What to look for in a media course

With the growing number of media courses available, students have a tough job in deciding which to choose. This guide aims to show what questions you should ask ? both of the university or college you are considering and of yourself.









Why do you want to study media?




Do you want to work in the industry after completing the course?   Or do you want to study media in a purely academic way (for educational rather than vocational reasons)?




There is nothing wrong with studying the media from an academic point of view ? it is an enjoyable and interesting study ? but a course of this type will probably not lead to a practical job within the film industry.




This guide is mainly aimed at those students who want to work in this industry.




Job or Career?




There are a large number of jobs in the industry, what do you know about the field you want to go into?




Also remember that it is highly unlikely that your first job in the industry will be your "dream career”.   Most first jobs ? even for those who have completed relevant courses ? are at quite a low level.  Lots of people start as "runners" who, as the name suggests, run errands, make tea and generally help wherever needed.




Can you afford to do this course?




Don't set your heart on a particular course until you have worked out the financial implications. Will there be any additional costs besides course fees and general living expenses. Are you expected to contribute to the cost of materials (film stock and developing for example)?  If there is a photography module, will you need to supply your own camera?











What does the university / college mean by the term “media"?




Media is a broad term that covers film, television, computing, journalism, semiotics, writing, graphics etc.  Ensure that the course-content covers the areas you are interested in and is relevant to the work you would like to do.




What is the course location like?




Where is the school located?   How will you get there?  Is accommodation available fairly close to the location?




How many people will be on the course?




What is the ratio between students and equipment?  Will some of your projects be done in small groups?  Will you have an opportunity to perform different jobs on successive projects, or will you be expected to perform the same job on each project?   Will you have personal attention, or will you merely become a number in the class?




What academic / technical / practical support can you expect?




How much contact time will you get with the staff?   Will you be able to talk with your lecturers about aspects of the course you find difficult - and, if necessary, will they give you additional contact time? 




What is the ratio between theory and practice?




If the course is less than fifty percent practical work you are moving towards a theoretical course with little professional training?  If the practical percentage is very high, you may not be stimulated intellectually.




What equipment do the university / college have?




Will I have unrestricted access to equipment or is it shared with other courses? How many people share the equipment?  How does the equipment compare to what I would find in the industry?




Will you have to produce work for assessment?




Do you have to produce a show reel and written assignments?   Are there examinations? How will these be assessed and who will assess them?  Is the course graded on continuous assessment or will your final grade be determined by one piece of work?   Will the practical projects be supervised, or will you have to work unsupervised?



A good film school will expect each student to write, produce and direct a short motion picture on film and to work on the productions of fellow students in order to qualify.  There is not much point in enrolling at a film school that does not have this as a requirement.  One enrols at a film school to learn how to make films and the best way to do this is to make your own film. 




Does the course lead to any NQF standards?




National vocational qualifications registered on the National Qualifications Framework (NQF) in South Africa are becoming increasingly important.  If the university or college offers a certificate, diploma or degree, is this qualification registered on the NQF?




Are there any links with industry? 




Do professional companies lend equipment?  Do industry representatives come to talk to students about what it is really like to work in film or television?




Does the course have industry recognition?




This means that representatives from industry will have visited the university or college to assess the equipment and teaching and spoken to staff and students. Some companies do not recruit students if they have not come from a validated university or college. 




Will you get any work experience?




Many courses have a compulsory placement as part of the syllabus.   What help will you get in finding such a placement?   Will the college find the placement for you?  How long will it last?  What sort of work will you be expected to do? How is the placement assessed?






What are the past students doing now?




How many previous students are working in the industry?  How does the institution “track" its alumni?




Does the university or college:




·        Operate an Equal Opportunity Policy?


·        Offer RPL / APL (the Recognition of Prior Learning / Assessment of Prior Learning)?


·        Offer Career Guidance?




For more information please consult:




The Moving Image Society   www.bksts.com   > training > careers




John Hill (MBKS), Senior Lecturer, Film Academy, Cape Peninsula University of Technology. Tel +27 21 959 6872 - +27 21 959 6049  


Fax +27 21 959 6015   hillj@cput.ac.za



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