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Getting Jobs in Radio

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Radio station jobs have changed over the past decade with the consolidation of ownership of major radio stations in major markets. The best radio jobs as well as radio sales jobs may not be with the city station, but may be at the main headquarters. While some AM stations have television and radio jobs that may intersect, such as news, weather, and traffic, most FM stations have consolidated their programming and are not affiliated with television stations.

Developments Affecting Jobs in Radio

The telecommunications act of 1996 allowed a single company to own up to eight radio stations in a single large market. Because of this shift, the industry rapidly consolidated, resulting in fewer positions for on-air talent.

Major national companies, such as ClearChannel as well as Sirius XM Satellite radio have further consolidated the industry, resulting in centralized programming and on-air talent broadcast on a national scale. A centralized digital transmission system allows a program director and disc jockey to distribute the same segments over 1,000 different stations.

Types of Radio Jobs

Program Production Positions

Program directors have responsibility for designing and formatting the on-air schedule, as well as determine the type and genre of music that will be played as well as the order of the songs. The program director is also responsible for managing the disc jockeys.
Disc jockeys are the on-air talent who introduce songs, interview guest artists, make remarks about the music, or introduce weather, news and traffic segments. With the digital advancements, including the computerization of advertisements, music and sound bites used to play the music, traditional tapes and CDs are saved as backups in case of a failure of hardware. The disc jockey must have an excellent speaking voice as well as knowledge of music in order to make comments.

News and Production Positions

Some stations utilize news, sports, and weather segments to draw audiences for morning and evening commuting times. The morning talk segments include on-air anchors, sports reporters, as well as weather reporters. The news positions require the support of reporters as well as the news anchors. The reporters gather news from a variety of sources, including the wire services. The news anchors analyze, format and at times provide commentary on the news.

The sports reporters may interview local sports figures from professional teams, as well as provide commentary on the results of games played during the prior night, or discussions on upcoming games.

Weather reporters provide current weather, as well as forecasts for the day and week. Many times, weather reporters are also trained meteorologists.

Technical Positions

The technical occupations of radio stations include positions that operate and maintain the electronic components required for recording and transmitting the radio programs. Radio operators are responsible for managing the equipment that helps control the strength of the signal and range of sounds for the broadcast.

With the advent of digital signal storage on computers, large national companies who may own stations in dozens of cities are able to insert custom segments to programs to give the station a local feel to the listeners.

Master control engineers are responsible for ensuring that all of the scheduled program feeds and elements such as pre-recorded segments, on-location transmissions, and commercials are smoothly transmitted. The master control engineers are also responsible for making sure the transmissions comply with FCC regulations.

Sales and Related Fields

Account executives are responsible for marketing and selling advertising time on the radio station. Advertising revenue generates profit for the station, allowing it to continue operating and paying for programming. While selling advertising time is critical, tying in with local or regional businesses may also be an additional source of revenue for the station, allowing the station to charge more for a promotional campaign by having radio personalities broadcast from a specific business location.

The price charged per minute is a function of how many listeners are listening to the station at any given time. Advertising executives will utilize market information with clients to sell space based on the demographics of the listeners. If an advertiser wants to reach young adults aged 18 to 24, they will find a radio station that meets that criteria. The advertising executives at each radio station should be well versed in the types of listeners as well as the types of advertisers who would be attracted to the station’s demographic profile.

Local radio stations will work with local markets, as well as sell to national merchants. National broadcasting companies will also work with different markets to tailor the commercials to meet the needs of each market, even though the shows may be produced at the main corporate office in a different state.

Educational Requirements

Because of the diverse nature of radio station jobs, educational requirements vary. For most positions, a bachelor’s degree is required. The most desirable degrees would be in communications, journalism, or mass communications. For station management positions, a business degree is also desirable.

Job Prospects

With the continued consolidation of radio station ownership, as well as popularity of satellite radio, the numbers of positions available in radio are not projected to grow as fast as the rest of the economy. In addition, competition for the positions will be very strong, especially for positions requiring prior experience.

The normal path of starting in a small market at a small radio station and then moving up has also become more challenging, as digital programming transmitted directly to stations has reduced the need for many on-air positions.
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