Broadcast and sound engineering technicians set up, operate, and maintain the electrical equipment for radio and television broadcasts, concerts, sound recordings, and movies and in office and school buildings.
Broadcast and sound engineering technicians typically do the following:
- Operate, monitor, and adjust audio and video equipment to regulate the volume and ensure quality in radio and television broadcasts, concerts, and other performances
- Set up and tear down equipment for events and live performances
- Record speech, music, and other sounds on recording equipment or computers, sometimes using complex software
- Synchronize sounds and dialogue with action taking place on television or in movie productions
- Convert video and audio records to digital formats for editing on computers
- Install audio, video, and sometimes lighting equipment in hotels, offices, and schools
- Report and repair complex equipment problems
- Keep records of recordings and equipment used
These workers may be called broadcast or sound engineering technicians, operators, or engineers. At smaller radio and television stations, broadcast and sound technicians may do many jobs. At larger stations, they are likely to do more specialized work, although their job assignments may vary day to day. They set up and operate audio and video equipment, and the kind of equipment they use may depend on the particular type of technician or industry.
Duties of broadcast and sound engineering technicians vary by specific focus, but they share many of the same responsibilities.
Audio and video equipment technicians set up and operate audio and video equipment. They also connect wires and cables and set up and operate sound and mixing boards and related electronic equipment.
Audio and video equipment technicians work with microphones, speakers, video screens, projectors, video monitors, and recording equipment. The equipment they operate is used for meetings, concerts, sports events, conventions, and news conferences. They also operate equipment at conferences and at presentations for businesses and universities.
Audio and video equipment technicians may also set up and operate custom lighting systems. They frequently work directly with clients and must provide solutions to problems in a simple, clear manner.
Broadcast technicians set up, operate, and maintain equipment that regulates the signal strength, clarity, and ranges of sounds and colors for radio or television broadcasts. They operate transmitters to broadcast radio or television programs and use computer programs to edit audio and video recordings.
Sound engineering technicians operate computers and equipment that record, synchronize, mix, or reproduce music, voices, or sound effects in recording studios, sporting arenas, theater productions, or movie and video productions. They record audio performances or events and may combine tracks that were recorded separately to create a multilayered final product. Sound engineering technicians operate transmitters to broadcast radio or television programs and use computers to program the equipment and edit audio recordings.
(Information on foley artists, a type of sound engineering technician, can be accessed from the Occupational Outlook Quarterly.)
The following are examples of types of broadcast and sound engineering technicians:
Recording engineers operate and maintain video and sound recording equipment. These engineers work with computers, computer networks, and software to produce special effects for radio, television, or movies.
Sound mixers, or rerecording mixers, produce soundtracks for movies or television programs. After filming or recording is complete, these workers often dub the final product by adding or removing sounds.
Field technicians set up and operate portable equipment outside the studio—for example, for television news coverage. Because this coverage requires so much electronic equipment and the technology is changing so rapidly, many technicians are assigned exclusively to news coverage teams.
Chief engineers, transmission engineers, and broadcast field supervisors oversee other technicians and maintain broadcasting equipment.
Broadcast and sound engineering technicians held about 121,400 jobs in 2012. Their employment was distributed among the detailed occupations as follows:
|Audio and video equipment technicians||67,700|
|Sound engineering technicians||17,000|
Broadcast and sound engineering technicians typically work indoors in radio, television, movie, or recording studios. However, some work outdoors in all types of conditions to broadcast news and other programming on location. Audio and video technicians also set up systems in offices, schools, government agencies, hospitals, and homes.
The industries that employed the most broadcast and sound engineering technicians in 2012 were as follows:
|Radio and television broadcasting||24%|
|Motion picture and video industries||10|
|Colleges, universities, and professional
schools; state, local, and private
Technicians doing maintenance may climb poles or antenna towers, and those setting up equipment do heavy lifting.
Technicians typically work full time. Some may occasionally work overtime to meet broadcast deadlines or set up for live events. Evening, weekend, and holiday work is common because most stations are on the air 24 hours a day.
Technicians who work on motion pictures may be on a tight schedule and may work long hours to meet contract deadlines with movie studios.
Broadcast and sound engineering technicians typically need postsecondary education, but depending on the work they do, it could be a postsecondary non-degree award or an associate’s degree.
Audio and video equipment technicians, as well as sound engineering technicians, typically need a postsecondary non-degree award or certificate, whereas broadcast technicians typically need an associate’s degree. However, in some cases they may only need a high school diploma to be eligible for entry-level positions.
Postsecondary non-degree programs for audio and video equipment technicians and sound engineering technicians may take several months to a year to complete. The programs include hands-on experience with the equipment used in many entry-level positions.
Broadcast technicians typically need an associate’s degree. In addition to courses in math and science, coursework for prospective broadcast technicians should emphasize practical skills such as video editing and production management.
Prospective broadcast and sound engineering technicians should complete high school courses in math, physics, and electronics. They must have excellent computer skills to be successful.
Communication skills. Technicians need to communicate with supervisors and coworkers to ensure that clients’ needs are met and that equipment is set up properly before broadcasts, live performances, and presentations.
Computer skills. Technicians need computer skills since they use computer systems to program equipment and edit audio and video recordings.
Manual dexterity. Technicians set up audio and visual equipment and cables, which requires a steady hand and good hand-eye coordination. Others adjust small knobs, dials, and sliders during radio and television broadcasts and live performances.
Problem-solving skills. Technicians need to recognize equipment problems and propose possible solutions to them. Employers typically desire applicants with a variety of skills, who are able to set up equipment, maintain the equipment, and troubleshoot and solve any problems.
Because technology is constantly improving, technicians often enroll in continuing education and receive on-the-job training to become skilled in new equipment and hardware. On-the-job training takes less than 6 months and includes topics such as setting up cables or automation systems, testing electrical equipment, learning the codes and standards of the industry, and following safety procedures.
Training for new hires can be accomplished in a variety of ways, depending on the types of products and services the employer provides. Although some formal apprenticeship programs do exist, more frequently a new technician will accompany a more experienced technician to get the training and skills necessary for advancement.
Practical experience working in a high school or college audiovisual department can also help prepare someone to be an audio and video equipment technician.
Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations
Although not required by most employers, earning voluntary certification will offer advantages in getting a job as a broadcast or sound engineering technician. Certification tells employers that the technician meets certain industry standards and has kept up to date with new technologies.
For example, the Society of Broadcast Engineers offers eight broadcast engineering certifications, two operator certifications, and a broadcast networking certification, each of which requires passing an exam. Similarly, InfoComm International offers an audiovisual Certified Technology Specialist credential.
Although many broadcast and sound engineering technicians work first in small markets or with small stations in big markets, after they gain the necessary experience and skills they often transfer to larger, better paying radio or television stations. Few large stations hire someone without previous experience, and they value more specialized skills.
Experienced workers with strong technical skills can become supervisory technicians or chief engineers. To become chief engineer at large television stations, technicians typically need a bachelor’s degree in engineering or computer science.
The median annual wage for broadcast and sound engineering technicians was $41,200 in May 2012. The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $20,680, and the top 10 percent earned more than $79,170.
Median annual wages for broadcast and sound engineering technicians in May 2012 were as follows:
- $46,310 for sound engineering technicians
- $41,850 for audio and video equipment technicians
- $37,880 for broadcast technicians
Technicians working in major cities typically earn more than those working in smaller locations.
Technicians usually work full time. Some may occasionally work overtime to meet broadcast deadlines or set up for live events. Evening, weekend, and holiday work is common because most radio and television stations are on the air 24 hours a day.
Technicians who work on motion pictures may be on a tight schedule and may work long hours to meet contract deadlines with the movie studio.
Employment of broadcast and sound engineering technicians is projected to grow 9 percent from 2012 to 2022, about as fast as the average for all occupations. Growth is expected to stem from businesses, schools, and radio and television stations seeking new equipment to improve their audio and video capabilities.
Employment of audio and visual equipment technicians is projected to grow 14 percent from 2012 to 2022, about as fast as the average for all occupations. Audio and video equipment is in demand in many buildings, where technicians set up new equipment or upgrade and maintain old, complex systems. More companies are increasing their video budgets so they can use video conferencing to reduce travel costs and communicate worldwide with other offices and clients.
An increase in the use of digital signage for schools, hospitals, and hotels also will lead to higher demand for audio and video equipment technicians.
Schools and universities are seeking to improve their audio and video capabilities to attract and keep the best students. They are building classrooms with interactive whiteboards and video equipment so teachers can give more interactive multimedia presentations and record lectures.
Employment of broadcast technicians is projected to grow 3 percent from 2012 to 2022, slower than the average for all occupations. Employment of sound engineering technicians is projected to show little or no change from 2012 to 2022. The television and motion picture industry will continue to need technicians to improve the picture quality of shows and movies. The industry is installing the latest technologies, such as digital or 3D screens, in movie and home theaters and is converting existing theaters to new formats.
Competition for jobs will be strong. This occupation attracts many applicants who are interested in working with the latest technology and electronic equipment. Many applicants also are attracted to working in the radio and television industry.
Those looking for work in this industry will have the most job opportunities in smaller markets or stations. Those with hands-on experience with complex electronics and software, or with work experience at a radio or television station, will have the best job prospects. In addition, technicians should be versatile since they set up, operate, and maintain equipment, whereas previously technicians typically specialized in one area.
An associate’s or bachelor’s degree in broadcast technology, broadcast production, computer networking, or a related field will also improve job prospects for applicants.
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