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HomeEducationStudying Mass Communications: Myths and Truths

Studying Mass Communications: Myths and Truths

Hello everyone! Now that SPM results are out (congratulations if you did well, it’s also not the end of the world if you didn’t) you will probably be considering what to study.

A handful of you would probably be considering mass comm–or mass communications. A while ago, I went on a little rant about arts discrimination and realized that I didn’t really talk about the course itself very well. Anyway, here goes. My name is Xin Ying, and I’m a mass communications student pursuing the foundation in media studies course at IACT College.

What mass comm is about?
Most people think that mass communications is just a singular entity, when it is really just a name for the collective things that fall under the media and communications umbrella.There are so many components to the great and wonderful world of communications: there’s advertising, broadcasting, marketing, public relations, journalism, graphic design, creative multimedia…and that’s just the beginning of it. And fyi, advertising and marketing are two different things. Yes, they are.

The way these courses are taught are also different. For instance, for broadcasting, it’s generally more practical and involves a lot of hands-on work. Because you’ll be learning about how to operate cameras, filmmaking techniques, editing skills and software. Graphic design is also similar in the sense that you will be doing a lot of work on design software such as Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop, but also involves a ton of research. The other subjects are more theory-based, but even this varies according to the college you go to. My college is more focused on project-based learning, meaning you learn primarily through doing assignments. We focus more on practical work, rather than just classroom based theoretical learning.

The difference between the courses
Most subjects under mass comm are usually offered as a diploma course, or you could do either a foundation course or Pre-U before you enter a degree. Now, let me clarify. Diploma and foundation are very different things. Foundation courses last one year and are usually field-specific and also college specific, but you can also transfer to a different college if they choose to recognize the course you have done. They are also slightly more academic because it is very much a theory-based course that is heavy on writing because you will be learning subjects that are somewhat linked to your degree. So it is kind of like preparation before you enter your bachelor’s degree. People who usually pursue this course will always advance into a degree because what you learn in the foundation is usually not sufficient.

Diplomas are longer, and usually last about 2.5-3 years. In my college, the diploma students generally do a lot more hands-on work (regardless of the subject) such as managing events and creating campaigns. The difference here is that unlike the foundation course, you would be able to secure a job with a diploma. But let me note that even this is considered to be a rather low academic qualification, so most of my seniors will eventually advance into a bachelor’s degree to have a more competitive edge. So before you make a decision on what to study, make sure that the course is something that is in alignment with how you learn.

My classmates and I

Sounds great, but mass comm wor?
To quote my chemistry teacher, Mr Pang, WRONG! According to my counsellor, 60% of jobs in the market are communications-related. Most people worry that with a degree in mass comm, you would be unemployable because there’s a saturation in the market. My tip here is to find a university that has close links to the media industry. I chose IACT specifically because of this. My lecturers are industry specialists who have worked in the media. Due to this, they bring with them years of career experience to the classroom, and we learn things that you will never get from a textbook. Furthermore, my college has classroom partnerships with companies such as Naga DDB, 3M, Shell and many more. (Fun fact, when I was trying to persuade my mom, I quoted these companies to her and she was immediately on board after that) Our students often get to intern at these companies, and again, this contributes to their resume. We also get to listen to talks given by media practitioners.

What stands out here is that to ensure that what you’re getting from your college education is relevant to the industry, and that’s the competitive edge that is gonna get you hired.

A journalism class assignment where we had to create our own newspaperThe myths and the truths
People think that mass communications is too easy. Again, wrong. If it were easy, every single person going into the course would score a 4.0GPA every semester. Then why isn’t it happening? I am a science student who has scored pretty decent grades my entire life, and even I struggle with my subjects sometimes. Let me reiterate the well worn message that nothing is ever easy, and mass communications is definitely no exception to that. Today in class, my lecturer told us of a PR practitioner who once said, “If you’re thinking of doing public relations because you want to socialize, it won’t happen. Because you’ll be too busy writing.” If you’re going into communications because you’re a smooth talker (and this is a mistake that a lot of people make), think again. You will be writing. In fact, you will be doing a lot of it.

Here’s a quick glance into how the industry works. An advertising campaign. There are so many components to this: target audience, media strategies, research, press relations, audience response and even then it will never be a guaranteed success. Photoshop and illustrator? A huge pain the butt. Writing a news article: you have to figure out the lede paragraph, the nut graph, and use the proper AP Style guidelines. If you’re worried about relevance, let me just put it this way: every company will require some form of advertising. Marketing is practically business strategy. Product packaging, billboard ads, print advertisements, you need graphic designers. Need to make a YouTube or TV commercial? You need a film production team. Publicity? You need the press, and journalists are part of the press. I don’t know about you, but I think that all of it is pretty relevant.

Celebrating a classmate’s birthday together.

In a nutshell, my advice to you if you want to go into mass communications: do your research. Because there are so many components to the field of media and communications, you need to know what you’re getting into.There are so many colleges out there, and every single one has its own different strengths. If you intend to pursue this, you need to know that the course you’re registering for will give you some kind of advantage or edge that is guaranteed to make you look like a promising person to hire. There’s nothing wrong with wanting to pursue mass communications. Don’t let the stigma and myths discourage you. As long as you know your stuff, do your research and you’re good at what you do, nothing will stop you. Because at the end of the day, there is no such thing as a useless career, mass communication is definitely not one of them.


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