How to Advance (Advancement)
With experience, operators may advance to more demanding assignments or to positions with larger or network television stations. Advancement for ENG operators may mean moving to larger media markets. Other camera operators and editors may become directors of photography for movie studios, advertising agencies, or television programs. Some teach at technical schools, film schools, or universities.
Television, video, and motion picture camera operators and editors held about 51,900 jobs in 2008. About 26,300 were camera operators, and film and video editors held about 25,500 jobs.
Many are employed by independent television stations, local affiliate stations of television networks or broadcast groups, large cable and television networks, or smaller, independent production companies. There also are a large number of self employed camera operators and film editors. Some self-employed camera operators contract with television networks, documentary or independent filmmakers, advertising agencies, or trade show or convention sponsors to work on individual projects for a set fee, often at a daily rate.
Most of the salaried camera operators and editors were employed by television broadcasting stations or motion picture studios. 37 percent of the salaried camera operators and editors worked for motion picture and video industry while 18 percent worked in television broadcasting. Most camera operators and editors worked in large metropolitan areas.
Keen competition for jobs is expected due to the large number of people who wish to enter the broadcasting and motion picture industries, in which many camera operators and editors are employed. Those with the most experience and the most advanced computer skills will have the best job opportunities. Employment is expected to grow about as fast as the average for all occupations.
Employment of camera operators and editors is expected to grow 11 percent over the 2008–18 decade, which is as fast as the average for all occupations through 2018. As the motion picture industry expands, demand for camera operators and editors will expand also. Camera operators will be needed to film made-for-Internet broadcasts, such as music videos, digital movies, sports features, and general entertainment programming. As the market for professional Internet video grows, camera operators may see increases in employment. Growth will be tempered, however, by the increased offshore production of motion pictures. Job growth for studio camera operators in television broadcasting will be slowed by the use of automated cameras under the control of a single person working either on the studio floor or in a director's booth. For ENG camera operators and editors, growth may be tempered by the combination of roles and other cost-cutting measures at broadcast stations. For videographers, computer and Internet services will provide new outlets for interactive productions.
Television, video, and motion picture camera operators and editors can expect keen competition for job openings because of the large number of people who wish to enter the broadcasting and motion picture industries, in which many of these workers are employed. The number of individuals interested in positions as videographers and movie camera operators usually is much greater than the number of openings. Those who succeed in landing a salaried job or attracting enough work to earn a living by freelancing are likely to be the most creative and highly motivated people, able to adapt to rapidly changing technologies and adept at operating a business. The change to digital cameras has increased the importance of strong computer skills. Those with the most experience and the most advanced computer skills will have the best job opportunities.
Median annual wages for television, video, and motion picture camera operators were $41,670 in May 2008. The middle 50 percent earned between $29,020 and $59,970. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $21,710, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $79,440. Median annual wages were $40,910 in the motion picture and video industries and $36,250 in radio and television broadcasting.
Median annual wages for film and video editors were $50,560 in May 2008. The middle 50 percent earned between $33,060 and $77,700. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $24,640, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $112,410. Median annual wages were $56,170 in the motion picture and video industries, which employed the largest numbers of film and video editors.
Freelance camera operators’ earnings tend to fluctuate each year. Because most freelance camera operators purchase their own equipment, they incur considerable expense acquiring and maintaining cameras and accessories. Some camera operators belong to unions, including the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees and the National Association of Broadcast Employees and Technicians.
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