Careers in Radio Broadcasting: Options and Requirements

Programs in radio broadcasting typically cover journalism and communications. Find out about the curricula of these programs, and learn about career options, job growth and salary info for radio broadcasting graduates.

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The educational requirements for a career in radio broadcasting vary from completing high school to acquiring a graduate degree. For example, some employers prefer general managers with a master's degree in business administration. Other career options available to individuals with less education include radio announcer, sales manager, radio engineer and programming director.

Essential Information

Radio broadcasting careers can generally be broken down into four categories: management, professional, sales and technical occupations. A background in journalism, broadcasting or communications would be a helpful start for entry into many of these careers.

Career General Manager Programming Director Sales Manager Radio Engineer Radio Announcer
Required Education Bachelor's in business Associate's or bachelor's degree High school diploma Bachelor's degree Bachelor's degree
Other Requirements MBA (for some employers) Internship Bachelor's (for advancement) Certification Internship
Projected Job Growth (2014-2024)* 7% (general and operations managers) 9% (directors and producers) 5% (all sales managers) 7% (broadcast and sound engineering technicians) -14% (all radio and TV announcers)
Median Annual Wage (2015)* $97,730 $68,440 $113,860 (all sales managers) $41,780 (broadcast and sound engineering technicians) $30,960 (all radio and TV announcers)

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

General Manager

Beginning at the top of the food chain, the general manager is responsible for the overall financial health and performance of a radio station. At smaller stations, the general manager and a bookkeeper may deal with all of the administrative and accounting matters. At larger stations, managers may have an administrative staff that assists them with these functions.

Career Requirements for General Managers

Management jobs usually require a bachelor's degree in business, and some employers may require candidates to have a master's degree in business administration. A large amount of experience working in the radio business is often expected from general managers, and a typical route to gaining this experience is through working in the sales department. However, other positions, such as programming director, can be stepping stones to this career as well.

Employment Outlook and Salary Information for General Managers

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), employment opportunities for general and operations managers are expected to increase 6% between 2014 and 2024. Individuals with leadership qualities and a successful track record may have the edge in finding employment. Salary data from the BLS shows general and operations managers earned a median annual salary of $97,730 in 2015.

Programming Director

When they think of radio broadcasting, most people think of the on-air talent, such as radio announcers, disc jockeys and news reporters. However, professional careers in radio also include jobs in programming or operations. Programming directors determine the creative vision for a radio station or show, develop programming content and handle radio promotion projects. At smaller stations, they may also be responsible for choosing what music is played, which is a job that is usually handled by the musical director at larger stations.

Career Requirements for Programming Directors

More and more employers in the broadcasting industry are requiring job seekers to hold college degrees. Junior colleges offer associate's degrees in broadcasting, and 4-year universities offer bachelor's degrees in communications with concentrations in radio and television. Students may take courses such as communication ethics, audio production and public relations. While in school, students may want to consider working for the school radio station or interning at a professional station, as many employers require that new hires already have some broadcast experience.

Employment Outlook and Salary Information for Programming Directors

Producers and directors earned a median salary of $68,440 in May 2015, while producers and directors in radio and television broadcasting earned a mean annual salary of $72,020, based on figures from the BLS. The BLS predicts demand for producers and directors, in general, will increase by 9% over the 2014 to 2024 decade.

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Sales Managers

Just as important to the survival of a radio station as the management team, the sales or marketing department is a driving force behind a station's success. General, national and local sales managers and their staff work together to generate revenue from advertising and other non-traditional sources of income, as well as promote the station's image and on-air personalities. Depending on the position, sales managers may give presentations to clients, spend long periods of time on the phone managing accounts, train sales staff and develop marketing strategies.

Career Requirements for Sales Managers

While entry into a career in sales does not necessarily require a college degree, a degree is certainly helpful and may be required. Relevant degrees for this career may be in advertising or marketing. Gaining valuable work experience by starting out as a lower-level sales associate or junior account executive will place prospective sales managers in an optimal position to advance to a higher level.

Employment Outlook and Salary Information for Sales Managers

The job outlook for sales managers across industries is predicted to increase by 5% over the 2014 to 2024 time frame, according to the BLS. In May of 2015, the median annual salary was reported to be $113,860.

Radio Engineers

The technical department for a radio station may include directors of engineering, chief engineers, master control engineers and communications engineers. Engineers maintain the equipment used in radio broadcasts and make sure that all systems are functioning properly. They are responsible for a station's facilities and technical integrity and may provide technical support.

Career Requirements for Radio Engineers

For radio engineers, it is important to have a bachelor's degree, especially for higher-level positions. A 4-year degree in electrical engineering or computer engineering would probably be the most relevant for this career. For those who aspire to be directors of engineering at a radio station, a Federal Communications Commission license is required and certification by the Society of Broadcast Engineers (SBE) is helpful (www.sbe.org). The SBE offers a multitude of different credentials, including the Certified Audio Engineer and Certified Broadcast Networking Engineer.

Employment Outlook and Salary Information for Radio Engineers

Broadcast and sound engineering technicians, including radio engineers, are expected to see a 7% increase in employment availability during the period from 2014 to 2024, according to the BLS. The median salary for all broadcast and sound engineering technicians in 2015 was $41,780; the mean salary for broadcast technicians in radio and television was $41,590, based on data from the BLS.

Radio Announcers

Of course there could be no radio station without the on-air personalities that provide the entertainment or news. Radio announcers, including disc jockeys and news reporters, play the music, report the news, announce commercials, give public service announcements, interact with listeners and provide general commentary and entertainment at all other times.

Career Requirements for Radio Announcers

As with all aspects of the entertainment business, there is quite a lot of competition for what is perceived as the glamorous position of radio announcer. The same requirements apply for radio announcer as for other professional occupations in the radio broadcasting industry: a college degree in a relevant major such as broadcasting or communications and radio experience.

Once again, it is helpful for students to gain experience working at the school radio station or interning at a local station. Ideally, prospective radio announcers should have good speaking voices and a broad knowledge regarding their show's topic, which can include music, sports, politics and current events.

Employment Outlook and Salary Information for Radio Announcers

A 14% decrease in job opportunities is predicted for radio and television announcers during the 2014 to 2024 decade, as reported by the BLS. Advancements in technology in the radio broadcasting industry allow stations to get by with a smaller number of announcers, and stations are also consolidating, which is contributing to the decline in jobs in this field. The best shot for those hoping to enter the field may be in small markets. The BLS shows an annual median salary of $30,960 for radio and television announcers for 2015.

A high school diploma is required to become a sales manager, although a degree in marketing or advertising is an asset and may increase opportunities for advancement. Programming directors need an associate's or bachelor's degree, and general managers, radio announcers and radio engineers need a bachelor's degree in a relevant subject area to prepare for their careers. From 2014 to 2024, programming directors, radio engineers and general managers are expected to enjoy the fastest rates of job growth within this industry, while radio announcers will see job decline within their field.

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