being relevant. If anyone out there has experience of going from a PhD to journalism (I know you do exist) I’d love to have my opinion changed!