Did you need your comms degree?

May 11, 2017

We shed some light on whether our comms team needed a uni degree to land an agency job.

Francis Nicholls-Wunder

Bachelor of Arts (Media & Communications; Sociology), Swinburne University of Technology, graduated 2007. Master of Communications, Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology, graduated 2013.

“I chose some very broad courses in my undergrad to keep my options open. While I didn't learn a whole lot of practical skills (certainly not to the industry standard I would need to use them later in my career) I did get a lot of experience writing and speaking on different subjects. I do wish I had spent some more time working with student radio, student magazines and any other extracurricular stuff I could have gotten my hands on. If not for the experience, certainly for the connections.

My Masters was a lot more practical and I did produce a few more substantial pieces of work. It was through connections at RMIT that I got a few freelance gigs, some comms roles, and eventually management roles. So I do recommend studying if you want to go into communications. But if you don't have a very specific role in mind, don't be scared of studying broadly. You should also put a focus on the people you meet, and the projects you are involved in, as much as your grades.”

Read Francis' list of must-have, on-the-job comms tools here.

Julian Breheny

Bachelor of Arts (Cinema Studies & Creative Writing), University of Melbourne, graduated 2011. Masters of Management (Marketing), University of Melbourne, graduated 2014.

“My Bachelor of Arts certainly wasn’t enough to land me a job straight out of uni, especially with double majors in cinema and creative writing. However, it did give me the opportunity to trial subjects I wouldn’t have normally considered, like marketing. Whilst this degree definitely wasn’t designed to lead directly to a career, I recommend doing an undergraduate that is open and allows you to figure out exactly what you want to do.

With a newfound passion for marketing, and a directionless few years under my belt, I decided to go back to uni. Business degrees are almost entirely made up of writing essays, which doesn't actually prepare you for the practical tasks in any comms job. However, it consistently forces you to consume large quantities of information, and condense it into a tight report that gets your point across succinctly and effectively. This is the basis of all comms. Additionally, it gave me exposure to mandatory teamwork, forcing me to deal with, and coordinate, the work of others. This would prove helpful later on with client management and office work. Finally, it taught me countless marketing theories. Whilst many were far too theoretical to be applicable in real life, the overall business understanding is crucial when working in a creative agency that helps clients achieve very real marketing goals.

So did this lead directly to my current job? University of Melbourne is amazing for networking. They’re always throwing events for you to meet professionals so you can build relationships that will help you get a job after graduation. I didn’t go to any of them. I got my job because I joined a completely random domestic basketball team and the point guard happened to run a creative agency. This may seem like incredibly unhelpful information, as I’m effectively telling you that the secret is to get lucky. Or just to play basketball. But the lesson is that everyone you meet could be someone you might work with, so bear in mind:

  1. Don’t be afraid to tell people what work you’re interested in, they may give you a job.
  2. Be nice. Businesses want to work with people they like.”

Imogen Baker

Bachelor of Journalism, Queensland University of Technology, graduated 2014. Bachelor of Architecture, Queensland University of Technology, 2009-2011.

“I did most of my architecture degree before I realised it wasn’t the industry for me. I’m slow on the uptake. So when I changed to journalism, it was quite abrupt and I wasn’t sure what I wanted out of it, except that I enjoyed it.

In hindsight, I probably didn’t need the degree for the skills. But for the clarity and contacts, it was great. I learnt all the good stuff that I needed in the real world in 2 or 3 really great courses (courses about grammar, interview technique, social media and magazine design) and through my internships.The rest felt like filler. The whole thing could have been cut down to a year and then I wouldn’t be saddled with an (even more) massive HECs debt.

Comms basics aren’t hard to learn, but they’re tricky to implement. So really the most valuable things I learned came from the internships and from working as a freelancer. My editors taught me more than my lecturers in the end.”

Light Creative is a Melbourne-based creative, content, and digital agency.