Why are Media Studies degrees disregarded?

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Ebeneezer Scrooge
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...and to counter the worthless degree argument (and I recognise that I'm coming to this from a slightly different angle):

While many people 'get on' in certain careers without achieving a degree, my experience is that in the most cases, the process of learning how to learn is only completed during degree courses (not forgetting that the academic position of degrees is to prepare undergrads to be in a position to move through Masters degrees and into research positions in order to acquire new knowledge).
While that doesn't guarantee you a job on graduation, in many cases it is the key to being able to apply for many jobs.

I'm specifically approaching this from an engineering background and, having been through various recruitment drives recently, although applicants are considered from HND level and above the preference is definitely to recruit people who have graduated. This is largely to do with the efficiency of getting the new recruit into the role as soon as possible and getting them into the position where their workload and development is self-led.
We do have the resources to train employees but, for us, the key part of the degree requirement is that employees won't require a full time tutor to teach them about new developments, walk them through the system, develop their own thinking about why certain things happen or be able to apply those principles elsewhere.
I've personally seen that the amount of time and resource taken by non-graduates is disproportionate and unfortunately, the current environment means that their simply aren't the resources required to do that sort of groundwork on the job.

There is one other side to this. I'm aware of situations where employers are in a bit of a quandary about how to deal with promising individuals who don't have the formal qualifications to back the position that they are interested in. That can lead to the position where people get trapped in jobs with little or no external opportunities to develop and move on. While they can end up with people who are able to do jobs and even do them very well, that simply isn't responsible management.

So while I'd tend to agree that the media studies type degrees are certainly too broad and unfocused to be considered for a role that requires certain specific training like engineering, I wouldn't say that degrees are worthless in themselves.
When looking at a CV, the degree is a reasonable indicator that the candidate meets the requirements in terms of understanding learning (that is common in most industries) and the presence of a degree is often more significant than the grade achieved (I've never been questioned about the grade I achieved and I've never asked about it when interviewing either).
The sentiment already expressed in this thread about having a valuable degree is certainly true though. You can go and get a fairly common degree like media studies and be part of the multitude who leave university and compete for years to get a sniff of a job in the industry (often having to go out of your way to get unpaid experience which sometimes has very little effect on career prospects) or you can get a focussed degree (broadcast/electronic & electrical engineering in our case), where you come out with skills to match the role that you want and while it doesn't guarantee you a job, it will often get you considered.

There is, of course, the other extreme where you can graduate with a degree in such a specific field (like live sound production etc) that if your chosen field is incredibly crowded (such as sound engineering) that it is hard to apply your degree to other careers.
That was what I recognised prior to university and although I wanted to be a sound engineer, I could see that I needed some element of a cushion for if that career didn't happen. I took a broadcast engineering course and walked straight into a job that matched my degree almost exactly.

We need broadcast engineers across the industry, by the way! There has been a reduction in relevant university courses because they haven't been getting the applicants. When we asked a tutor about it, he identified it as a problem that goes right back down to primary school where as there is a perceived lack of opportunities in engineering, education doesn't focus correctly on encouraging those with the right aptitudes to push on with their development.
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thegeek
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Joined: Sat 04 Jun, 2005 12.35

Ebeneezer Scrooge wrote:We need broadcast engineers across the industry, by the way! There has been a reduction in relevant university courses because they haven't been getting the applicants.
Agreed! I don't think it's ever been something that's been taught to a large extent at universities (with a few notable exceptions - Ravensbourne and Southampton), but I think the BBC scaling back in their own training scheme has caused unintended consequences across the industry.

We recently recruited for MCR engineers, and had very few applicants. I think there just aren't that many people with the skills out there.
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