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Need advice for finding a job in radio as an engineer

Discussion in 'Studio Lounge' started by cprovenzo, May 29, 2004.

  1. cprovenzo

    cprovenzo Guest

    Well I'm at a point in my life where I'm seriously considering a career change. I studied at SAE Miami for two years and graduated at the top of my class (school for that matter), worked on a few demos and have really been building my recording chops for some time now. Problem is I've realized as much of you have pointed out in other threads that the way of the recording engineer is loooong hard, lonely road. I love this stuff, really love it, but I know I want a life and a family too (oh yeah I'm about to turn 30 so I'm a little bit old in this game). Anyway I'm considering looking at radio as a possible compromise between doing what I love and having a life too. The thing is I don't have a lot of background knowledge as to the types of jobs, the process, etc. All I've heard is that it's not quite as impossible a feat as trying to make it in a studio. So I kinda want to make this an open thread for any info regarding how to go about finding a job in broadcast and things to expect.


  2. Thomas W. Bethel

    Thomas W. Bethel Well-Known Member

    If you think finding a job as a recording engineer is tough WAIT until you try and get on as a radio audio engineer.

    Most local radio stations today are automated. The have a feed from the sat and a feed to the tranny and a small console to do local weather and news break ins and local ads off a computer server and that is about it. NPR is still doing a lot of live stuff and they are always looking for good engineers but they have had a lot of "funding" problems lately and may not be hiring. Radio is not what it use to be. Most radio stations today are O and O (owned and operated) by big conglomerates located in places like California and they provide all the programming for the locals via satellite.

    This is not meant to discourage you but it is a tough field to get into. College stations and NPR stations don't pay well but are still the best places to look for work.

    Most stations today don't even have a full time engineer on duty. The rely on "six packers" who take care of multiple stations and are "on call" for emergencies.

    Best of luck but.....not sure of your chances.

  3. cprovenzo

    cprovenzo Guest

    What about televison, is this just as bad?
  4. Thomas W. Bethel

    Thomas W. Bethel Well-Known Member

    Television is a mixed bag

    Most local TV stations are simply NOT looking for any new engineers.

    The PBS station here in town just fired 8 engineers with a total of 140 years of experience as a "cost savings" measure. Most of that station's programming is coming in from the PBS Network and they don't do much local programming except for auctions and fund drives. I use to work there a long time ago and we did a lot of local stuff and therefore needed a lot of engineers but not anymore.

    There are jobs around but it may mean relocation for you and your family if you get a job out of state. Many TV stations are Union (IATSE or IBEW) and you have to start at almost zero pay and work your way up plus paying union dues and an union entrance fee which can be a lot of money.

    In many stations you will need an FCC broadcast license in order to work there. If you are not a technical wiz you will have to cram for the exam or go to a school that will teach you what you need to know to pass the exam.

    Most local TV stations do not provide local programming any more except for the news.

    The last time I was in a local TV stations all the faders were taped down so that the "audio engineer" had to do was push the on/off buttons on each channel and ride the master fader. They had a compressor across the output of the board in case they forgot to ride the levels. Each of the faders had a person's name on it for the news along with a couple of cart machines, a stereo audio feed from the audio server and a network feed. Not rocket science and the person doing the "audio engineering" knew less about audio than my 10 year old niece. He was a very nice person but hadn't a clue when it came to what he was doing. He was a projectionist for a theater that got torn down so he worked his way into the TV station though the union affiliation.

    I am not a member of SBE (Society of Broadcast Engineers) but I go to lots of their meetings since I have a lot of friends in the group. The guys are always complaining that "management" is trying hard to automate the engineers out of employment. If the TV station managers could figure a way to completely automate the local news (they are already using robot cameras so no more cameramen) they would do it in a heartbeat and would fire everyone who is an engineer as a cost saving measure.

    I also get to go on a fair number of TV remotes with my good friend who does lots of sports and entertainment remotes. He works in video but I unusually go and talk to the audio engineer while they are setting up. The audio engineers are usually freelance and get hired to do the audio for the show. They have no affiliation with the truck or the sport they are covering and usually get hired by a "crew person" who hires the whole crew. The pay is ok but the hours are long and the work sporadic to say the least.

    There are TV audio engineers who are making over $80,000.00 per year but they are few and far between.

    Many church related TV stations do a lot of local programming but they usually do not pay very well and if you are not into listening to someone preaching for 4 to 6 hours per day this probably will not appeal to you.

    I am NOT trying to dissuade you from a career in broadcasting but you do have to understand that things have changed a great deal from the "good old days". Maybe things are different in different parts of the country but I kinda doubt it.

    You could also look for a job with a video production company ( these are the companies that provide a lot of the content for the networks) but here again many of those individuals are working on "contract" and are there working only for as long as they are needed and then they have to renegotiate their fees and work when they start on a new project. I have a good friend who is the audio engineer on Sesame Street since it started so he has been there a very long time and continues to get hired back.

    Television and Radio audio engineering can be a lot of fun and very challenging but it can also be tiresome and boring and the fiscal rewards are ok but not what many people think they are.

    Hope this helps. I wish you good luck on finding a job.

    Take care....

  5. cprovenzo

    cprovenzo Guest

    Thanks for the inside scoop Thomas. It isn't what I exactly wanted to hear, but it confirmed my suspicions and what I've experienced so far. Well I guess it's back to the drawing board.


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