The TV and broadcasting is a tough nut to crack, but once you get your foot on the job ladder, a long and varied career is set out before you.
To help you find your way forward, we’ve compiled the following list of major jobs within TV and broadcast journalism, along with how you can get into them, how difficult it is to do so and the kind of salary you can expect when you do. We also have similar glossaries for movie production and photography jobs for those looking to enter into those fields.
Although a catch-all term for many roles within the industry, broadcast journalists constitute a core part of the news team (particularly with regards to television broadcasting). Depending on the production, a broadcast journalist may be involved in editing, reporting, acting as a correspondent, or carrying out duties such as news presenting or anchoring.
Broadcast Journalist Career Path: Most professionals in the field start out studying at broadcast journalism school before taking on entry level jobs and internships. If you’re looking to become a fully-fledged reporter or newscaster, it’s very much a case of working your way up from the bottom.
Pros: You’ll be right in the thick of the action, and no two days are ever the same.
Cons: The lower rungs of the career ladder for broadcast journalists can be something of a grind, so be prepared to do a lot of menial work in order to get your foot in the door. As mentioned below, the pay isn’t terrific.
Broadcast Journalist Salary: Depends on whether working freelance or in a salaried role with a broadcasting company, but generally salaries start around $20,000 on the low end and can reach over $80,000 at the top end depending on the role and experience. The average salary, however, is around $40,000.
A TV or news production would be nothing without a broadcast engineer, a highly qualified professional in charge of making sure everyone else’s hard work is viewable to the world. In charge of pretty much every piece of hardware and equipment between the studio and the transmitter, sometimes he or she will work alongside other electrical engineers (specializing in the audio, for example) or on smaller productions may be required to keep it all running smoothly.
Broadcast Engineer Career Path: Electrical engineering qualifications are almost mandatory. This is one of those jobs in which it’s very rare to find someone who trained on the job, although that kind of experience is worth its weight in gold.
Pros: Since it’s a highly specialized field, the salary usually matches this. It’s also a dream job for those who like to get elbows-deep in wiring and schematics in order to solve problems.
Cons: The pressure can be enormous. If a single, hidden electrical fault brings the whole broadcast to a halt, it’s all on you.
Broadcast Engineer Salary: Anywhere from low $30-thousands to mid $90-thousands.
If a news broadcast studio is an orchestra, the newscast director is the conductor. Usually found in the gallery, they’re responsible for calling the shots while a show is going out on air, selecting camera shots, rolling VTs on cue and coordinating reporters and guests on the studio floor.
Newscast Director Career Path: Like many jobs in broadcast journalism, a newscast director usually works their way into the role from junior positions. A degree in broadcast journalism can advance this career path, but isn’t strictly necessary if you manage to secure internship work and are happy to put in the years.
Pros: Being the puppet master behind all the strings in the gallery is its own reward, but the payscale certainly doesn’t hurt either.
Cons: Naturally, it’s a lot more difficult than it sounds.
Newscast Director Salary: Between $40k and $50k, but it can be as low as $15,000 when working for small stations on a budget.
One of the most publicly-recognizable jobs in news broadcasting and presenting, a teleprompter operator is in charge of the equipment that delivers lines to those in front of the cameras. It’s a much more nuanced job than many would think, involving careful coordination with a number of team members, an extraordinary attention to pre-planning and the ability to think on one’s feet.
Teleprompter Operator Career Path: Being a fairly specialized and unique discipline, it isn’t always easy to switch over to teleprompting from a different role in broadcasting. As such, training in this area is advised.
Pros: There’s always work out there for a conscientious teleprompter operator.
Cons: It’s not hugely well paid given the expertise required.
Teleprompter Director Salary: Averaging $30,000 for salaried positions, though many operators work freelance – Fox pays theirs $15 an hour.
Although typically associated with commercials and animation, there is plenty of call for voiceover artists within the field of broadcast journalism. An overdubbed audio segment can sometimes be planned from the outset, or could also be added in post-production in order to facilitate smooth editing or to correct flaws in the original audio track.
Voiceover Artist Career Path: With a lot of competition out there, it can be exceptionally difficult to break into regular paying work. Akin to similar roles in the entertainment field, networking and a good agent can pay dividends (and acting school should be considered in order to hone marketable skills.)
Pros: Though the work requires a lot of talent, the working conditions are far from horrible and the pay per hour is tremendous.
Cons: As above – breaking into paid work is no less difficult than other forms of acting.
Voiceover Artist Salary: Virtually no salaried positions exist, but the freelance work can pay a cool $200 – $600 per hour.
Naturally, a lot of shooting for news stories and documentaries occurs outside of the studio. While the folks back home have got a full crew on hand to keep things going smoothly, studios often won’t budget for a large team to travel across the country to shoot. That’s where the field producer comes in – as well as running the small crew on location and coordinating efforts to get the footage in the can, he or she will act as the main communication point liaising between studio and field team.
Field Producer Career Path: Pretty much the same as any other managing broadcast role… you just need to convince your superiors to send you out there.
Pros: Naturally, you’ll get to travel to some exotic locales.
Cons: And some not so exotic locales.
Field Producer Salary: Extraordinarily good. Starting at $50,000 and going right up to $100,000, but it depends massively on your location (and the higher rates tend to apply more to film work.)
What one researcher does on a TV production is often markedly different from the roles carried out by another. Of course, researchers are essential on factual documentaries and news broadcasts, but fact checking is also integral to dramatic work. Far from being just a number cruncher and fact checker, a researcher often has a lot of say on how a newscast or documentary is developed and is usually charged with figuring out which third parties contribute with, arrange interviews, figure out legalities and budgetary constraints, and a whole host of other pre-production duties.
Researcher Career Path: A researcher can sometimes work in a specific field, i.e sports of history, and as a result usually has a related Masters degree or PhD. However, this is rare – usually researchers will be experienced in broadcasting first and foremost before going on to specialise as a researcher in a particular field.
Pros: Given the influence a researcher can have on the finished product, the satisfaction of a job done well is off the chart.
Cons: The work of a researcher is often understated, and the job involves long hours. Extremely long hours.
TV Researcher Salary: $40,000 to $65,000, but this is as variable as the role itself.
In the world of broadcasting, a runner is usually considered at the bottom of the career pile. Answering the phone, cleaning up a set at the end of the day, bringing the presenter a coffee, helping keep the public from interrupting a location shoot… the list of odd jobs a runner gets tasked with is virtually endless.
TV Runner Career Path: Every show needs runners, and very few require prior qualifications.
Pros: Want a career in TV? Start here!
Cons: Menial, poorly paid and a lot of job insecurity.
TV Runner Salary: Hovering around minimum wage, and nearly always on a freelance basis.