The Federal Communications Commission reported that, as of December 2013, there were a total of 33,492 broadcast stations, including 15,451 radio stations and about 1,760 commercial and educational television stations in the United States. These stations might be independently operated or owned and operated by a network. Smaller stations in smaller cities are good starting places, but it is at the larger networks and stations in major cities where the higher salaries are found. Some broadcast engineers work outside of the radio and television industries, producing, for example, corporate employee training and sales programs. Approximately 31,580 broadcast technicians are employed in the United States.
In many towns and cities there are public-access cable television stations and public radio stations where high school and college students interested in broadcasting and broadcast technology can obtain an internship. An entry-level technician should be flexible about job location; most begin their careers at small stations and with experience may advance to larger-market stations.
Entry-level engineers deal exclusively with the operation and maintenance of their assigned equipment; in contrast, a more advanced broadcast engineer directs the activities of entry-level engineers and makes judgments on the quality, strength, and subject of the material being broadcast.
After several years of experience, a broadcast engineer may advance to assistant chief engineer. In this capacity, he or she may direct the daily activities of all of the broadcasting engineers in the station as well as the field engineers broadcasting on location. Advancement to chief engineer usually requires at least a college degree in engineering and many years of experience. Management and budget planning skills, along with a thorough knowledge of all aspects of broadcast technology, are necessary to become the chief engineer of a radio or television station.
Tips for Entry
Read publications such as the Journal of Broadcasting & Electronic Media and Journal of Radio & Audio Media to learn more about the field.
Join the Society of Broadcast Engineers (SBE) to access its ResumeBank, become certified, participate in continuing education opportunities, and access job listings. The Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers is another good resource for aspiring broadcast engineers.
Become certified by the SBE in order to show employers that you have met the highest standards established by your industry.
Be willing to relocate. It may open more job opportunities.