Broadcast and Sound Engineering Technicians and Radio Operators

As the media world has expanded, a number of technical fields have become very popular. Among the more sought-after positions are broadcast and sound engineering technician and radio operator. These fields offer excellent pay in a safe working environment. They are ideal for people who enjoy putting on a show but don’t want to be in the spotlight.

Broadcast technicians operate and maintain the equipment that powers radio and television broadcasts. They work with all sorts of different camera and microphone systems. Sound engineering technicians, meanwhile, handle the audio components of a broadcast exclusively. They are responsible for mixing the treble and bass and ensuring that the audience can understand and appreciate what they hear. A radio operator manages the equipment that sends and receives radio transmissions. Professionals in this field must be able to repair and maintain old equipment, and must be skilled in selecting new equipment to be purchased.

This is a very technical field, so it is necessary for aspiring technicians and operators to obtain specific training. Broadcast technicians need to acquire an associate’s degree in one of the following fields: electronics, computer networking, or broadcast technology. However, most industry analysts believe that a bachelor’s degree is a better guarantee of professional success for aspiring broadcast technicians. A sound engineering technician, on the other hand, may only need to complete a one-year vocational program. It is essential for would-be professionals in this field to acquire some sort of training in math, physics, and electronics.

Audio and video equipment technicians must complete specific training programs for their field of practice. Employers may not mandate an undergraduate degree, but earning one assuredly does not hurt job prospects. Many successful audio and video equipment technicians begin their careers by apprenticing under an established professional.

It is typical for a broadcast and sound engineering technician or radio operator to get his or her start with a small station in a relatively large market. Interestingly, small stations in small markets are unlikely to hire technical experts, opting instead to employ a single person who is somewhat competent in a number of different fields. In any case, the only guaranteed way to make progress in this field is to acquire experience and make contacts. For this reason, many successful professionals credit their work at a college radio or television station with launching their careers. Of course, one of the ongoing responsibilities of a broadcast and sound engineering technician or radio operator is staying abreast of advances in technology. This requires occasional participation in training programs as well as diligent study of technical journals.

Salaries for these professionals vary widely, though there are some general rules. For the most part, television stations pay higher salaries than radio stations, and professionals make more in large markets than small ones. Broadcast technicians make an average of $32,900 annually, though the top 10 percent take home more than $66,500. Sound engineering technicians make an average of $47,490 a year. Radio operators make an average of $37,120. Audio and video equipment technicians take home about $38,000 a year, slightly more if they work in the motion picture and video industries.

Although the general demand for broadcast and sound engineering technicians and radio operators is expected to grow at an average pace, the best opportunities will be for those who are willing to live and work in small cities and towns. There will be intense competition for large-market jobs, because these are generally the most lucrative. There will be particularly large growth in demand for audio and video equipment technicians. Those who are adept in digital displays will find it easier to get work. There will be significantly less growth in demand for broadcast technicians and sound engineering technicians. This is due in part to advances in technology, which will limit some jobs and make it possible for the remaining technicians to increase their productivity. Mobile broadcasting is expected to be a particular area of growth for technicians. Sound engineering and radio operation are increasingly popular fields, so there will probably be competition for entry-level and advanced jobs alike.