Becoming a Radio Broadcaster: Job Description & Salary Information

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What are the pros and cons of a career as a radio broadcaster? Get real job descriptions, career prospects and salary information to see if becoming a radio broadcaster is right for you.
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Pros and Cons of a Radio Broadcasting Career

Radio broadcasters are in charge of providing on-air entertainment for radio stations, such as interviews, commentary and news. Learn about the pros and cons of becoming a radio broadcaster to help you make an informed decision about your career.

Pros of a Career as a Radio Broadcaster
Minimal educational requirements (a bachelor's degree in media, journalism or communications is often sufficient)*
Training often occurs on the job*
Can influence program content*
Opportunity to eventually become a public figure*

Cons of a Career as a Radio Broadcaster
Low median salary (around $30,000, as of May 2014)*
Heavy competition for available jobs*
Little or no change in employment predicted (0% from 2012-2022)*
Radio stations operate 24 hours a day; you could work nights, weekends, or early mornings*

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

Essential Career Information

Job Description

Radio broadcasters script content and then present it over the radio waves. They might perform on-air interviews, read scripts or advertisements, present commentary or introduce music. These professionals are often responsible for the content of their shows, which requires that they're able to perform research and stay up-to-date on the latest happenings and events. In addition to performing, radio broadcasters may also make public appearances, run the station website, operate station equipment and sell commercial advertisements. Radio broadcasters may work for a station that plays music, covers sports or is strictly talk radio, and you could elect to specialize in one of these areas.

Stations generally operate 24 hours a day, which means that you could work unusual shifts, including early mornings, nights or weekends. Additionally, you may face substantial pressure and stress when meeting tight performance schedules and deadlines.

Salary Information and Career Prospects

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) classifies radio broadcasters as radio announcers, and the organization reported that the median annual salary for radio and television announcers was around $30,000, as of May 2014. The lowest 10% made about $18,000 or less, while the highest 10% earned around $80,000 or more. However, your salary can significantly increase as your career progresses and you move away from smaller markets and into larger markets.

For the 2012-2022 decade, the BLS predicted that job growth for announcers would experience little or no change in employment at 0%. Many individuals are attracted to this career path, often making the competition for job openings extremely high. Further, as markets consolidate, experienced announcers are increasingly in competition with beginning announcers for the same positions. However, national media companies often seek to attract listeners by adding localized content, and radio broadcasters often leave current jobs for other markets, which can open up jobs for other professionals.

Education and Training Requirements

According to the BLS, to be competitive for entry-level positions, radio broadcasters should obtain a bachelor's degree in a relevant field, such as journalism, mass communications or broadcasting. However, the organization also indicates that if you plan to work as a public address announcer, rather than as a radio broadcaster, you may only need a high school diploma. Additionally, when you first start working for a station, you'll likely be required to complete a brief amount of on the job training to become familiar with the station's equipment and procedures.

Bachelor's degree programs can prepare you for work in a radio booth by teaching you voice skills and journalism techniques, as well as how to operate the computer programs and equipment used by radio stations. While enrolled in a bachelor's degree program, you may also have the opportunity to discover which area of radio programming interests you, such as talk, music, sports or news.

Useful Skills and Qualifications

This career requires that you have strong verbal and written communication skills, are tech savvy, work well independently and are able to take direction. You'll also need a thick skin and the ability to persist through multiple rejections, because the industry is competitive. A pleasant, upbeat demeanor, a well-groomed appearance and strong speaking skills are also key qualifications.

What Employers Are Looking for

Employers seek radio broadcasters who have the ability to create and present on-air programming. These professionals may also have to fulfill other responsibilities, such as making public appearances, fundraising or producing written content. Job postings from May 2012 show employers are looking for the following:

  • A large radio network in California is looking for part-time or full-time radio broadcasters to produce and present programming. The station is multi-format and has openings in music, sports and talk. No experience is required.
  • A public radio station in Wichita is hiring a full-time announcer to produce music programming featuring local artists and bands. Additional responsibilities include representing the station at fundraisers and community events and creating online content for the station. Applicants are required to pass a background check.
  • A hockey team in Texas is seeking a radio broadcaster that is also skilled in media relations. Responsibilities include on-air performances, writing program content and press releases, documenting media coverage, coordinating players' media appearances and running the press box. A bachelor's degree, at least four years of public relations experience and the ability to travel internationally are all job requirements

How to Make Your Skills Stand out

Previous work experience in radio is essential to help you gain an edge over other applicants. College internships or working at a college radio station are two ways to obtain experience. Strong, working knowledge of radio equipment and computers is also important, especially when starting out, because many radio broadcasters are required to perform technical duties as part of their jobs. These skills can be learned through internships, as well as through college broadcasting and computing courses.

Additionally, stations may require broadcasters to make appearances at community promotional events, maintain a social networking site or sell ad time. Thus, gaining experience selling ads for a college radio station, taking public speaking courses or enrolling in computer classes to learn social networking skills are all ways to stand out.

Be Willing to Relocate

To advance your radio broadcasting career, you'll likely have to start in a small market. As you gain practical experience and demonstrate your skill in the form of high ratings, you could have the opportunity to move into a slightly larger market. Typically, radio broadcasters must spend several years moving to progressively larger markets. A willingness and ability to move frequently, to any location in the country, can enable you to stand out and advance in your career.

Alternative Career Paths

If you're looking for a broadcasting career with a higher salary and the opportunity to appear on-air, consider a career as a television reporter or correspondent. For those who seek to work in the broadcasting industry but who don't want to appear in front of audiences, a career as a broadcast or sound engineering technician could be a better fit.

Television Reporter or Correspondent

These professionals appear on camera to report the latest news and events to audiences. They may also write stories, perform on-air interviews and provide commentary or interpretation. These professionals typically hold a bachelor's degree in journalism or communications, which, in most cases, is the same as the requirement for radio broadcasters. The BLS reported that, as of May 2011, the median salary of reporters and correspondents was around $35,000, which is higher than the salary of a radio broadcaster.

Broadcast or Sound Engineering Technician

Broadcast and sound engineering technicians work behind the scenes in the radio or television industry. They install, operate and maintain electrical equipment used for productions, including audio, video and recording components. The educational requirements for this career, as reported by the BLS, are usually technical training or an associate's degree in the field. Broadcast technicians earned a median annual salary of around $37,000, and sound engineering technicians earned a median yearly salary of about $47,000, as of May 2011. Job growth in the field was predicted to increase 10% between 2010 and 2020.

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