Is media still an attractive career path?

Can a career with a typically modest starting salary really appeal to graduates saddled with debt, Arif Durrani and Mark Banham ask.

As graduates struggle with ever-increasing student debts and London rents, and with average starting salaries still under £20,000, is media an attractive industry for the young and ambitious?

Changes to the media landscape mean there is increasing demand for data-literate graduates, the likes of whom are as equally equipped for more lucrative roles in, for example, the City.

The average student who started an undergraduate course last month will finish their university education saddled with £53,000 of debt from living expenses and course fees, according to the Association of Investment Companies. Meanwhile, average starting salaries range from £18,320 for a media agency graduate to £18,500 for a media owner starter, according to the recruitment consultancy Sylex.

However, for those up for the challenge, there is no shortage of opportunity within the business. From the rapid expansion of platforms to the democratisation of creativity and advances in behavioural understanding, the industry has never had so many strings to its bow. As The Lighthouse Company’s founder, Kathleen Saxton, points out: "The potency and power to really move a business forward is absolutely in the media industry’s hands."

But as those in the field of recruitment readily acknowledge, the competition is increasing in terms of attracting and retaining the best talent, considered vital to ensuring that the industry remains fit for purpose.

Those with qualifications in maths and the sciences, or business, economics and marketing can easily be lured by the potential of technology start-ups, the cool factor of pure-play digital operations or the lucre of the City.

Similarly, there remain misconceptions about the working demands of the media industry, which continues to be known for its lunches and launch parties. Any new-joiners preparing for a working life akin to Don Draper will be in for something of a shock.

So, in these times of frugality, can the lack of immediate financial prosperity continue to be offset by a fun and fast-paced career that media is supposed to offer?