We've divided this topic into two parts.
In this part we'll discuss:
In Part II we'll discuss:
The Future Looks Bright
No longer are most programs viewed on a family TV set in the middle of the loving room. Programming is now viewed on a variety of personal devices and in a variety of locations. This means that there is a demand for many more programming options. Hence, more jobs have opened up.
What does it take to launch a successful career in a competitive field like broadcast television?
If I can speak personally for a moment, I have been involved in television for several decades -- as an announcer and so-called TV personality, as a producer-director of thousands of hours of TV programming, and as a university professor.
In the latter capacity I watched some of my students work up through the ranks to become producers of TV series and feature-length films.
Others found the going too rough, abandoned their goals, and found employment elsewhere.
What made the difference? Ten things.
And, it doesn't end here.
The electronic media change rapidly. It's the people who keep up with developments as reported by newspapers, the Internet, and "the trades" (professional magazines and journals; see photo) that are in the best position to take advantage of the latest developments.
Knowing how to make best use the latest computer programs and technology can give you an important competitive advantage.
Successful news people, for example, tend to be "news addicts" -- constantly reading about current events.
If reading about developments in your field and "being in the know" doesn't interest you, you should question your interest in broadcasting.
On-Camera vs. Behind-the-Camera
It seems as if the majority of students who become interested in television as a career want to be seen on camera.
But the majority of jobs are behind the camera.
This means that on-camera jobs tend to be extremely competitive and far more difficult to get than production (behind-the-camera) jobs.
Most on-camera jobs are in news. It's not unusual for a news director or personnel manager in a major market (geographic area) to get dozens of resumes a week for an advertised and even an unadvertised on-camera position.
Even small market stations that pay low salaries receive many applications from people who want to gain experience in the hope that can later move to larger market.
Depending on the station and the union restrictions, it's sometimes possible to start behind the camera and then move on to an on-camera position. Small stations can provide this opportunity.
More than one behind-the-camera person, including a female news anchor at a major network station in Los Angeles, stared out this way.
Whatever your goal, it's best to have an alternative plan -- in other words, to prepare for a job in a secondary area. You may have to rely on this to pay the bills while you are waiting for the kind of job you want.
With today's cost of a college education, there has been much debate as to whether a college degree is worth the time and money involved. ( This article discusses this.)
If you have to go into debt paying for a college degree and you will face years paying back loans, it may not be worth it -- at least in terms of dollars and cents.
Although those who question "whether it's worth it" have some good arguments, there is little doubt that a college degree is necessary to "get you in the door" for most desirable jobs.
Plus, without a degree your chances for promotion, especially to a supervisory capacity, will be limited.
Although some successful people brag that they made it without a degree, keep in mind it was much easier a few decades ago when they probably got their start.
Scholarships and Awards
Most colleges provide financial assistance which can cover a large part of college costs. Since amounts vary and depend on need and qualifications, you'll need to invest time researching financial aid for whatever schools you are interested in.
You may find some helpful information on college scholarships, awards, etc., at the Broadcast Education Association Web Page.
College scholarships start at about $1,500 and in many cases go much higher. Don't assume that if you don't have a 4.0 GPA you don't have a chance. Extracurricular activities and unrelated outside work may figure heavily into your eligibility.
What should you major in while in college?
It certainly helps to major in a
field that will directly apply to your aspirations: Telecommunications,
Broadcasting, TV Production, Broadcast News, etc.
Dollars and Cents
Keep in mind that there is a strong relationship between education and lifetime income. Statistics indicate that this relationship is growing stronger with each passing year.
In 1979, the average college graduate made 38 percent more than the average high school graduate. Today, the average college graduate makes about 80 percent more.
Looking at this another way, on average, the lifetime income difference between a high-school graduate and college graduate is now more than four-million dollars.
However, we would be remiss in not mentioning that the communication field is one of the lowest paying, with starting salaries less than half of what it is in some fields. This is something to consider before going into debt for a college education.
The Internet has numerous "Top Ten" lists for schools of broadcasting. However, be aware that some of these have commercial tie-ins and can be biased.
You should also be aware that since colleges are, themselves, operating in a very competitive arena, they sometimes "fudge" success and graduation statistics to get higher national rankings.
Not only that but employers know that to attract and retain students, especially at some private schools, colleges have been "watering down" academic rigor.
Colleges with strong religious views or missions fall into this category and may be viewed with reservations by employers.
When choosing a college,
look for accreditation, the number and types of courses, the school
or division's enrollment, the number and quality of faulty, the size
of classes and labs, and, of course, the broadcast equipment and studio
facilities. In order to be accredited a school must meet certain standards
in these areas.
In addition, the United States has six associated regional accrediting agencies.
Although there are broadcasting schools that do not meet accreditation standards (some with large advertising budgets), the most academically respected schools are accredited.
Impressive facilities won't do you much good if the labs are too big to give you regular hands-on experience, so the size of both classes and labs should be considered.
Many schools include on-air experience through school-owned radio and TV stations. For example, the University of Florida, where the author taught before moving to California, has several on-air stations with large local audiences.
You should visit the school you are seriously considering and look at the campus and facilities and talk to some of the students.
Sometimes the admissions office will set up an appointment with professors and even let you sit in on a class or two.
If you can talk to instructors, ask them about their professional experience in the field.
More and more people with an interest in broadcasting are going on for graduate degrees. A few years ago US News and World Report listed the top universities for graduate work in broadcasting. They are In rank order:
Even at the undergraduate level these universities represent some of the most respected schools for pursuing a bachelor's degree in telecommunications (radio-TV, broadcasting).
Although national rankings are important, since you may spend four years and quite a bit of money at what ever college you choose, investing travel expenses to check out the campus, facilities and faculty is a small investment.
Telecommunications employers also hire people with advanced degrees in related areas. Two possibilities are a MBA (Masters in Business) or a law degree specializing in Communication Law.
If you don't think you can afford college, you should check out this guide to reasonably priced colleges.
You may be surprised to learn that at many campus schools a large part -- sometimes even the majority -- of the tuition you pay goes toward supporting athletics and not academics.
Although athletic programs and a winning football team may be important to a university's statute, they may have much less to do with the education they can provide.
In recent years on-line schools have grown in popularity and respectability. These programs let you work from home and save the ever-increasing cost of room and board at a college or university campus. Even so, many are associated with major universities.
This link will take you to a site that lists dozens of options including general information on on-line schools.
Careers in Broadcast Journalism
A survey of new hires in TV news found that the vast majority (94%) majored in either broadcast news or journalism/mass communication.
Choosing a College Minor
For a college minor for your broadcast degree you might consider Political Science or Sociology.
If you eventually want to end up as a producer-director or manager, consider a minor in Business or Management. A minor in Psychology or Social Psychology would be helpful in any of these areas.
In Part II of this topic we'll discuss some of the most important aspects of getting a job: internships, resumes, finding openings, handling job interviews and "five knockout factors" that can sink your chances of landing and holding on to a job.
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