How to Become a Broadcast Engineer: Education and Career Guide

Learn how to become a broadcast engineer. Research the education requirements, training information, and experience you'll need to start a career in broadcast engineering. View article »

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  • 0:03 Become a Broadcast Engineer
  • 1:18 Get an Undergraduate Degree
  • 2:37 Gain Experience
  • 3:24 Obtain Licensure
  • 4:06 Get Certified

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Video Transcript

Become a Broadcast Engineer

Broadcast engineers, also known as broadcast engineering technicians, set up and operate video and audio equipment for television or radio broadcasts. At small stations, their work might involve all aspects of production, while at large stations, each engineer might have his or her own specialized tasks. Work hours might include nights and weekends because of 24-hour broadcasting. Heavy lifting may be involved when setting up equipment, and maintenance functions might call for climbing towers or poles.

Broadcast engineers must have knowledge of Adobe Systems Adobe After Effects, Adobe Illustrator, and Photoshop software, as well as Microsoft Office and Excel. They also must be familiar with audio mixing consoles, sound effect generators, audio and video patch bays, and master control switchers. As of May 2015, broadcast engineers made a mean annual salary of $44,050, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Degree Level High school diploma or associate degree is standard; some employers seek a bachelor's degree
Degree Field Communications or broadcast technology, electrical engineering
Experience 1-3+ years of experience in the field
Key Skills Knowledge of Adobe Systems Adobe After Effects, Adobe Illustrator, and Photoshop software; Microsoft Office and Excel; knowledge of audio mixing consoles, sound effect generators, audio and video patch bays, and master control switchers
Mean Annual Salary (2015)* $44,050 (for broadcast technicians)

Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, job posting, Occupational Information Network

Let's look at the steps you need to take to work in this career…

Step 1: Get an Undergraduate Degree

An Associate of Applied Science in Broadcast Engineering program can teach students to use common equipment, repair minor electronics, and draw electronic diagrams. To work for a major network or advance in the field, though, individuals should consider pursuing a Bachelor of Science in Electrical Engineering. Bachelor's programs introduce students to more advanced concepts in analog and digital systems and communications, signal processing, semiconductors, embedded systems, and electrical networks. Electrical engineering programs place heavy emphasis on advanced math and science coursework, such as calculus and physics. In addition to electrical engineering programs, individuals can find combined electrical engineering and computer science degree programs. Programs such as these might be useful with the increased use of computer systems in the field.

Success Tip:

  • Develop skills with computers and electronics. This career requires that you know how to set up and test various electrical equipment items, so it can be helpful to understand computer systems and how electronics work.

Step 2: Gain Experience

Some employers require a year or more of experience before they'll hire individuals as broadcast engineers. One way to gain the required experience is to complete an internship. Broadcast engineering internships are available through a number of organizations, such as local television or radio stations or broadcasting associations, such as the Society of Broadcast Engineers (SBE). Interns work under the direct supervision of a chief engineer. Depending on the internship, individuals might be given the opportunity to perform minor duties related to broadcast engineering, such as assisting in equipment maintenance.

Step 3: Obtain Licensure

Obtaining a license is not always mandatory to work as a broadcast engineer, although positions in radio might require Federal Communications Commission (FCC) licensure. The FCC offers a number of licenses, but the most common sought for those in broadcast engineering is the General Radiotelephone Operator License. The exam for licensure tests you on not only your knowledge of electronic fundamentals, repairs, and operations, but also basic FCC laws and operating practices. It is a lifetime licensure, and obtaining licensure requires being a U.S. citizen and being fluent in English.

Step 4: Get Certified

Certification is voluntary, but it might help job candidates stand out. The Society of Broadcast Engineers offers eight certification designations, including the Certified Broadcast Networking Technologist (CBNT), Certified Broadcast Technologist (CBT), and Certified Professional Broadcast Engineer (CPBE). Much of the certification is offered for either radio or television. Requirements vary depending on the designation; this variance can range from having no experience to having 20 years of professional experience. Some certification exams might seek qualifications such as a holding a professional engineer (PE) license or an FCC license. Novice broadcast engineers commonly start with the CBT designation.

In summary, a broadcast engineer usually needs a bachelor's degree in electrical engineering and experience as an intern. FCC licensure might be required, and voluntary certification could enhance job prospects.

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