Broadcast technicians install, maintain and operate devices and equipment that regulate radio and television broadcasting signal strength, clarity, sound and color. They are also responsible for operating the control panels and selecting the source of the materials used. Technicians go back and forth between cameras, studios, live programming and filming, as well as from local-to-network programming. At smaller stations, they may perform many different job duties, while at larger stations, their work may be more specialized. Their tasks may change each day and the words “technician,” “engineer” and “operator” are often used interchangeably when referring to this occupation. Other duties might include monitoring and logging signals, operating transmitters and setting up, adjusting and repairing electronic broadcasting equipment.
- An associate’s degree or technical training can prepare one for a career in this field.
- Due to the competitive nature of this industry, often a bachelor’s degree is required by many employers.
- Technicians typically work 40 hours per week and may need to be available during the times that most stations broadcast, which may include evenings, weekends and holidays.
- According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), employment in this field is expected to grow by two percent, signifying little or no change.
Work Environment for Broadcast Technicians
They typically work indoors in pleasant environments. Those who work in broadcast news may be required to work outdoors in different types of weather or in conditions that are dangerous. Those who are involved in maintenance work may need to climb up poles or towers that house antennas, plus lift heavy equipment. Technicians working at larger stations and networks mainly work 40-hour work weeks under pressure in order to meet specific deadlines. They may need to work over 40 hours at times especially at smaller stations and work nights, weekends and during holidays since stations broadcast 24 hours per day, 7 days per week.
Education, Training and Licensing
To gain entrance into this field, individuals should attend a technical training program related to this career. They usually take a year or several months to complete. Associate’s degrees in broadcast technology, computer networking, electronics and similar concentrations can adequately prepare an individual for work as a broadcast technician. Since this field is highly competitive, a bachelor’s degree is required by many employers and provides enhanced career opportunities. High school and college courses in broadcasting, as well as participation in audiovisual organizations, can prepare students for this profession. Some entry level workers can gain experience working as assistants.
Employers from the motion picture industry hire workers as apprentice editorial assistants. These individuals can work towards positions requiring more advanced skill sets. Motion picture employers generally hire freelance technicians with experience on a project-by-project basis. Success in this industry requires that technicians perform well on their jobs and have good reputations.
Employment Figures, Projections, Outlook and Earnings for Broadcast Technicians
According to research published by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), broadcast technicians held approximately 31,220 jobs in May 2009. Most of these jobs were in radio and television broadcasting, cable and other subscription programming, colleges, universities and professional schools. Other positions were in the motion picture and video industries and with wired telecommunication carriers.
Employment in this field is forecasted by the BLS to grow by two percent, signifying little or no change. According to the BLS, technological advancements will allow technicians to produce higher quality programming, however, it may also increase technician productivity – leading to lower employment growth. Jobs in radio and television broadcasting will also be limited by the consolidation of many stations and by labor-saving measures such as computer-controlled programming.
BLS records for May 2009 indicate that the average annual wage for broadcast technicians was $38,330. The middle 50% earned between $22,960 and $49,590. While the lowest 10% had a yearly salary of $17,990 or less, the highest 10% earned upwards of $66,620 annually.