Career Path Options for a Broadcast Technician

Broadcast Technician Careers

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The average value of the Associate degree needed to become a Broadcast technicians is $807,110.00.

Points of Interest

Broadcast technicians careers offer students a wide range of employment possibilities, from jobs at radio and television stations to those in the motion picture, sound and video recording industries. Work schedules can be routine 40-hour work weeks, or staggered schedules designed to meet the needs of event planners and meeting coordinators. Points to remember include:

  1. There is heavy competition for these jobs, especially in major metropolitan areas.
  2. Pay is best in larger cities, but job opportunity may be best in smaller cities and towns.
  3. Formal education provides the best preparation for broadcast technicians careers.
  4. About twice as many broadcast technicians work at radio or television stations than are employed in the creative motion picture, video or sound recording businesses.
  5. Work schedules often include evening, night or weekend hours.

Nature of the Work

Broadcast technicians are required for a wide variety of professional production tasks, operating audio and video equipment and accessories in the studio and at remote location shoots. They may have a hand in setting up equipment, maintenance of the electrical equipment, ordering, repair and selection of equipment for a broadcasting station or movie or sound studio. Some technicians are specialists with titles of Engineer, Chief Engineer, Technician or Operator. They are involved in most productions on stage and at concerts in addition to working at broadcasting stations. Broadcast engineers must be familiar with all types of audio and visual equipment.

broadcast technicians

They work with microphones, speakers, video projectors, cameras, screens, monitors, wiring, cables and other electronic equipment. They are in demand for assistance at conventions, meetings, sporting events, concerts, news conferences, shows and presentations. Some specialize in installation and maintenance of equipment. Lighting, staging and audio mixing are part of their skill set. These professionals are hired to work with audio and visual equipment at large corporations, educational facilities, hospitals, production houses and in government production facilities.

Most of the equipment that broadcast technicians work with are used to show or produce audio and/or video broadcasts. The engineers must know how to set up equipment, monitor levels, and fine tune audio sound and video picture clarity and colors. Some work at transmitters, keeping signals accurate and working. Others are in a production booth, switching video and audio sources while editing or composing rough or final productions. Building custom control panels or customized electronic equipment is also the job of station engineers.

Broadcast technicians careers are highly technical and the engineers are an important part of overall audio/video team production efforts. Switching from local live programming to film, video or network sources is another part of the daily duties of broadcast technicians. In addition knowledge about equipment, the technicians must understand how room dynamics and on location recording will affect production of the desired products. Another part of the routine job duties that must be performed by broadcast technicians is monitoring equipment and keeping up station performance logs.

Outgoing signals and transmitter operations must remain within the legal parameters they have been assigned by the government. This helps avoid signal problems and interference with other signals or sources. — Technical Aspects of the Career — Special training teaches students how to operate machinery and recording equipment, and how to synchronize, mix and reproduce audio and video recordings of music, voices, sound effects, live action and taped production for use in broadcasting or in movie or video production. Recordings may be done in a special sound studio, at live events, theaters, sporting arenas or on location indoors and outdoors. The quality of reception of broadcast signals is under the watchful control of station engineers.

Technicians make adjustments and tune equipment, regulate brightness, contrast, fidelity, and sound quality and volume of radio or television broadcasts. The Chief Engineer may also train and supervise other engineers and interns at many stations, especially in larger cities. — Job Descriptions — Program directors and producers work with broadcast engineers frequently during production and in program planning stages. There are many different types of broadcast engineers, and some specialize in narrow areas of responsibility. — Recording Engineers work with video and sound equipment.

They operate, maintain and care for the recording equipment, and may produce parts of the production such as special effects. — Sound Mixers and Re-recording Mixers create movie or television program soundtracks. They may “dub” in sounds over previously recorded tapes, or add in special sound or video effects to existing recordings. — Field Technicians work outside the studio set. They are responsible for proper operation of portable transmission equipment while the production or news crews are on location. They join the crew and set up and operate electronic equipment for live broadcasts and remote taping.

These technicians are very important to news organizations and news teams because of the rapid development of digital equipment that is a boon to on location broadcasting. — Chief Engineers, Transmission Engineers and Broadcast Field Supervisors keep a close watch over the work of their subordinate engineers and technicians, maintain broadcasting equipment and take care to see that all legal requirements are met. — Radio Operators are the technicians who use a variety of tools to receive or transmit communications. They use testing equipment, hand and power tools to repair and maintain electronic equipment so that all systems are functional.

Work Environment – The working conditions found in broadcast technicians careers are usually pleasant and located indoors. There are some who do work in the outdoors environments, in all types of weather conditions. Technicians are needed at remote broadcast locations, transmitters and occasionally in dangerous conditions such as climbing antenna towers or poles, or setting up heavy equipment. Care must always be taken when working with electrical power and wires. Most broadcast technicians work a standard 40-hour schedule, but there is always pressure to meet deadlines, which may require overtime hours.

Those who work at smaller stations generally do more tasks and may have to routinely work extra hours. Since most broadcast radio and television stations are actively operating around the clock, seven days a week, there is always the potential for night, weekend and holiday work. Engineers are on call as needed to handle problems. At larger stations, there should be a larger engineering staff to share the workload. Technicians who are employed in the motion picture industry may find they are asked to work odd schedules with long hours in order to assure that all contractual deadlines are met.

Training, Other Qualifications, and Advancement

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Like all technical employment, traditional formal education and training is the best way to enter broadcast technicians careers. Degrees or trade school training is needed for broadcast or sound engineers, and audio/visual technicians. Some simpler jobs like that of Radio Operator can be learned easily on the job, and does not require a degree. — Education and Training — Technical training may take months to a year for completion; degree programs can extend into advanced graduate schooling.

It is strongly advised for interested students to participate in high school electronics or media clubs, audio/visual services and internships if possible. Becoming an engineering assistant is another good way to test the waters of broadcast technicians careers. Interested students can explore coursework and degrees in broadcast technology, radio and television, electronics, computer science, and business operations to begin their successful career path. As with other media jobs, there is strong competition for employment in this industry.

A full four-year bachelor’s degree program provides the best chance for employment and advancement in this career area. As with many broadcast jobs, entry-level jobs are scarce and highly sought after. It is more likely for a new technician to become hired at a small station or in a smaller market and transfer up later when they have experience than to expect to be hired by a large station in a large market. Small stations are good for beginners because they can obtain a vast amount of experience in all areas. General skills are necessary at smaller stations with fewer technicians on staff.

At larger stations, new employees are rarely hired having no experience. Even college or high school radio or television station experience can give a new prospect an edge for becoming hired. Larger stations have the luxury of seeking out employees with specialized skills to fill up a larger roster of employees. Vocational and trade schooling in sound engineering is another path to entering broadcast technicians careers.

In addition to broadcast courses, students should complete work in computer training, math, physics and electronics. As technology changes and improves, it is necessary for broadcast technicians to stay abreast of all the latest developments in sound and broadcast engineering. Technicians who find work in the motion picture industry may be hired as apprentices or assistants and then work their way up within the industry. Hiring may be done for motion pictures on a per picture basis. A good reputation, perseverance and a detailed resume with solid experience and technical training can be important for getting jobs. –

Other Qualifications — Since most work on this job is done by hand, physical dexterity is important. An aptitude for working with mechanical devices, electrical and mechanical systems, and computers is important to have. — Certification and Advancement — Broadcast technicians are no longer required to be licensed, but a Society of Broadcast Engineers certification is available to experienced technicians who complete and pass the examination. Having This certification and knowledge can be helpful when seeking advancement. With experience and superior technical knowledge, technicians may advance to a position of Chief Engineer or another supervisory position. Possessing a college degree is required at large television stations for those who wish to advance to Chief Engineer.

Employment

Employment statistics show that broadcast and sound engineering technicians were employed in 114,600 positions in May 2008. The majority of 55,400 were classified as audio and video equipment technicians. Broadcast technicians made up the second most populated employment area, with 38,800 employed. There were 19,500 sound engineering technicians and about 1,000 radio operators listed. About a third of broadcast technicians, sound engineering technicians and radio operators were employed in broadcasting.

Half that number, about 15% of the total, was employed in the general motion picture and video recording industries. Slightly fewer found they preferred the freedom of self-employment. More engineers are employed at television stations than at radio stations, and there is more equipment to manage at television stations. Broadcast engineers also work outside the direct media industry, in sales, training, education and corporate locations. There are technical jobs in local radio and television stations across the U.S., in all size towns and cities.

The highest pay and opportunity to be a specialist is found in the largest markets, such as New York City and Los Angeles. — Job Outlook — The future for employment in broadcast technicians careers is the same growth rate as is average for other occupations through 2018. The hardest positions to land are the entry-level jobs in broadcasting, due to popularity and competition, especially in major city areas. It is easier to find that entry-level job in a small market. — Employment Change — The projected growth rate for this career is about 8 percent for the decade of 2008 through 2018. Some areas of need in broadcasting offer slightly better growth possibilities, such as the demand for audio and video equipment technicians.

With corporate expansions and new building construction, many companies want the advantages of creating their own audio and video productions in-house. Some will have full departments, complete with their own engineering and production staff. Digital signage is another area where engineering technicians are in demand. Digital movie screens are the next wave of development that is occurring in the motion picture industry. Advanced technology, digital equipment and the Internet all will provide a need for the services of qualified and trained broadcast technicians in the coming decade. Automation may cause some curtailment of hiring and reduction of staffs.

Another growing and new area for employment of broadcast engineering technicians is in mobile broadcasting, video-on-demand, and new cable products. — Job Prospects — Jobseekers should obtain all the training, technical knowledge and they can get, beginning with high school. Volunteer to work at local public access stations, college stations and other locations just to get some hands-on experience. There is fierce competition for these jobs, and only the best qualified will be able to make the moves they want to make and get higher pay. Take any job offered in the beginning and work up to bigger and better positions in larger metropolitan markets.

Projections

Employment projections for this career area published on the National Employment Matrix show a growth of about 9,000 jobs from 2008 through 2018 for broadcast and sound engineering technicians and radio operators. Audio and video equipment technician jobs are expected to increase over that same period by about 7,000 jobs.

Earnings

Television station employment is more lucrative than jobs at radio stations. Large market stations pay more than small market stations in both radio and television. Commercial broadcasting stations also pay higher salaries than do non-commercial broadcast stations. Audio and video equipment technicians can look for annual wages that in May 2008 were at $38,050. The middle salary range runs between $28,130 and $51,780. The top ten percent of those employed in broadcast technicians careers earned over $66,030.

Lowest salaries were reported to be at $21,500 annually. In the field of motion picture broadcast engineering, technicians earned median annual wages of $39,410. For broadcast technicians, salaries ranged between a low of $17,510 to highs of over $66,550 per year. The middle 50 percent secured earnings that averaged $32,900. Those working in radio and television broadcasting averaged $29,220. Sound technicians had similar earnings, with average income of $47,490, and a middle-income range of $32,770 to $69.700.

The lowest wages were less than $23,790, and highest wages soared to over $92,700. Radio operators received the lowest annual wages, $37,120 on average in May 2008. The highest wage earners made over $61,290, and lowest under $19,240. The large middle segment of employees made between $27,890 and $48,200 per year.

Related Occupations

Sound and video engineering technicians can locate employment in many related areas, such as working as electrical or electronics installers, repairpersons, general engineering technicians, computer support specialists, communications equipment operators and science technicians.

Sources of Additional Information

Bureau of Labor Statistics: http://www.bls.gov/oco/ocos109.htm Society of Broadcast Engineers: http://www.sbe.org National Association of Broadcasters: http://www.nab.org

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