To become a broadcast engineer, you'll need a wide range of specialized training; electrical, audio, and computer engineering all come in handy for this demanding occupation. While having a college degree is not required to become a broadcast engineer, essential training and skills are a must. These can be acquired through attending vocational school, community college or a broadcasting school. At the very least, having an associate degree in broadcast technology or electronics will qualify you for most entry-level jobs, but a bachelor's degree or higher provides better prospects for employment and career advancement.
One of the best ways to become a broadcast engineer is to start out as an intern or volunteer at a local radio or TV station. Many college interns who started out emptying trashcans or helping to set up remote broadcasts soon worked their way up the ladder to a full-time job as assistant to the chief engineer. To earn while you learn, you can apply for engineering jobs at your local TV stations, recording studios and advertising agencies. Even working in a computer, music, car audio or electronics store can provide you the chance to learn all different kinds of equipment, pick up repair skills, and keep you up to speed with the latest emerging new technology.
When shopping your résumé, you don't have to limit yourself to applying for jobs in your own backyard. If you expand your horizons and are prepared to relocate at a moment's notice for the right opportunity, you may find more opportunities available. To become a broadcast engineer, you may need to be ready to move wherever the jobs are. Due to the typically high turnover of ownership in the radio and TV industries, it's not unusual for a broadcast engineer to work at 10 to 20 stations in different cities over the course of his or her career. If you are serious about a career as a broadcast engineer, you may find it is just as important to have the understanding and support of your family in the face of potentially frequent relocation demands.
It may sound glamorous to work at a radio or TV station behind the scenes, but broadcast engineering can be a highly demanding and even dangerous job, too. Broadcast engineers may handle high voltage electronics, sometimes outdoors during severe weather events or under other hazardous conditions. Some climb antenna towers often to perform maintenance, which can be very stressful physically. Expect to put in 50- to 60-hour work weeks, perhaps without overtime pay, and be prepared to be on call 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. If the transmitter fails in the middle of the night, the broadcast engineer is responsible for getting that station back on the air as soon as possible.
Job prospects are generally better for entry-level applicants in smaller media markets; a small-town radio station could be a great place to start out. Over time, you can work your way up to larger mid-size and large markets for significantly better pay. Even when settled comfortably into your career, continuing education classes are a good idea to help you stay on top of information technology trends and the latest electronic equipment to remain competitive.