The BBC Journalism Trainee Scheme – The Complete Guide

Applications for the BBC’s journalism graduate scheme, officially known as the BBC Journalism Trainee Scheme are now open. If you’re looking to find out a little more about what exactly it entails, you’re in good hands with us.   

While there is a fair amount of information on the scheme online, we’ve compiled everything you need to know into one easily digestible article. Not only have we put in the research legwork, but we’ve also spoken to people who have completed it in the past to bring you a well-rounded overview, without any bias.

You can see full details of all of the graduate schemes currently open in the UK here, as well a wider list of entry to mid-level journalism jobs on our jobs board.

The Scheme

Smitha Mundasad joined the scheme in 2011 and is now a health reporter with the BBC. (Image Credit: Screenshot/BBC)

While applications for the 2020 scheme close on March 1, the scheme doesn’t get started until September 2020. The successful applicants will then undertake 10 months of training, offering first-hand experience into a variety of journalism skills.

Once it’s all wrapped up, you’ll have all the skills you need to move into a permanent role, which could be anything from an assistant broadcast journalist to working on projects involving online or social media.

The scheme operates in London, Cardiff, Salford, Orkney and Shetland for the most part, though you may find yourself in other regional news areas too.

For 2020 you can apply for a general place across their journalism newsrooms, as well as three specialist placements:

  • The Gareth Butler Politics Trainee (Millbank, London)
  • World Service Group Trainee (London)
  • Sports Trainee (Salford)

If you have a particular interest in one of the three specialist areas you’ll be able to list that when you put your application in. You only need to do one application thankfully, as you’ll be considered for both the specialist and general role at the same time, as well as across all geographical areas. They will, however, try to take your preferences into account.

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Throughout your time on the scheme you’ll be working alongside news teams in digital, TV, and radio. You can expect a very hands-on experience across all three, and you’ll get to do plenty of researching, writing, and broadcasting.

Unlike some other schemes, the BBC is big on encouraging trainees to learn on the job. Thanks to this approach you can expect formal training to be minimal. The first few weeks on placement will be spent doing in-house training, where the team will take a close look at your specific needs, helping you develop where you need too.

Once that’s done and dusted, you will be assigned to your first news team. In general, you’ll find that you’ll get a variety of placements where you can pick up training across lots of different sectors, as well as intensive training interspersed.

Training is delivered by both specialises and senior BBC journalists. You’ll also get a mentor who will be able to support and guide you throughout the entire training process.

The BBC has put together a structured evaluation process for the duration of the program, so you’ll also be given plenty of feedback on your strengths and weaknesses – and have the opportunity to share your own thoughts too.

“While I was at the Channel I was able to work on the live broadcast of the Grenfell two-year anniversary.”

Kesewaa Brown, BBCBBC Journalism Trainee Scheme Grad

Although you should expect to be working a standard 35-hour week, it goes without saying that journalism roles are nine to five, Monday to Friday jobs. You may find yourself working irregular shift patterns, or covering weekends and evenings.

Kesewaa Brown, a graduate from the scheme, told us she worked 10-hour days across four days a week. “During the scheme I had four core placements on different broadcast platforms,” she added. “At first I was at UK Online and then I moved to digital video.

“After this I was at Radio 4, and finally the News Channel. While I was at the Channel I was able to work on the live broadcast of the Grenfell two-year anniversary.”

At this point, it probably feels like the time to chat about the pay too. For trainees in London you’ll get £25,776pa, and those based outside the capital will get £21,216pa. Beyond the pay you get 26 days of paid holiday a year, in addition to bank holidays. You’re also able to buy and sell extra days.

When it comes to expenses, you’ll be reimbursed for any travel and accommodation where you have to travel to anywhere which isn’t your main office. And, all things being well, you’ll end up with a permanent contract at the end of it.

The Application

The process starts off with the online application through their careers portal. (Image Credit: Screenshot/BBC)

First and foremost, you’ll need to complete your online application. This includes a variety of questions focusing on your interest in the world of journalism and what you think you can bring to the scheme.

Beyond getting to know you, the first stage of the application will also quiz you on how you might approach different challenges and problems you may faces as a BBC journalist.

Kesewaa Brown was on the BBC’s Journalism Training Scheme and now works at BBC Stories.

It’s kind of obvious, but the BBC advises you to take note of the deadline for applications and avoid leaving things to the last minute. It’s a highly competitive scheme, so you won’t get any concessions for missing the deadline. It’s also really not a form you can smash out in half an hour, trust us.

If you get through the first stage, you’ll be asked to record a short video to respond to a few more questions. Every graduate scheme says this, but we’ll stress it again – it’s your answers they’ll be looking at, not the quality of the video.

After that you’ll be invited to an assessment day, where you’ll get to meet other candidates, meet hiring managers, and complete activities. They’re also keen to stress they’re more than happy to accommodate any accessibility needs, so make sure you let them know what you need.

As you might expect, it’s a popular scheme, so it might feel like you’re waiting a long time to hear back. Everyone who applies will get an email to tell them if they’ve got onto the scheme or not, but be aware this process could take up to three months as they sift through them all.

You will be told of any assessment centre details at least a week in advance, but to give you an idea of the time scales, some people might not hear about being taken to the final stage until June. Patience is a virtue, my friend.

“The odds seem slim, but anyone can get onto the scheme if they have the passion and determination to succeed.”

Jordan Elgott, BBC Journalism Trainee Scheme Grad

Jordan Elgott, now working as a BBC Sport Journalist said the biggest challenge he faced in his application was believing in himself. “The BBC’s Journalism Trainee Scheme is extremely well regarded,” he tells Journo Resources, “and for that reason it attracts thousands and thousands of applicants with space for, usually less than 20 trainees.

“The odds seem slim, but everyone on my year’s cohort, including myself, are a testament to the fact that anyone can get onto the scheme if they have the passion and determination to succeed.”

What Are They Looking For?

The good news is they probably don’t use a telescope. (Image Credit: Mael Balland)

If you’re a creative storyteller with a keen eye for news and current affairs, and you’re curious about the world around you, then you’re already off to a good start. All in all, they’re looking for people that love to meet people and share their stories.

More practically, you’ll be expected to have a good understanding and interest of what’s going on around the globe – you don’t need to have a specific beat or qualification, but you should be plugged into what’s happening around you.

The BBC are also keen to encourage people from all walks of life and backgrounds to apply – so if you’re worried it might not be the place for you, try to push it aside. “We came from all different backgrounds; old, young, white, BAME, and some went to university, some didn’t,” says Jordan. “Plenty of differences, but we had our strong desire to get onto the scheme in common.”

While on the scheme you could be doing any number of things from writing articles to creating social media content or working on a radio package. You’ll need to be versatile and come with a can-do attitude as you’ll be expected to try your hand at a number of things.

Anyone over the age of 18 can apply, and there’s no upper age limit, but they do stress that it’s a scheme for people who are just starting out on their journalism journey. Career changers are fine, but they’re not looking to hire people who have more than one years’ experience in a full-time journalism role.

The Highlights & Reviews

Yep, we like to take our pictures very literally. Image Credit: Mitchell Luo)

When asked about his favourite part of the scheme Jordan said that it was “without a doubt” the radio training. “We were split into teams and tasked with creating, producing, and voicing our own radio show, which wold then be judged by the head of BBC Radio Scotland,” he explains.

“It took us out of our comfort zones, but the experience and feedback enabled us to be put straight to work when we returned. As a result, I have appeared on BBC Scotland’s flagship sport results programme regularly, while currently, the main aspect of my job is to read the sports news throughout the day. The training we were given made the transition, from newbie to reporter, seamless.”

Broadcast was also a highlight for Kesewaa as well, who said it was TV training that really stood out. “It was very thorough and intense, but at the same time it was really enjoyable. I felt a real sense of achievement when TV training finished.

“We had the freedom to make mistakes, as long as we were willing to learn how to fix them.”

Kesewaa Brown, BBC Journalism Trainee Scheme Grad

“Two weeks were spent on camera training. We were taught about different shots for news packages, and we also then had to film each other in different scenarios. We had the freedom to make mistakes, as long as we were willing to learn how to fix them.

“I was not the most camera savvy person, so I was nervous about the training and having to use a camera. The thought of pressing buttons other than record really stressed me out. I was able to overcome the nerves, and it turns out that I was more capable than I thought I would be, so that was be great!”.

Jordon Elgott joined the scheme and now works as a sports reporter.

And their advice? “My advice to future applicants would be to show your passion and ideas. It’s as simple as that,” says Jordan. “Don’t try to come across how you think a journalist ‘should’. The scheme’s selectors want people of all types to represent people from different walks of life.

“If you have ideas that will represent views of those typically under-served by the BBC currently, that’s also great. A clear message remains in my head from the first few weeks of training – ‘do not let them “BBC” you. Be yourself.'”

“Believe in yourself,” urges Kesewaa. “I wasn’t even going to apply as I thought to myself ‘I am definitely not going to get on the scheme’. But I decided to give it a go, and I”m so thankful that I did.”

As the world’s largest news broadcaster, working with the fast-paced environment is as demanding as it is rewarding. It certainly isn’t an easy ride, but on completion you’ll be offered a job that gives you the chance to tell more fascinating stories from around the world. Sure, the hours are long, the training is intense, and you’ll face challenges along the way, but it will be worth it.

This article was compiled and written by Priya Faith. You can see her website here and follow her on Twitter.