Getting into the Beeb

December 4, 1998

The BBC may be choosy and more keen on experience than degrees, but it also offers many jobs requiring a variety of skills

Christmas is approaching rapidly and for many of us that means too much television. But in the midst of a food and alcohol-induced haze you may stop, briefly, to reflect on the people behind the scenes. Besides such well-known areas as journalism, design and research, there are opportunities in engineering, administration, finance, operations, personnel and libraries. You will find a similarly diverse range of staff working in all United Kingdom broadcasting, not just the BBC. But for sheer size - 21,000 staff, and more than 1,200 recruitment advertisements a year - the Beeb is hard to beat.

The most important thing to remember is that the BBC is unlike the blue-chip companies that recruit hordes of Identikit graduates or postgraduates. A degree, even a masters or PhD, is not what they are after unless what you have learned is directly related to the job. The BBC recruits solely on the basis of skills and relevant experience.

Very rarely is any specific level of educational attainment desired. Bob Forster, the BBC's head of recruitment services, explains: "We look so closely at skills and to some extent the sort of experience you might have, perhaps not in a professional capacity, but in related activities such as amateur drama or hospital radio. These are just as interesting to us as the idea of someone doing a degree in something. Many of our jobs you can't study a degree for."

If you do have a higher degree or even several years postdoc experience, you will need to look closely at the job advertisements and match the skills required carefully with what you have learnt or picked up. Some useful skills you may have from a higher degree include: statistical skills for analysing audience figures, programming skills for website work, engineering skills for maintenance, research and development and project development. But you will also need to think about the human skills needed, and here the BBC's website and careers helpline will be helpful.

Occasionally, when working on a series of programmes, the BBC will advertise for researchers and consultants with specialist knowledge. But having a PhD in earth sciences is not going to get you a researcher's job on a programme on rocks if a more skilled enthusiastic amateur applies.

To stay at the forefront of technology and innovation the BBC needs skilled staff in a variety of technical fields, especially IT. This is where the BBC is having particular recruitment problems. "In particular web-based skills and new technology skills are difficult to find at the right price," says Mr Forster. "Especially as we need to tie this up with editorial and production skills, and that is a strange hybrid, a strange animal to find."

He adds: "The majority of our staff are professional engineers, physicists, mathematicians or computer scientists. We look for people with a good honours degree in a relevant subject, and quite a few have PhDs."

It is hard, but not hopelessly difficult, to get into the BBC. "There's a myth that it's impossible and you're always up against masses of other applicants. It's a half-truth. The flagship trainee schemes and high-profile jobs in popular programme-making are very competitive. We may get thousands of applicants. But it's not impossible for the less sexy jobs."

And is the BBC as particular as rumour has it? "Absolutely, we like to think of ourselves as the leader in our field. We're only going to hold that position by employing the best and most appropriate talent. That sounds like the party line, but if you think about it, it's just logical. So we take a lot of care over the people we employ."

* Website:

helpline/careers information service: O181 576 0639

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