Camera Operator: Job Duties & Career Information

Camera operators use camera and recording equipment to capture events and scenes as they unfold. If working on the filming aspects of the next big summer blockbuster or popular television series sounds fun, read on to learn more about a career as a camera operator.

Career Definition for a Camera Operator

Camera operators use a variety of different equipment to record a product that amuses or educates an audience or to record events such as sports games or political speeches. Through the use of video, television or picture cameras, camera operators must record scenes using different angles and shots for a wide diversity of industries, such as television programming, daily news shows, sporting events, films, documentaries and many others. Maintenance and proper handling of the equipment, film and recording devices are the most important duties in camera operating because of the costliness of the equipment.

Education Bachelor's degree in film or film production is common
Job Skills Hand-eye coordination, patience, endurance
Median Salary (2017)* $53,550 for camera operators
Job Growth (2016-2026)* 7% for camera operators

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Required Education

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, camera operators usually hold a bachelor's degree in film or a similar field. Courses in these programs typically go over the equipment, shooting techniques and the general processes of film shooting. Aspiring camera operators could also go to film school to learn about the artistic or creative aspects of cinematography. In addition, some colleges and universities offer cinematography certificates.

Skills Required

Camera operators require excellent hand-eye coordination combined with an artistic flair to obtain the shots each unique scene demands. Remaining patient and having the endurance to work on a set for long periods of time is a talent that continues to develop over time for camera operators as projects often require long hours of hard work to create the final, perfect product.

Vocation and Financial Outlook

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the median yearly salary of camera operators was $53,550 in 2017. Camera operators are expected to see an average growth (7%) in the job market from 2016-2026, per the BLS. Job competition will be tough and require camera operators to go to extra lengths in order to secure employment. Cities that are big on entertainment, such as L.A. and NYC, offer the most opportunities for camera operators.

Alternate Career Options

You might consider these other choices for careers involving working with cameras:


Although postsecondary education isn't required for this profession, some career hopefuls do take photography courses at colleges, vocational schools or art schools to learn the techniques for composing, creating and preserving visual images. An employment decline of 6% was predicted for photographers by the BLS from 2016-2026. In 2017, the BLS reported an annual median wage of $32,490 for these professionals.

Producer and Director

For those who want to be in charge while creating television shows, movies or live theater, working as a producer or director might be appealing. Most of these professionals have bachelor's degrees and work experience in acting or writing. The BLS projected an 12% increase in jobs for 2016-2026, which was faster than the average for all occupations at that time. Producers and directors earned a median annual salary of $71,620 in 2017, according to the BLS.

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