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How to Be a TV Cameraman: Career Guide

Find out how to become a TV cameraman. Explore the education and training requirements, and learn about the experience you'll need to advance your career in camera operation. View article »

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  • 0:00 TV Cameramen
  • 0:38 Career Skills & Info
  • 1:39 Step 1: High School
  • 2:04 Step 2: College
  • 3:06 Step 3: Create a Demo Reel
  • 3:53 Step 4: Experience

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Video Transcript

TV Cameramen

TV cameramen capture video images that enhance television shows or broadcast news programs. They work in the studio or on the scene of a news story. The work involves both live broadcasts and recorded video edited into segments for later broadcast. Cameramen also make sure the lighting and sound is correct during a shoot. TV cameramen typically work full-time and often have to put in long hours. The job can involve standing for long periods of time or working outdoors in inclement weather.

Career Skills & Info

TV cameramen need good communication, listening, and time management skills. They should also have the coordination necessary to work with camera, lighting and sound equipment. TV cameramen must be computer literate and know how to use non-linear editing software. They should also feel comfortable working with mobile satellite technology for live transmission of video feeds.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), camera operators working in the motion picture, television and video industries can expect a 2%, or slower-than-average, increase in jobs from 2014-2024. There is often strong competition for these jobs. As of May 2015, camera operators earned a median annual salary of $49,080. Let's look at some of the steps involved in becoming a TV camera man or woman.

Step 1: High School

In general, TV cameramen generally must have a high school diploma. Obtaining some experience with digital video camera equipment and non-linear editing technology while still in high school can enable students to become familiar with the process. Taking high school courses in videography and journalism can also help aspiring cameramen develop skills commonly used in this industry.

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Step 2: College

While not all positions require the cameraman to have an associate's or bachelor's degree, some employers prefer TV cameramen with a college education. In 2014, O*Net Online reported that 41% of camera operators, including those who worked for television stations, had associate's degrees, while 24% had bachelor's degrees. For example, an aspiring TV cameraman or camerawoman may pursue a degree in broadcasting, film, journalism, photography, or photojournalism. Course topics may include photography and videography, communications and journalism. Students may also take classes in news reporting and writing.

Take Electives in Photography

Students interested in careers as camera operators should take courses that feature the technology and techniques used by professionals in the field. These includes photography, videography and video editing classes.

Step 3: Create a Demo Reel

Television stations often require applicants to submit a demo reel, a collection of the cameraman's best work, that showcases his or her composition, visual communication, lighting, sound and video editing skills. This demo reel can be in the form of a DVD or uploaded to a website. The link can be provided to a potential employer as part of the job application.

Be Selective

When assembling a demo reel, choose a limited number of examples that demonstrate a range of projects and techniques, along with technical proficiency and visual storytelling abilities. Applicants should not overwhelm employers with too much imagery or gimmicks.

Step 4: Experience

Regardless of the degree requirements, most news stations require their cameramen to have some experience. Starting in high school, aspiring TV cameramen can work on school broadcasts or other projects. College degree programs often offer or recommend internships, where students work for local news stations as part of their graduation requirements. Independent or contract projects can also help camera operators build experience.

Check Local Ads for Videography Gigs

Local ads, including online want ad sites, often have producers seeking videographers for their small, independent projects. This is a low-risk way for the inexperienced cameraman to earn valuable experience.

Let's review. A 2-year or 4-year degree in broadcasting, film, photography, photojournalism or other related major, combined with relevant experience, may help you qualify for a job as a TV cameraman. As of May 2015, camera operators overall earned a median annual salary of $49,080.

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