Stuck in a rut...

TopCat
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Hello all.

I don't usually post on here very much as I'm much more of a lurker, but I've been stuck in a rut for a while now and I would appreciate some advice.

In 2009 I did a BTEC ND in Media Production for around 2 years, finishing in 2011. I got a DMM grade. Recently I've been looking at universities and I'm a tad concerned I made a mistake when choosing a BTEC over A-Levels. I'm nearly 20 now, and going back to college to do A-Levels there would not only a four year age gap, but I'd feel like I was just repeating the two years I'd done previously on the BTEC and not progressing. I do not have an idea what I'd like to do with life, but I always wanted to work in the media, either behind the camera, directing etc. but since then I've had different thoughts.

Would it be worth going back to do A-Levels? I know a BTEC is meant to be 3 A-Levels, but it seems as if they're not as regarded and respected as A-Levels.

Best.
itsrobert
Posts: 63
Joined: Thu 14 Aug, 2003 23.28

It sounds to me like you need to decide exactly what it is you want to do. I think that would be the first stepping stone. I don't have any experience of the media per se, but I wouldn't totally write yourself off because you haven't got A-Levels. If you do decide to go to university, find out what the entrance requirements are for your preferred course(s). They might be happy for you to apply with a BTEC ND instead of A-Levels. Contact the course leader before your application to make yourself known and ask whether they'd consider you without A-Levels. Sometimes these things aren't as cut and dried as they appear. In my experience, academic qualifications only get you so far. Sometimes having some work experience alongside your qualifications makes you stand out from the crowd. I'm currently doing a Masters degree to become a librarian/information professional and when I applied for my course they wanted library experience as well as qualifications. I do have one or two friends who have worked in the media for a long time and they've all mentioned the importance of work experience. Once you've decided what you want to do, why not try getting a placement for a while and build up a solid bank of experience that you can talk about on application forms/interviews etc?

Hopefully someone more in tune with the media can give you more specific advice, but I'd say make a final decision about where you want to go and don't limit yourself by thinking you don't have the right qualifications. Sometimes, if you're tenacious enough, you can reach your goal anyway. If you do decide that you need A-Levels, then go back to college. Learning is never wasted time and if you need the A-Levels to progress with your career, then you're not repeating anything; you'll be gaining new qualifications. And at 20 you're still young with plenty of time on your side. If there's one thing I've learnt in life so far it's that it has a funny way of working out anyway, even if it's not quite the way you planned it.
Critique
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Joined: Mon 17 Aug, 2009 10.37
Location: Suffolk

Erm, I'll throw my thoughts in here, too, and am a Journalist for a Local Newspaper. Like itsrobert said, I wouldn't write yourself off at this point. Universities do tend to have requirements for courses requiring a BTEC or A-Levels, do they not? And because of your BTEC, you've got this excellent hands-on experience hat those doing A-Levels can only dream of. Sometimes, already having the knowledge of how some of these things work, and having done them already, is a great thing that'll kick-start you.

In terms of going and doing A-Levels, I wouldn't say it would be necessary. The BTEC is offered as an alternative, so your chances shouldn't be any worse for doing it, rather than A-Levels. It'd be kind of backwards if you had to do a BTEC and A-Levels to have a chance if people with A-Levels did straight away. Again, though, like itsrobert said, if you do choose to do A-Levels again, do them at college.

And, after University, work experience is great when looking for employment. If you've had the slightest bit of training, or have done the smallest bit of work in that field, any employer should see it as a bonus, as it demonstrates that you can do what you want to practically, as well as in theory.

Don't count yourself out because you've done something that the majority don't. A-Levels are respected.
Dr Lobster*
Posts: 2010
Joined: Sat 30 Aug, 2003 20.14

a very nice man i went to school with who used to work in tv (he did behind the camera stuff, editing, vision mixing, ingest operator etc) and he was saying to me that there was basically little money in it because all the "kids" all work for free just for experience and that was pushing the pay down for the off-screen jobs. he went through university and did the degree thing.

i guess what i'm saying is do yourself a showreel, write to a load of companies, executive producers, directors of your favourite shows etc and put yourself out there. it seems to work for everyone else. say you'll work for free. at least you'll get some connections and get some experience. but from what he was saying to me, there isn't megabucks in it.

all the best.
TopCat
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Joined: Sat 12 Jan, 2008 22.05

Thanks everybody for your responses.

The main reason I'm enquiring is because I'm interested in applying for an American university/college and was worried I may be disadvantaged with a BTEC rather than A-Levels. I'd like to know people's thoughts on this. My plan was to perhaps work for two or three years and then try and apply out there when I'm more financially secure. But then again, I was told that it's more about SAT results and a GED score, more than anything.
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Ebeneezer Scrooge
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I didn't do A levels. Couldn't get out of school quick enough.
I did a BTEC OND in General Engineering before going on to uni to do Broadcast Engineering. It was a course I loved and as I took maths for higher education as a module, it actually meant I spent much of the first year at uni treading water while the A level guys caught up on the engineering side. I was also ahead on much of the maths.

I don't know the situation with American universities, but British universities offering vocational style courses often see vocational qualifications as an advantage for entrance.
I would assume that as neither A level or BTEC are international qualications, they must both hold some sort of equivalent weighting when applying outside of the country.
Snarky
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Bail
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I did the very same course, got a triple distinction then went on to university, to be honest I didn't need the degree, the job I have now pays well and is exactly what I want (I'm off to Alaska again, and you'll see my name in credits here and there) but the uni degree didn't get me my job, some work experience got me my job. Chatting with my now boss at the time, making a good impression and basically being good at what I do got my job.

Ive always been very focused on what I wanted to be and do, and I think I'm slightly worse off as a result. Personally id rather have a better grounding of history than I do than knowing exactly how a camera ccd works.

But I think if tv is your thing, just star doing it, write to your local region or production company, get work experience and make yourself invaluable.
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Ebeneezer Scrooge
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And that is probably where our experience differs - for a department such as ours (transmission), entry is very unusual without a degree. There are people here who worked their way up without degrees by getting experience, but to be honest, that experience doesn't exist in quite my line of work any more. The last person in our department who came here to do work experience (some 12+ years ago) still had to get his degree before he started here.

I guess our line of engineering is quite specific and I'd have been lost without a degree background to explain what it is that I'm doing. It would be very inefficient to try and impart that sort of thing through work experience.

Getting people with good engineering degrees is a big problem in our industry. There fewer courses running because the general interest isn't there any more, so when we get new applicants with those degrees half they've already done half of the hard work for the interview!
Snarky
TopCat
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I suppose you're all right. The other thing is, I had hoped to be a bit more financially secure first before going to university. I was hoping to take a couple of years out and then attend, but an acquaintance said that you don't get the full college 'experience' if you're a mature student.
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