Did my degree prepare me for
the technical industry?

Holly Cowley
Holly Cowley

October 21st, 2021

Get the most out of your degree!

It seems that access to higher education is getting more expensive and a demand for places is getting more noticeable. We know that there’s not a ‘one-size fits all’ university experience, and it would be in bad taste for us to write this blog with the assumption that everyone has the same access to university when that’s not the case. However, for those able to gain a place on a university course, one of the most important things is that by the end of your degree - after hours of hard work and lots of money spent - you will feel fully prepared for the world of work. Right?

In today’s blog post, we’re taking a look at the current state of technical production degrees, and understanding the perspectives of students and graduates to ask the question - did my degree prepare me for what the technical industry is really like?

The Student
In preparation for this blog, I spent time looking into what technical and media production degrees are available for next year's intake:

BA Broadcast Engineering, BA Editing and Post Production, BA Digital Film Production and much more at Ravensbourne University London.

BSc Film and Television Production, and BSc Interactive Media at University of York.

BA Post Production and VFX, BSc Media Technology, BA Digital Media, and both BA and MA Film Production all at University of Salford.

BA Media Production, and BA Creative Industries (Media Production) at University of Hull

That’s just a handful of what's out there! It's clear that in terms of equipment, practices and software, there’s a lot of information available for budding producers and operators. So, how do you sift through everything and find the course that's really going to prepare you for the media production industry?

First off, it is important to pay attention to certain terminology that would appeal to prospective students looking for a way into the industry. For starters, access to ‘industry professionals’ and ‘professional-standard equipment’ will be essential in ensuring a degree will give you opportunities to familiarise yourself with what to expect in the working world.

Secondly, read the modules that make up that course curriculum. Do they sound like they have the potential to really take your practice to the next level? Are there a good range of topics, skills and teaching approaches being covered? If so, your practice will be constantly developing throughout your degree which will set you up with a varied skill set instead of one very specific set of skills that may limit your job opportunities.

Another good way to see if a degree course will really set you up for the real world is through accreditations. These are certifications and titles that have been given to training providers by specific boards and, usually, educational institutions will boast about them if they have them. We for sure boasted about it when we became am Albert recognised supplier of green production practices, which can be found on Albert’s comprehensive directory (oh look, we are doing it again…).

In terms of Film and TV, ScreenSkills have created a similar scheme called ‘ScreenSkills Select’ which recognises and endorses colleges and universities that offer relevant courses and have great industry links. ScreenSkills themselves recognise that “it can be hard to know which college or university course will give you the best possible start to a career in the screen industries”, and so they’ve compiled a resource to help determine just that.

Talking to some of the Tell team who are currently studying themselves, the right course really should make you feel ready for the real world. Some of the most appealing aspects of a good university course is the access to industry professionals. That isn't just the teaching staff but also the guest lecturers. One of our team members at Tell is currently studying Digital Television Production at Ravensbourne, London, and has not only had access to lectures from those working on the technical side of Television production, but also on practical aspects like employability and managing your finances as a freelancer.

The Graduate
Once you’ve graduated it can be scary. You’re now expected to be able to make the links between your education and your new found expertise and land yourself a job - in a very competitive industry, one might add. Not to worry though, because as soon as you graduate you become part of a community of alumni that will become one of your most valuable resources. Stay in contact with your fellow grads, join Alumni Facebook groups, and look for connections within your institute on sites like LinkedIn. Social media has made networking easier than it has ever been!

Luckily our team boasts many tech-minded graduates, and sharing knowledge across our company is a huge part of our practice. While researching this blog, I reached out to many of our members who graduated with some form of technical or production degree to offer their best pieces of advice for those preparing to graduate soon.

TOP TIP No. 1 - Make sure to back up your studies with as much real life experience as possible. If there is an opportunity to take placements and work experience opportunities, then do it. You can even make these opportunities happen yourself by reaching out to companies and individuals you know in your area, asking to volunteer, shadow or work there for a short while to cement the theory-based knowledge you earn on your degree.

TOP TIP No.2 - Passion goes a long way. Yes, education and experience are important but a lot of companies, Tell included, value personality, passion and drive over a CV with all the bells and whistles.

TOP TIP No.3 - Milk your university for its equipment and facilities as much as you can. Universities allow their students access to some of the very best editing, filming, operating equipment and software for completely free. Use it whenever you can for as many projects as you have!

TOP TIP No.4 - Be prepared to feel even OVER-qualified sometimes. Yes, you read that right. At university, you have the opportunity to gain experience in a massive range of areas and, when you finally do get a job, often you're focusing on one specific field. It may be a surprise to be given less responsibility than you’re used to when juggling a whole load of assignments and modules. However, that’s not to say it will be easy!

University is a soft entry into your industry. You have three years to find your field of interest, develop the areas you’re not so good in, and make (lots and lots of) mistakes. Nothing will prepare you for work in ANY industry the way that actually working on the frontline will. Here at Tell, we’re always working closely with UK-based universities to offer more work opportunities for students.

Most importantly though, remember never to choose your degree based on employability, choose it based on your passion for that subject. We aren't joking when we say passion and drive are essential to success, and it's easier than you think to tell if someone doesn't really want to be doing what they’re doing. As Michael Cheary says for Reed “your enjoyment and affinity for the course are what will be memorable to a good interviewer, not the course modules.”

It has always been debated whether academic achievement or work experience should be valued more in today’s job market. In the Tell team, we have a huge variety of individuals from a range of backgrounds. Some team members are newly graduated, some are still studying, some graduated years ago with degrees in chemistry, theatre, librarianship, and some chose to go straight into the field, no degree needed. It is this breadth of knowledge and experience that makes our team great!