Broadcast technicians operate, maintain, and configure broadcasting equipment that selects and controls the source of material to be broadcast. They also operate equipment that regulates the signal strength, clarity, and range of sounds and colors or radio or television broadcasts. They often are responsible for switching broadcasting signals from camera to camera, from live programming to taped sections, and from network to local programming.
Broadcast technician jobs have been greatly altered by the transition to digital recording, editing, and broadcasting. Electronic equipment has largely been replaced by desktop software, and video and audio tapes have been replaced by computer hard drives and other types of data storage. Computer networks coupled with specialized equipment have become the standard for broadcasting. As a result, broadcast technicians have been forced to adapt and learn software and computer networking skills.
Broadcast technicians need to have skill working with electrical, electronic, and mechanical systems and equipment. It is also important for them to have good manual dexterity.
In 2002, broadcast technicians earned a median annual salary of $27,760. Earnings ranged from the lowest 10%, who earned less than $14,600, and the highest 10%, who earned more than $65,970.
Training and Education
The Federal Communications Commission used to require the licensing of all broadcast technicians, but the Telecommunications Act of 1996 removed this requirement. However, broadcast technicians can still voluntarily become certified by the Society of Broadcast Engineers. This certification sets them apart from the competition and shows a high level of competence and experience. In order to become certified, technicians must demonstrate experience and pass an examination.
The most effective way to train for a career as a broadcast technician is to enroll in a technical school community college, or university program in electronics, computer networking, or broadcast technology. New employees usually learn on the job from more experienced technicians and supervisors. Some begin their careers working in smaller, local stations and, after gaining valuable experience, move on to larger stations and networks. Quite a few employers offer programs in which they will pay the tuition and expenses for courses and seminars that improve the skills of their employees and help keep them updated on the latest developments in the field.
In 2002, broadcast technicians held about 5,000 jobs. Television jobs are usually located in cities, but radio jobs can be found even in small towns. New York City, Los Angeles, Chicago, and Washington, D.C. offer the highest-paying jobs.
Between 2002 and 2012, employment of broadcast technicians is expected to increase about as fast as the average. Advancements in technology will increase the abilities of technicians to produce higher quality radio and television programming. Job growth will be limited by the consolidation in ownership of television and radio stations. In the cable and pay television sector of the industry, employment growth will be higher.
For more information on a career as an broadcast technician, please see our directory of Broadcasting Schools