Broadcast Systems Operator Careers: Salary & Job Description

About this article
A broadcast systems operator's median annual salary is around $37,000. Is it worth the education requirements? See real job duties and get the truth about the career outlook to see if becoming a broadcast systems operator is right for you.
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Pros and Cons of a Broadcast Systems Operator Career

Broadcast systems operators set up and maintain the equipment used for television or radio broadcasts, sound recordings and movies. Take time to explore the pros and cons of this career below to decide if working as a broadcast systems operator is a good choice.

PROS of a Broadcast Systems Operator Career
Safe, comfortable working environment*
Daily tasks and duties are varied*
Opportunities for specialization and advancement*
Higher pay rates in large broadcasting companies and cities
Solid job growth in the field (nine percent for all broadcast and sound engineering technicians), with job prospects better in small cities and towns*

CONS of a Broadcast Systems Operator Career
Highly competitive field, particularly in large cities where salaries tend to be higher*
Non-traditional work hours usually include weekends, holidays and evenings*
Large stations usually require job applicants have experience*
Continuing education needed to keep up with technological advancements*
Pressure to meet broadcasting deadlines*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Job Description, Career Paths and Salary Info

Day-to-day tasks for broadcast system operators, also known as 'broadcast engineers' or 'broadcast engineering technicians,' vary depending on the type of job, industry and specialty. Operators are charged with duties during a radio or television broadcast, such as maintaining a strong signal, evaluating sound clarity and operating transmitters. Television broadcast operators also need to sustain vivid colors, operate lighting systems and switch cameras and other equipment as needed.

Job Prospects

The high-profile nature of the business draws many people to the radio and television industries, increasing competition for jobs. But where you live and work also plays a large role in how strong your job prospects will be. Job competition is fierce, particularly in cities and metropolitan areas, where the pay is higher and the number of applicants outweighs the number of jobs. Gaining an entry-level job in a major metropolitan broadcasting station or movie studio is challenging, since many employers prefer applicants with experience. Job opportunities are better in small towns and cities, particularly for workers with advanced training. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), employment for broadcast and sound engineering technician is predicted to grow by nine percent, or as fast as average for other jobs, from 2012-2022, while radio operators will see little or no change in growth at one percent. Job prospects will likely be stronger for individuals who have experience with complex electronics and software (www.bls.gov).

Salary Info

According to the BLS, the median salary for broadcast system operators, as of May 2014, was about $37,000. Higher wages for radio, television or motion picture broadcasters tend to be centered in large cities. The BLS also reported job opportunities available with the executive branch of the federal government, cable and other subscription programming, and colleges.

Education and Training Requirements

Although technical schools and community colleges can offer excellent training in relevant subjects such as electronics and broadcast technology, an increasing number of employers prefer applicants with a 4-year degree. Periodic seminars, training classes and other forms of continuing education are also important for experienced workers to become familiar with new and emerging technologies.

What Employers are Looking For

A bachelor's degree is usually at the top of the list of employers' requirements. Many employers also look for applicants with so-called 'soft skills,' such as strong communication skills, team working abilities, excellent critical thinking skills and the ability to troubleshoot problems. Below are some examples of jobs postings open during late February and early March 2012:

  • A radio station in Indianapolis looked for a candidate with at least three years of experience with digital audio routers and audio systems to maintain, install and operate equipment in the studio and transmitting facilities. Requirements included three years of experience with analog, IP and digital systems, SAS digital audio routers and satellite uplink operations. The station noted that knowledge of WireReady and AudioVault was preferred. Certifications from Microsoft, Cisco or Sociiety of Broadcasting Engineers were also a plus.
  • A service provider specializing in audio/visual integration in Minnesota sought a broadcast engineer to provide clients with solutions for improving their systems, work with sales staff to recommend equipment and offer technical support to other employees and clients. The service provider looked for someone with solid communication skills and knowledge of RF design, audio design and experience with AutoCAD or VidCAD.
  • A New York radio station looked for a broadcast engineer to provide technical support for the broadcast, repair equipment including audio mixing and routing equipment, check all radio equipment to make sure it works properly during the morning shows and research potential new technologies and equipment for use in the station. The employer preferred applicants with computer technology certification, experience with radio RF systems and experience with up-to-date recording studio procedures.
  • A television station in Atlanta, Georgia, requested a broadcast engineer for a contract position to design and construct new projects, maintain technical equipment in the studio and troubleshoot studios and post-production equipment. The ideal candidate also will be able to deliver status reports on time, has a strong background working with PCs and Apple computers, and has good presentation skills to efficiently deliver information to customers, clients and managers.

How to Stand Out Among the Competition

Because the field is very technical, staying abreast of the most current technologies and developing skills and knowledge of relevant systems can help you stand out in the crowd. Additionally, having some previous experience in addition to having a degree may give you an advantage in getting an entry-level job. For example, you could gain working experience while studying for your degree by working at a college radio, college television or local broadcasting station during the semester or during summer break.

Get Certified

Becoming certified shows prospective employers that you have achieved a level of competence in broadcasting technologies and practices. The Society of Broadcast Engineers (SBE) established certification in 1975 to create a national standard of quality within an ever-changing industry. The SBE offers a chance to become certified at different levels and in varying specialties, such as Certified Radio Operator, Certified Television Operator or Certified Broadcast Technologist. Passing an exam is generally required; education and experiential requirements varies depending on the credential.

Other Careers to Consider

Audio and Video Technician

If you like working with equipment, a job as an audio and video technician may be a good alternative. Technicians set up, operate and maintain video and audio equipment, such as video screens, recording equipment, microphones, and video monitors. Audio and video technicians are needed in radio and television broadcasting, universities, the motion picture industry, sound recording industries and scientific research centers. Aspiring technicians should complete a technical training program to break into the industry. Associate's and bachelor degree programs are also available in the field, although a degree is usually not a requirement for an entry-level job.

According to the BLS, employment of audio and video equipment technicians was expected to be 13% from 2008-2018. Demand would be driven by the growing use of digital equipment in new and existing buildings, the increasing use of digital signs and the need for the installation of digital movie screens. The 2010 median annual wage was $40,540.

Camera Operator

If you enjoy working with equipment, you might consider being a camera operator. Camera operators in the broadcasting and motion picture industries should have artistic ability in addition to good communication skills, good eyesight and a thorough understanding of advanced computer technologies and digital cameras. Most schools offer courses to introduce students to techniques and equipment.

Job growth is expected to be 11 percent from 2008-2018, according to the BLS. Competition will be strong due to the number of individuals who want to break into the motion picture and broadcasting industries. The median annual salary in 2010 was $40,390.

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Full Sail University

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The Art Institutes

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Johns Hopkins University

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Purdue University

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Colorado State University Global

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American University

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