Journalism school a waste of money?

Posted by JSYL on Sunday, April 12, 2009 in ,

In about a month I will finally graduate from 5 years at university.

Yet tonight, for the first time, I started questioning what it might really be worth.

My Journalism degree alone cost my parents a whopping $AUD 7518.60 (not including student union fees before Voluntary Student Unionism came in force, and textbooks, which I paid for myself, or the huge cost of letting me go on exchange in 2008. I shudder to think what the other degree cost them). At the time of writing, that's the equivalent of £3 688.97, USD 5,402.86 and €4,106.45.

...Pause for gaping mouths to close...

It's an age-old debate: can 'Journalism' ever be truly 'taught'?

Every Journalism student has come across at least one successful journalist from the old school o' hard knocks, coffee mug in hand and notepad at the ready. He (it's usually a 'he') poo-poohs the notion of 'Journalism school' (always spoken with a wry smile and a sarcastic tone), explaining that he got to where he was by clinging to his street smarts, raw talent and sheer luck.

And for every one of those there is another suited up, slicked back journo with 20 years of contacts who's rapid-fire thought pattern betrays his smooth, laid back demeanour that comes only from the reassurance that the combination of all that education and experience and a full-time job can bring.

Given the current climate (That must be the world's most over-used phrase of the century) I'm not the only one thinking about this. The debate is finding new relevance now as media jobs decline, and the future of Journalism becomes more uncertain. If the truly brilliant are struggling, where does that leave the rest of us? Indeed, despite burgeoning enrolment rates at Journalism schools the world over, only in 2016 will reporter positions increase. Great. Only 7 years to go.

I cannot deny the personal value of the university experience. I met some of my best friends and learned some of my hardest emotional lessons to date while there. Most (sadly not all) of us have by now, through university, acquired a bulk of the social and life skills needed to get us through to adulthood and the Real World.

And let's face it, these days going to university is so commonplace it's almost rare to find someone without at least one degree upon entering the workforce.

But after all that, though better off personally and to some extent professionally for the experience, I have to wonder if maybe, I might've fallen into Journalism even without it, as so many of the best seem to have done, and left my parents $7518.60 richer, to make up in some small way for the recent death of half of their superannuation fund.



I think journalism grads will need to adjust to the new realities. The only "beat" you'll be pounding is the one with your keyboard. Be flexible and bill yourself as a communication expert. Good things will happen



Depends what kind of journalism you are interested in. If you're wanting to go go on TV you're much better off auditioning for Miss Universe or marrying a test cricketer.

But for less superficial forms of journalism, i would say that industry experience and "street smarts" are just as, if not more, important, than a journalism degree. Unfortunately, journalism schools are churning out countless graduates who have little understanding of media's business model or role in society. It's a fickle industry - but still potential for the right type of person - just get ready to climb your way up the ladder very slowly.

I'm sorry, did you say "USD 5,402"? For five years of school??? Most Americans would kill for a degree to come that cheap. I'm not saying the US is right in this. (Don't even get me started on what Bush did to student loans!) Still, I think money spent on education is usually well-spent, no matter which field one studies, and for only $5000? Well, you should at least know that your American counterparts are green with envy! I like you're writing, ps, good luck with the job bit!

Thanks Lillian!

The USD 5402 only included the school fees for the subjects in my Journalism degree (Law subjects were much more expensive).

I did a double degree, studying Journalism and Law at the same time for 5 years to get two degrees. Double degrees are really common in Australia, you generally study less subjects for each degree than you would if you did, say, the Law degree by itself.

My parents also really kindly paid all my fees for me upfront, which meant they got about a 20% discount for each subject. I think the majority of uni students would pay HECS (paying the government back for their uni fees, often for the rest of their lives!)

Also, it's really common for Australian uni students to live with their parents, rather than on campus or travel interstate to go to school, which saves on a lot of living costs! :)

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