Career Definition for a Production Assistant
A production assistant may have the most diverse set of responsibilities of anyone on a television or film crew. They might order and pick up meals, answer phones, copy and distribute scripts, make spreadsheet entries, perform Internet research, type call sheets or walk the director's dog. It is a highly visible position and is often very stressful, but it can be a valuable introduction to the entertainment industry by providing an insider's view to every job on the set. Production assistants may be needed anywhere in the country, but most opportunities are in New York City and Los Angeles.
|Required Education||Graduation from bachelor's degree program with classes like theater, television and film production in most cases|
|Job Duties||Picking up meals, answering phones, copying and distributing scripts, typing call sheets|
|Median Salary (2018)||$31,170 (production assistants)*|
|Job Outlook (2016-2026)||12% growth (producers and directors)**|
Sources: *Salary.com, **U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
Getting your first production assistant job may require a bachelor's degree with coursework in communications, theater, English or television and film production. Experience in student films and theater productions, as well as internships with television stations and production companies, may also be an advantage. Every day, production offices are flooded with resumes, so persistence and follow-up are keys to getting hired. Networking through organizations, such as alumni associations, and targeted cold calling to existing productions may also open doors.
Production assistants must be prepared, resourceful and motivated. The same amount of persistence used to land the job will often be needed to keep the job. Solid office and computer skills are required, as are the abilities to answer multiple phones, take messages and place phone calls. Though production assistants generally report to the production coordinator, requests can come from any department on the set. A production assistant must be able to follow directions, work long hours, maintain a good attitude and stay calm and organized under pressure. A driver's license and clean driving record are usually required, and a production assistant is often expected to use his or her own car to make deliveries and run errands.
Economic and Career Outlook
Most production assisting jobs are typically short-term and lack benefits. The median salary for production assistants was $31,170 in March 2018, according to Salary.com. Jobs may last from just a few days to several months, depending on the type of production, but effective networking and solid job performance can increase opportunities as you build your resume. Television series, especially returning shows, may have the most potential for long-term employment and promotion from within.
Alternate Career Options
Some alternate career options include the following:
Producer and Director
Producers and directors usually have a bachelor's degree, often in cinema or film, in addition to several years of experience working in a related field. They select and interpret scripts and then oversee the creation of movies, TV shows and live theater performances. Faster-than-average employment growth of 12% was projected by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics for producer and director positions from 2016-2026 (www.bls.gov). In 2017, these professionals earned a median annual salary of $71,620, and the BLS notes that some producers and directors earn a portion of ticket sales. Those working in advertising and public relations earned the top wages, while those in the performing arts were on the lower end of the reported median income spectrum.
Some announcers have bachelor's degrees in broadcasting, communications or journalism, in addition to possible job experience from a college TV or radio station. They present news, music and sports, or they interview guests and provide commentary. A 9% decline was expected in the number of available jobs during the 2016-2026 decade, said the BLS. Announcers earned an annual median wage of $31,500 in 2017, according to the BLS.