Television Director Careers: Salary Information & Job Description

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What are the pros and cons of a career as a television director? Get real job descriptions, career outlooks and salary information to see if becoming a television director is right for you.
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Pros and Cons of a Career as a Television Director

Television directors orchestrate the creative aspects of production for live broadcasts or taped programming. If you're considering a career as a television director, there are a few things you may want to think about.

Pros of Being a Television Director
Creative control over TV programming*
Competitive wages (Median income of about $69,100 for producers and directors as of May 2014)*
Potential to reach large audiences with your finished product*
Growth in new media production possibilities*

Cons of Being a Television Director
High level of experience required (most directors need several years of on-set experience)*
Stressful production schedules*
May be unemployed in between projects*
Most employment opportunities are concentrated in only a few cities, like Los Angeles*

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

Career Info

As a television director, you must visualize what you want to achieve from your programming segment and bring it to life either through a live broadcast or a recorded program. Many directors of major motion pictures get their start as television directors.

Job Duties

A director's duties may include auditioning talent, selecting scripts, conducting rehearsals and overseeing set design. You may also be involved in lighting, shot framing and sound engineering. Much of this work is considered pre-production. Pre-production tasks vary greatly depending upon the type of programming you're directing. News broadcasts, talk shows, soap operas and situation comedies require a high level of technical pre-production in order to set the stage for a live broadcast. Using multiple cameras, much of the direction for these shows is done from a control room, working with other production technicians to ensure a smooth broadcast.

Other television directors work on documentaries, taped field news segments or dramas. Generally, these directors utilize a single camera and have greater creative control over the shooting process. Scenes can also be re-filmed or shot out of order. In the case of television dramas, you may attend rehearsals and scout out a variety of locations for filming. Both of these forms of television direction may entail extensive post-production and editing.

Career Outlook and Salary

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projected a 3% increase in employment for producers and directors from 2012-2022. Although employment levels were expected to experience only below average growth, the emergence of new online content delivery systems should spur job opportunities for directors.

Employment and income vary greatly based on geographic areas. Many television directors work their way up through smaller markets before gaining the opportunity to direct in major metropolitan areas. Also, most of the major networks that produce popular comedies, dramas and newsmagazine shows are headquartered in New York or Los Angeles. Although there is a vast range of potential salaries, the BLS reported that producers and directors made a median income of about $69,100 as of May 2014. The bottom ten percent of directors and producers took in about $31,000 or less, while the top ten percent of professionals made over $187,000 per year.

Job Requirements

Education Requirements

O*NET Online reported that 69% of directors surveyed held a bachelor's degree and 19% held a master's degree as of 2012. Although there is no standard education requirement for television directors, bachelor's degree programs in television, broadcasting or media communications may help prepare you for a career. Many associate-level programs and professional certificate programs are also available that provide training in emerging production technologies.

Courses in your bachelor's degree program may include topics like documentary production, cinematography, video editing, studio production and broadcast journalism. Master's degree programs are also available and offer further training and experience in areas such as new distribution technologies and marketing.

Real Job Listings for Television Directors

Gaining professional experience at any level may be the most important tool in advancing your career. Whether you aspire to direct dramatic programming or live broadcasts, you must build your resume through entry-level experience. Here are a few real examples of job postings for television directors from April 2012.

  • A Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, production company seeks a director for a television pilot drama. Applicants must have prior experience directing feature or short films. Candidates must also provide a reel of their directorial work.
  • A Florida advertising company seeks a producer or director to create advertising spots and commercials. Duties include coordinating talent, organizing a production crew and finding shooting locations. Individuals with associate's degrees are preferred, and applicants must have 2-7 years of relative experience.
  • A Virginia broadcast television station seeks a director for newscasts and control room operations. Some field shooting and editing is required. Applicants must have one year of experience, plus operational camera skills. Candidates also must be willing to work any available shifts.

How to Get Ahead in Your Career

Obtain Technical Training

Many opportunities in broadcasting require training in the latest electronic equipment and computer software. Choosing degree or certificate programs that further your knowledge of new distribution methods, state-of-the-art audio and video consoles, video editing software, digital file software and robotic cameras can provide you with a competitive edge as you advance in your career.

Practicum and Internship Experiences

During an undergraduate program, you may have the opportunity to gain practical experience working at student-run broadcast programs. Also, your program may allow you to gain credit through a professional internship. Many television stations or network broadcasting companies hire interns who are enrolled in a bachelor's or master's degree program. Through college credit internships, you can gain valuable experience working with technical operations, including cameras, teleprompters, control rooms, live shot coordination and field logistics. For recent graduates, you may be able to enroll in paid training programs to gain entry-level directing experience.

Alternative Careers in Media and Broadcasting

Broadcast Technician

If you find the technical aspects of television directing more compelling than the creative tasks, you may decide to pursue a career as a broadcast technician. As a technician, you are in charge of operating and maintaining electrical equipment, including lighting, sound recording and video equipment. These careers can also provide useful experience should you wish to advance as a producer or director. The BLS projected a ten percent increase in employment for broadcast and sound engineering technicians from 2010-2020.

BLS data from May 2011 showed a median income of almost $37,000 for broadcast technicians. As with broadcast television direction, incomes for these jobs are highly driven by the size of the market, and you may need to work your way into larger markets to advance in your field. Broadcast technicians generally receive some formal training before obtaining entry-level positions, and continuing education may be required to maintain relevant training in new technologies. Broadcasting engineers can gain professional certification through the Society of Broadcast Engineers, which offers eight engineering certifications and two operator certifications (www.sbe.org).

Art Director

If you're looking to explore many different artistic fields, you could become an art director and work in film, television, theatre, book publishing, advertising or public relations. Art directors oversee certain aspects of production from a conceptual standpoint, creating a visual style for marketing images and product packaging. These professionals generally must obtain a bachelor's degree in art or design and then gain a few years of professional experience in another field, such as layout design, illustration, advertising design or photography.

Based on May 2011 BLS data, careers in art direction were expected to increase by nine percent from 2010-2020, which was a bit slower than average. While art directors are still needed to provide oversight for layout designs, the majority of new employment should come from the fields of advertising and public relations. As of May 2011, art directors earned a median income of about $81,000.

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Featured Schools

American University

  • Master of Arts in Strategic Communication
  • Master of Arts in Strategic Communication - Advocacy and Social Impact Concentration

What is your highest level of education?

Purdue University

  • Master of Science in Communication
  • Graduate Certificate in Strategic Communication Management

What is your highest level of education?

Full Sail University

  • Master of Science - Film Production
  • M.S. - Entertainment Business
  • BS - Film (Campus)
  • BS - Media Communications (Campus)

What is your highest level of education?

Grand Canyon University

  • M.A. in Communication with an Emphasis in Education

What is your highest level of education?

Indiana Wesleyan University

  • BS Human Communications
  • A.S. General Studies - Communications
  • Undergraduate Certificate - Communications

What is your highest level of education?

Johns Hopkins University

  • Master of Arts in Communication
  • Post-Bachelor's Certificate in Applied Research for Communication

What is your highest level of education?

Colorado State University Global

  • BS - Communication

What is your highest level of education?

Queens University of Charlotte

  • Master of Arts in Communication - General
  • Master of Arts in Communication - Integrated Digital Strategy Concentration
  • Master of Arts in Communication - Undecided

What is your highest level of education completed?