Broadcast and digital communications permeate every areas of our lives: we listen to the radio in the car, watch television at home, and use the internet at work. But even though the results of the field are everywhere, the industry still faces challenges — both from emerging technology and corporate restructuring. That’s why students considering broadcasting or digital communications can benefit from a solid education, which will arm them with the necessary skills and prepare them for the speed bumps ahead.
Challenges and Opportunities for Broadcasters
Broadcasting and digital communications encompasses all forms of radio, television, and online media, whether it’s a small-town community college radio station or CNN. In addition to being the most pervasive forms of information in our society, broadcast and online media are also the best at relaying time-sensitive, critical news – everything from reports on the morning commute to hurricane warnings. Some members of the field, such as news anchors and DJs, end up being household names, but there’s also legions of production staff, engineers, managers, and salespeople who make the industry work.
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The rapid pace of technological innovation has benefited the field with innovations like satellite radio, digital radio, and HDTV. But technology also presents challenges: many media companies have not figured out how to monetize the turn to the internet, with its accompanying loss of traditional advertising revenue, and piracy remains rampant. In many cases, the technology is also changing faster than employees can keep up, leading to great demand for technically-skilled workers. The field of digital communication is evolving particularly rapidly, which can make it a major challenge to stay on top of the latest developments.
Challenges have also come from the corporate side of the industry. In recent years, many media companies have consolidated both offices and offerings in an attempt to stay lean and mean during the recession. Coupled with the increasing automation of some jobs, that’s meant declining opportunities in many areas.
Degrees in Radio, TV, and Digital Communications
Broadcasting is an increasingly competitive field, and a college education is becoming key to standing out from the crowd. Many programs focus on developing technical skills and understanding the business side of the industry, although they also teach students how to tell a good story.
On the practical side, students in broadcasting and digital communications programs learn how to write, produce, edit, and direct media content. Many will also learn project management skills, budgeting, and teamwork. Depending on their focus area, students may also study lighting and composition, storytelling, script writing, camera operation, or technical programs like Final Cut Pro. Many programs will supplement coursework with hands-on projects.
The skills students need to develop will depend on where exactly they want to work. Radio journalists need to understanding writing, editing, and interviewing, as well as develop some technical proficiency. Announcers need to hone their presentation skills. Managers need to know budgeting and planning. Sales personnel will need research skills, while engineers will need technical savvy. Students interested in digital communications need to understand web strategy, and will benefit from at least basic technical skills.
Most institutions want students to understand broadcasting from a variety of angles, even those outside their immediate area of interest. This help students develop respect and empathy for co-workers, and helps them do their our own job better. In today’s economy, you never know when you’ll be asked to be a pinch-hitter.
Degrees in the field include:
- Bachelor of Communications in Broadcast and Digital Journalism
- Bachelors of Science in Mass Communication
- Bachelor of Arts in Broadcast Communications
- Master of Arts in Broadcast Communication
- Master of Science in Mass Communications with an emphasis on Radio and Television
- Master of Digital Media
- Master of Interactive Technology
- Master of Entertainment Technology
- Doctor of Philosophy in Communications
Internships in Radio, TV, and Digital Broadcasting
Prospective interns may want to look for opportunities at Radio or TV stations, media production companies, film companies, video game companies, animation studios, documentary production companies, or even digital ad agencies. Local charities and volunteer groups are also often badly in need of people to help produce audio, visual, or online content.
Students may also want to get in touch with groups such as the National Association of Broadcasters, the National Federation of Broadcasters, or the Radio-Television News Directors Association for further guidance about internship or career options.
Careers for Broadcasters
Some members of the broadcasting field, such as news anchors and DJs, end up as household names. But there’s also legions of production staff, engineers, managers, and salespeople who make the industry work. And while the trends towards downsizing, automation, and consolidated ownership has reduced the number of in-house opportunities, growth areas like satellite and internet radio have created more jobs in some areas. Regulatory requirements added in recent years have also added to the need for directors, librarians, administrators who can keep of the paperwork.
Jobs in the broadcast and digital industry generally fall into five categories: production, news, sales, engineering, and administration. Radio stations provide jobs for broadcast journalists, DJs, announcers, hosts, directors, production staff, equipment operators, music librarians, and sales and marketing staff. Television stations hire production or operations managers, producers, directors, announcers, anchors, editors, researchers, administrators, engineers, and many other positions. Digital communications companies need web strategists, content writers, audio and video editors, bloggers, podcasters, marketing people, production designers, web developers, user interface designers, and more.
In addition to radio or television stations and websites, corporate media departments also need audio and video professionals to create products for training, sales, and more. Universities, colleges, performance venues, government agencies, and the media also need broadcast and digital media professionals. Some of the best opportunities may be found at independent production companies, which are taking up the slack from in-house downsizing.
According to the United States Department of Labor Bureau of Labor Statistics, jobs for Broadcast News Analysts will rise over 10% between 2010 and 2020. Opportunities for Broadcast Announcers are forecast to grow 6.6% during the same time period. Jobs for Media and Communication Equipment Workers will grow 9.4%, with particular growth for Audio and Video Equipment Technicians (at 10.4%). The government has yet to start tracking jobs for those in digital communications. In general, technically-skilled positions are the most in demand.
Salaries for Radio, TV, and Digital Broadcasters
2011 estimates from the Bureau of Labor Statistics for mean hourly and annual wages in radio, television, and digital communications careers are listed below:
- Radio and Television Announcers (radio, television, and other industries): $19.47 hourly and $40,510 annually
- Public Address System and Other Announcers (radio, television, and other industries): $19.17 hourly and $39,870 annually
- Broadcast News Analysts (radio, television, and other industries): $36.71 hourly and $76,370 annually
- Reporters and Correspondents (radio and television): $24.72 hourly and $51,410 annually
- Writers and Authors (radio and television): $30.72 hourly and $63,900 annually
- Audio and Video Equipment Technicians (radio and television): $19.20 hourly and $39,930 annually
- Broadcast Technicians (radio and television): $19.62 hourly and $40,810 annually
- Sound Engineering Technicians (radio and television): $24.79 hourly and $51,550 annually
- Camera Operators (radio and television): $19.94 hourly and $41,480 annually
- Film and Video Editors (radio and television): $27.54 hourly and $57,280 annually
- Management Occupations (radio and television): $59.25 hourly and $123,230 annually