What Does a Broadcast Engineer Do?
A broadcast engineer juggles many priorities. That’s part of what makes this job so exciting!
This job has many names, including broadcast technician, broadcast technologist, broadcast engineering technician, sound engineering technician, broadcast operator or sound engineer. No matter the name, these professionals work primarily in television and radio.
A broadcast engineer is trained to set up, maintain and operate the specialized equipment that controls the quality and clarity of the transmitted images, audio and video we see on television and hear on the radio and the internet.
A technician or engineer provides technical support for films, live broadcasts, concerts and music recordings. This person works with computer programs to edit audio and video recordings. He or she may also work on the design, installation and maintenance of computer networks.
Where does a broadcast technician work? There are many options, including television networks, radio stations and production companies that create work for cable, satellite or internet viewers.
Being a broadcasting engineer may involve night and weekend work or working in difficult weather conditions.
Working in broadcasting is a place where good problem-solvers will flourish. The mixture of hands-on broadcasting tools with computer hardware and software means troubleshooting on the fly is a must.
If this sounds intriguing, keep reading to understand broadcast technician education requirements and much more.
- Operate audio, video, lighting and broadcast equipment and monitor for quality during radio and television broadcasts
- Operate satellite or other transmitter equipment used to broadcast programs
- Set up and operate electronic equipment for recorded events and live performances
- Test all equipment and troubleshoot any problems
- Convert video and audio to digital formats
- Follow Federal Communications Commission (FCC) rules and other laws
How To Become a Broadcast Engineer: FAQs
What steps should I take to become a broadcast engineer or technician?
First, earn your high school diploma or equivalent. If you haven’t graduated from high school, you can get a taste for this career by working on school productions.
Then you’ll need to decide on a training and education path. The most common path is to earn a two-year associate degree in broadcast technology or a related field. Some broadcast engineering jobs will require a bachelor’s degree.
Another pathway to this career is to become an AV technician, a related role that can be a stepping stone for a career in broadcast and requires a postsecondary certificate. From there, you can learn on the job and continue your training.
Broadcast engineering courses will include math, science, production management, digital signal processing and video editing. In addition, you’ll want to get hands-on experience in the industry, either through an internship or part-time work.
In broadcast engineering, you’ll have many opportunities to specialize. For example, AV technicians focus on audio and visual recordings for live or recorded events. Lighting technicians focus on lighting for TV, film or live broadcasts. Sound engineering technicians, also called sound mixers, focus on running audio equipment for all types of productions.
Broadcast technicians may learn these specialties or focus on the core broadcasting skill of ensuring signal strength, with quality sound and colors. The size of the broadcasting operation will determine how broad or narrow the job is.
There’s plenty of room for advancement, too. You may start off with the title of assistant broadcast engineer. With time and experience, you can become a broadcast chief engineer. This field is also rife with opportunity for freelance work.
Are there any other qualifications to consider for broadcast engineering?
Broadcast engineer certification isn’t typically required, but it may make you stand out to employers. The Society of Broadcast Engineers (SBE) offers certifications such as Certified Television Operator (CTO), Certified Broadcast Networking Technologist (CBNT) and Certified Professional Broadcast Engineer (CPBE). SBE is a nonprofit professional organization that is also a good resource for networking and continuing education.
How long does it take to become a broadcast engineer?
A certificate or non-degree program will take from nine to 12 months. An associate degree takes two years. Continuing education is ongoing.
What’s the difference between a broadcast technician and a broadcast engineer?
Engineer is carryover title from earlier times. The job involves engineering techniques, but doesn’t necessarily require a four-year engineering degree.
This series of videos about being a broadcast engineer by Wendy Harmic answers that question in more detail and covers many other aspects of broadcast engineering. The whole series is worth a watch!
Is there demand for this job?
Yes. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), this career presents plenty of opportunity. BLS predicts growth of 10% from 2021 to 2031, which works out to about 13,200 job openings each year. (The BLS listing includes broadcast, sound and video technicians in the same category.)
What skills do you need to be a broadcast technician or engineer?
A successful engineer typically possesses these traits:
- Good at multi-tasking
- Works well under pressure
- Excellent communication skills
- Excellent troubleshooting skills
- Good manual dexterity and hand-eye coordination
- Picks up new computer skills easily
- Manages time well