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Broadcast and Sound Engineering Technicians and Radio Operators - What They Do


How to Advance (Advancement)
Licensing is not required for broadcast technicians. However, certification by the Society of Broadcast Engineers is issued to experienced technicians who pass an examination, and the certification may help with advancement.

Experienced technicians can become supervisory technicians or chief engineers. A college degree in engineering is needed to become chief engineer at large television stations.

Employment
Broadcast and sound engineering technicians and radio operators held about 114,600 jobs in 2008. About 29 percent of broadcast and sound engineering technicians and radio operators worked in broadcasting (except Internet broadcasting), and 15 percent worked in the motion picture, video, and sound recording industries. About 13 percent were self-employed. Television stations employ, on average, many more technicians than radio stations. Some technicians are employed in other industries, producing employee communications, sales, and training programs. Technician jobs in television and radio are located in virtually all U.S. cities; jobs in radio also are found in many small towns. The highest paying and most specialized jobs are concentrated in New York City, Los Angeles, Chicago, and Washington, DC—the headquarters of most network and news programs. Motion picture production jobs are concentrated in Los Angeles and New York City.

Job Outlook
Employment is expected to grow about as fast as the average through 2018. But people seeking entry-level jobs as technicians in broadcasting are expected to face keen competition in major metropolitan areas. Prospects are expected to be better in small cities and towns.

Job Growth
Overall employment of broadcast and sound engineering technicians and radio operators is expected to grow by 8 percent over the 2008–18 decade, which is about as fast as the average of all occupations. Projected job growth varies among detailed occupations in this field. Employment of audio and video equipment technicians is expected to grow 13 percent, about as fast as average. Audio and video equipment is in heavy demand in many new buildings, especially new schools, and in existing schools as well. Many new technicians will be needed, not only to install, but to maintain and repair the equipment as well. A growing number of companies will plan permanent departments employing audio and video technicians. An increase in the use of digital signage will also lead to higher demand for audio and video equipment technicians. In the motion picture industry, employment for these workers will grow because they are needed to install digital movie screens.

Employment of broadcast technicians is expected to grow by 2 percent, signifying little or no change, and employment of sound engineering technicians is expected to grow by 6 percent, which is slower than average. Advancements in technology will enhance the capabilities of technicians to produce higher quality radio and television programming; however, this improved technology will also increase the productivity of technicians, which may hold down employment growth. Jobs in radio and television broadcasting will also be limited by further consolidation of stations and by labor-saving advances, such as computer-controlled programming. In the cable and pay portion of the broadcasting industry, employment is expected to grow as the range of products and services expands, including cable Internet access and video-on-demand. An area in which technicians will be in increasing demand over the next several years is mobile broadcasting.

People seeking entry-level jobs as broadcast technicians are expected to face keen competition because of the large number of people attracted by the glamour of working in television or radio. Competition will be stronger in large metropolitan areas where pay is generally higher and the number of job seekers usually exceeds the number of openings. Prospects for entry-level positions are expected to be better in small cities and towns, provided that the jobseeker has appropriate training.

Earnings
Television stations usually pay higher salaries than radio stations, commercial broadcasting usually pays more than non-commercial broadcasting, and stations in large markets pay more than those in small markets.

Median annual wages of audio and video equipment technicians in May 2008 were $38,050. The middle 50 percent earned between $28,130 and $51,780. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $21,500, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $66,030. Median annual wages in motion picture and video industries, which employed the largest number of audio and video equipment technicians, were $39,410.

Median annual wages of broadcast technicians in May 2008 were $32,900. The middle 50 percent earned between $22,900 and $49,340. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $17,510, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $66,550. Median annual wages in radio and television broadcasting, which employed the largest number of broadcast technicians, were $29,220.

Median annual wages of sound engineering technicians in May 2008 were $47,490. The middle 50 percent earned between $32,770 and $69,700. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $23,790, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $92,700.

Median annual wages of radio operators in May 2008 were $37,120. The middle 50 percent earned between $27,890 and $48,200. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $19,240, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $61,290.

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