Pros and Cons of Being a Sports Commentator
Sports commentators report and editorialize athletic news on a wide variety of sporting events. Find out the pros and cons of being a sports commentator to see if it is the right career choice for you.
|Pros of a Sports Commentator Career|
|Minimum education requirements (36% have bachelor's degree, 27% have just a high school diploma)**|
|Interview sports legends and celebrities*|
|Opportunity to package and sell own broadcasts (25% are self-employed)*|
|May allow for spontaneity and creativity during broadcasts**|
|Cons of a Sports Commentator Career|
|Low job-growth field (0% predicted growth between 2012-2022)*|
|Lower-than-average pay ($44,030 mean annual salary in 2014)*|
|Pressure to ensure accuracy of all reported facts**|
|Stress of maintaining uniqueness to garner high ratings and listenership**|
Sources: *U.S. Bureau Labor Statistics (BLS), **O*Net Online.
Job Description and Duties
Typically, sports commentators watch and report the actions of a sporting event as it occurs live. They may appear onscreen in a television program or they may speak only in voiceover during the action. Also referred to as announcers, these sports commentators provide up-to-the-minute information accurately and articulately. Some sports commentators are also employed as sportscasters, and are responsible for packaging and delivering informative programs based on sporting events and athletic news updates.
Job duties include researching and preparing programs, interviewing guests, making public service announcements and highlighting station advertisers. Commentators may also make promotional appearances and participate in marketing and editing decisions. Some commentators are required to maintain an online presence, such as keeping a blog. Others are involved in updating the station's website. Work hours can vary, as some commentators have early morning programs while others cover evening games.
Career Prospects and Salary
The BLS predicts slow job growth for all radio and television announcers, including sports commentators. It is estimated that opportunities in the field will not increase at all (0%) for the 2012-2022 decade. Entry-level positions are often available in smaller markets and at smaller stations. The smaller markets, however, are not without competition. The BLS finds that even seasoned commentators look to theses markets as consolidation of stations have reduced the number of jobs available in larger markets.
The salary for entry-level positions in the announcing profession as a whole is low. The BLS reports that salaries for announcers range from about $17,000 to $80,000 as of May 2014. In the same report, the BLS stated that the annual mean wage is around $44,000. Larger markets usually offer higher wages.
What Are the Requirements?
While there are no formal degree requirements, many employers look for commentators who hold a bachelor's degree. Popular majors include broadcasting and journalism. Commentators must have a solid background in the sports world, provide intelligent commentary and answer audience questions. Once hired, a commentator learns a majority of their trade through on-the-job training.
In addition to having a magnetic personality, commentators must have strong writing skills. Familiarity with computers, use of social media and comfort with online research software is also important.
What Employers Are Looking for
Finding that first job as a sports announcer can take dedication and a 'never-say-never' attitude. Some job titles are sport specific or use the term anchor or announcer. Most employers look for candidates who are familiar with sports and have experience in broadcasting or reporting. Below is a sample of job openings available in May 2012:
- A television company in North Dakota is seeking an individual to work as a weekend sports anchor and a weekday sports reporter and photographer. Candidates should be talented photographers and work well in a team environment.
- A mid-sized television company in Missouri is looking to hire a full-time sports anchor. Candidates should have experience in editing and taking video as well as sports reporting.
- The 2012 Olympic organizing committee in London is looking for a sports commentator to provide information and commentary for archery competitions. Applicants should be seasoned in relaying live events. Candidates should also be familiar with the Olympics and Paralympic Games.
How to Stand Out
Successful commentators usually stand out because they have attracted a dedicated following. To help cultivate this relationship, many participate in live events that allow for audience interaction. Some announcers take advantage of Internet radio to inexpensively widen their reach to potential listeners.
Joining a professional organization is another way to enhance a resume. For example, the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) offers memberships to radio and television broadcasters. Through the NAB, broadcasters can take advantage of networking opportunities as well as online educational seminars. The National Association of Sports Public Address Announcers (NASPAA) also offers membership benefits such as voice training, networking opportunities and updates on official sports rules.
Other Careers to Consider
Producer and Director
If you find yourself excelling as a sports broadcaster and want to advance your career, consider becoming a producer or director. Like a commentator, producers and directors usually hold a bachelor's degree and much of the training is done on-the-job. The BLS predicts that job opportunities for producers and directors will grow by 11% during the 2010-2020 decade, slightly better than the outlook for commentators.
Additionally, producers and directors often enjoy a higher salary. As of May 2011, the annual mean wage for producers and directors working in the radio and television broadcasting industry was around $70,000.
If you enjoy working in radio and television but do not want to be an on air personality, consider becoming a sound technician. The BLS predicts that job opportunities for technicians will increase by ten percent during the 2010-2020 decade, slightly better than the prediction for commentators. The annual mean wage for technicians working in the radio and television broadcasting industry is around $52,000 as of May 2011.