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Career Options in Media: School Leaver

Are you already a bit of a news hound? A born creative-type? That’s possibly your curtain call for a media career, darling. But what’s out there for school leavers at the moment in the media sector?

School leaver opportunities in media

- School Leaver Programmes

- Apprenticeships

- Work experience

- Insight programmes

There’s no point in not facing the facts. The media industry is a very tough nut to crack into! If you’re looking to break into this incredibly popular and competitive sector, you’re going to have to be crazy about the media to stand out.

The good news is that there are a few school leaver and apprenticeship schemes out there to give you a real fighting chance to make it in the industry if you’re interested in television or radio production, journalism, social media or technical production roles. Some of the UK’s biggest television and production companies are looking for bright, media savvy school leavers to take on programmes in areas like social media, editorial, production assistantships, digital and technical roles, working as part of their teams and learning on the job. And these opportunities are categorically not for graduates!

School leaver programmes or apprenticeships last around a year and, what’s more, they’re paid (the media can be notorious for offering unpaid work, so this makes it even better!). You’ll get to work full-time in your chosen area, learning and developing new skills, and you’ll also get to study over the course of the programme to achieve qualifications such as a Level 3 Apprenticeship in Creative and Digital Media.

As such, these opportunities are very competitive and positions are limited, so bear this in mind. You’re going to have to display a genuine interest in a media career in the application process to be successful.

You’ll also find the odd apprenticeship available within the music industry, although these are currently few and far between, and again have a lot of competition for positions.

Areas like film, photography, theatre roles (acting, directing, production and back stage), publishing and video game production will require you to build up portfolios and develop skills to help you progress. This can be very tricky, as there isn’t a structured way in as such into these areas of the media as there are in things like television production. It may be possible to get work experience at school leaver stage if you apply to companies, theatres or publishing houses speculatively, however if you want to build up a career in one of these areas then further study will usually be necessary in some shape or form. A lot also relies on your ability to network well. The majority of us aren’t lucky enough to be ‘spotted’ one day on the street, so hard work is in order to make things happen for your career in media.

Setting the school leaver record straight

Things are looking better for school leavers in recent times. There are an increasing amount of structured pathways cropping up which mean you won’t necessarily have to keep hanging around waiting for your lucky break.

School leaver programmes and apprenticeships provide vital hands-on experience which can be really tricky to gain, and recognised qualifications on completion of the schemes. Internships, school leaver programmes and apprentices could also lead into future permanent roles too if you do well. If you manage to get onto one of those schemes, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t be as successful as a graduate entering the sector!

Formal education: Should I stay or should I go?

As we’ve mentioned, some areas like film, theatre, photography or publishing may ask for a bit more from new entrants into the industry. You may have to be a graduate in a related discipline to the area you want to head into. At the moment, the opportunities open to graduates in the media sector are still greater in number and more varied than those out there for school leavers.

Have a hard think about which area of the media you’d like to get into, and do your research into the school leaver options currently available in those areas. It might be worth staying on and going to university if there are very little or no school leaver options available for you at this point. 

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