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Radio Jobs: An Overview

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In this age of cable and satellite television, iPods, and the Internet all being used as means of communication and entertainment, radio is sometimes forgotten when people consider jobs in the media world. Nonetheless, radio is still a thriving medium with a large listenership all over the world. No matter where you live, there are a large number of radio stations which are available. Even those living far away from any available broadcast signal can receive any number of radio signals on both the AM and FM dials.

Of course, one can also point to the massive popularity of such radio broadcasters as Ira Glass of NPR’s “This American Life” or famous names in commercial radio such as Don Imus to demonstrate that radio as a medium is, in fact, alive and well. In your area, you likely have at least a few locally well known broadcasters as well. Clearly, there is a future in radio, and for those who are so inclined, there are radio jobs to be had out there.

The first thing which many people would ask if you were to tell them that you worked at a radio station would be if you were an announcer or disc jockey. Of course, these sort of high-profile radio jobs are actually far more scarce than are the many equally important behind-the-scenes positions at radio stations which ensure the smooth operation of those stations and continuous broadcasting.

One of the jobs in radio available to those who have the necessary skills and interest in the medium is the position of producer. The title of producer covers personnel at radio stations who have a wide range of different responsibilities, including anything from coming up with ideas for programs, scriptwriting, maintaining and adding to audio archives, preparing pre-taped materials for broadcast, and many other duties. In the case of many radio programs, there is an entire production staff, since the duties involved in producing even an hour of radio content can be quite a bit more involved than the average listener might imagine.

Other radio jobs in the capacity of producer or assistant producer may include selecting music to be played on programs or in general rotation (in the case of a radio station which plays mostly music or for a music-oriented program), arranging for guests to appear on programs (although radio programs which have guests in-studio or via phone on a regular basis may also have a dedicated booker to handle these arrangements), and giving pre-production briefings to staff.

Engineer is another one of the radio jobs which is open to people who have the required educational background — in this case, a degree or applicable work experience in audio production and/or a specialty broadcasting program. These positions are technical and require the personnel responsible for these duties to be highly skilled in the use of the audio equipment common in radio station studios.

These jobs in radio involve ensuring that volume levels remain level (or otherwise as intended by the producer and on-air talent) and that the sound of the program is clear and audible for listeners. The engineer will also often be tasked with cuing up and playing the pre-recorded materials compiled by the producer of the program. They work closely both with the production staff and on-air personnel.

As for on-air talent, they have a challenging position, even with all of the talented production and support staff which they have behind them. There is such a thing as a “radio voice” (Diane Rehm and others with less conventional voices notwithstanding), and those who wish to be announcers or disc jockeys need to have clear speaking voices and an ability to think on their feet — there is nothing worse in the field of radio than dead air. Since they will also often be speaking to guests and callers, as well as to the listening audience, an exceptional set of communication skills is essential.

The educational background required for radio jobs varies with the duties of each position. One can get a degree in broadcasting, which covers several different disciplines. For production staff, capabilities in many areas are required, so journalism, English, and audio production degrees can all be useful to securing these radio jobs. Of course, not everyone on working jobs in radio got there by first pursuing a degree in one of these fields. Many began in the industry in a different position and acquired the necessary skills over their years on the job, working their ways up to their current positions.

If you’re interested in radio station jobs, your educational background will likely make a difference in how easily you’ll be able to get such a job in. A keen interest in this old and intimate yet as modern as tomorrow medium is of course a plus, and if you have a basic aptitude for writing, a knack for operating audio equipment, or a great voice for radio, the airwaves may well be in the cards for your future career path.
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