What should I do at A level to be a sports writer?

The SJA regularly receives appeals for advice on training issues. This week, what A level courses should a 15-year-old consider if they want to become a sports writer?

I’m a 15 year-old and I aspire to be a sports journalist for a top paper when I grow up.

I was reading your training section and I must admit it helped me a lot as before I was looking at random universities in the hope they would do something in journalism.

However I wondered if you could help me with options at sixth form? Is there any journalism courses at sixth form level, if not, what are the best courses to take?

SJA member James Toney, managing director at SportsBeat, who offer industry-recognised courses in sports journalism, provides this advice:

My first advice is that you are never too young to start work experience. Local newspapers still take great amounts of contributed copy, just expect to get paid with a byline rather than cash. My “first job” in journalism was contributing rugby reports for my local paper, which I started doing aged 14.

I’d advise doing subjects at A Level that interest you, rather than think too much about their impact on your future career.

You then have choice at 18. Either a degree followed by a post-graduate journalism qualification or straight into journalism training – either at university, further education college or a specialist journalism training centre.

Whatever you choose, make sure the course delivers the elements that editors require – we still look for shorthand and media law knowledge as a minimum requirement for our reporters. Also multi-media skills are increasingly important.

The National Council for Training of Journalists – – is a good starting point and be prepared to ask lots of questions (an important journalism skill) of any potential place of study.

  • What are their results?
  • How current is the journalism experience of their tutors?
  • What jobs have graduates of their courses progressed to?
  • How practical is their course?
  • Does it include an examined module for work placement?

While you might want to choose a course with an element of sports reporting attached to it, I’d recommended a general journalism course in the first instance.

In a competitive employment market, especially in these times of uncertainty, you want to make yourself as employable as possible and not look too one-dimensional.

Many sports reporters started out on general assignment duty before navigating their way across the newsroom. I’m a firm believer that before you become a sports journalist, you must first focus on becoming a journalist.
Good luck.