Becoming a Broadcast Engineer Manager: Job Description & Salary

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A broadcast engineer's mean annual salary is around $42,000. Is it worth the education and training requirements? See real job descriptions and get the truth about career prospects to find out if becoming a broadcast engineer is right for you.
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Pros and Cons to Becoming a Broadcast Engineer

Broadcast engineers, also known as broadcast technicians, maintain and use the equipment necessary to broadcast television, film and radio productions. Take a look at some of the pros and cons to becoming a broadcast engineer by reading below.

PROS to Becoming a Broadcast Engineer
Minimum educational requirements (31% have a postsecondary certificate, 26% have some college, 22% have just a high school diploma)**
Advancement opportunities for those with strong technical skills*
Get to be a part of the television, radio or movie industry*
Diverse training and education opportunities with employers and vocational schools*

CONS to Becoming a Broadcast Engineer
Below-average pay (Nearly $5,000 less than national occupational average)*
Evening, holiday and weekend hours are normal due to stations operating 24/7*
Climbing and heavy lifting can be required during maintenance repairs*
New training is required as technology is improved and updated*

Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, **O*Net OnLine.

Job Description and Salary

Career Duties

At a smaller station, you're required to perform many work duties as a broadcast engineer. You'll set up the necessary video and audio equipment to ensure it is ready to be used, and you'll adjust these machines to make sure the audio and video quality is satisfactory. You may also monitor the strength of transmission signals and adjust broadcasting equipment accordingly. Whenever there is a problem with a machine, you'll create a report and attempt to repair the issue to get it back in working order. When new equipment arrives, you will test it and install it at the appropriate area.

If you work at a larger station, you'll generally have more specialized duties. However, your work duties may change from day-to-day at a larger station, so you need to remain flexible.

Earning Statistics

In May 2014, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported that broadcast technicians earned around $42,000 on average annually (www.bls.gov). The top ten percentile wage estimates for broadcast technicians was reported to be about $76,000 annually, while the lowest ten percentile salary was around $18,000. Maryland, New York, the District of Columbia, New Hampshire and Maryland were the top paying states for broadcast engineers. The federal executive branch was the best paying industry on average for broadcast engineers in 2014.

Requirements to Become a Broadcast Engineer

Education and Training

A GED or a high school diploma is acceptable for entry-level broadcast engineers at smaller stations. At these stations, you'll receive on-the-job training to prepare you for your work duties. College education is generally preferred by most employers. Many community colleges and technical schools offer certificate and associate degrees in broadcast technology. An associate's degree is recommended especially for employment at bigger stations. While you're in school, you'll want to take classes in computer science, physics, math and electronics.

What are Employers Looking For?

Generally, smaller stations are more accepting of those without previous experience, but employers with large stations want experienced broadcast engineers. Regardless of the size of your employer, you'll want to possess the necessary technical skills to impress them. Having excellent communication skills is beneficial as well due to the time sensitive nature of this field. Some job postings taken in April 2012 can help shine some light on what real employers were looking for in broadcast engineers.

  • A broadcast group in New York is looking for a broadcast engineer to provide technical support. Candidates should have experience working with broadcasting equipment such as servers, cameras and switching routers.
  • An Arizona radio company needs a broadcast engineer with at least two years of experience in radio transmission systems. Ability to read and interpret electronic schematics and construction drawings required.
  • A cable operator calls for a broadcast engineer who is willing to be on call 24/7 at its North Carolina station. Applicants should have at least an associate's degree in broadcast engineering, communications or a similar field.

How to Stand Out as a Broadcast Engineer

By acquiring professional certification, you can set yourself apart from your colleagues. One of the organizations that offer these certifications is the Society of Broadcast Engineers (www.sbe.org). The certifications are designed for workers with varying amounts of work experience. For example, credentials exist for technologists, engineers and senior engineers. You can choose to specialize in radio, networking or television with your certification. Each certification requires you to pass a proficiency examination. When your certification expires, you may apply for recertification.

Other Occupational Options

If you like the technical aspects of being a broadcast engineer, but don't necessarily want to work in the film or TV industry, consider finding work as a computer support specialist. In this occupation, you'll provide assistance to co-workers and clients having difficulty with computers. You'll interview the person to learn the nature of the problem and offer suggestions on how to fix the issue. In some cases, you might have to travel in order to deal with the problem in person. In 2011, the BLS found that computer support specialists earned around $52,000 on average in a year.

If you want to work in a different technical area of the film and TV industry, you might be interested in becoming a camera operator. Working with directors and producers, camera operators help capture the necessary shots for television and film. You'll use specialized equipment to capture different angles. Sometimes, you'll be a direct part of the editing process as well. Camera operators were reported to make about $49,000 annually according to the BLS in May 2011.

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