Radio and television announcers perform a variety of tasks on and off the air. They announce station program information, such as program schedules and station breaks for commercials, or public-service information, and they introduce and close programs. Announcers read prepared scripts or make ad-lib commentary on the air as they present news, sports, the weather, the time, and commercials. If a written script is required, they may do the research and writing. Announcers also interview guests and moderate panels or discussions. Some provide commentary for the audience during sporting events, at parades, and on other occasions. Announcers often are well known to radio and television audiences and may make promotional appearances and do remote broadcasts for their stations.
Announcers at smaller stations may have more off-air duties as well. They may operate the control board, monitor the transmitter, sell commercial time to advertisers, keep a log of the station's daily programming, and produce advertisements and other recorded material. At many radio stations, announcers do much of the work previously performed by editors and broadcast technicians, such as operating the control board, which is used to broadcast programming, commercials, and public-service announcements according to the station's schedule. Public radio and television announcers also are involved in station fundraising efforts.
Announcers frequently participate in community activities. Sports announcers, for example, may serve as masters of ceremony at sports club banquets or may greet customers at openings of sporting-goods stores.
Radio announcers who broadcast music often are called disc jockeys (DJs). Some DJs specialize in one kind of music, announcing selections as they air them. Most DJs do not select much of the music they play (although they often did so in the past); instead, they follow schedules of commercials, talk, and music provided to them by management. While on the air, DJs comment on the music, weather, and traffic. They may take requests from listeners, interview guests, and manage listener contests. Many radio stations now require DJs to update their station Web site.
Some DJs announce and play music at clubs, dances, restaurants, and weddings. They often have their own equipment with which to play the music. Many are self-employed and rent their services out on a job-by-job basis.
Show hosts may specialize in a certain area of interest, such as politics, personal finance, sports, or health. They contribute to the preparation of the program's content, interview guests, and discuss issues with viewers, listeners, or the studio audience.
Public-address system announcers provide information to the audience at sporting, performing arts, and other events.
Announcers usually work in well-lighted, air-conditioned, soundproof studios. Announcers often work within tight schedules, which can be physically and mentally stressful. For many announcers, the intangible rewards—creative work, many personal contacts, and the satisfaction of becoming widely known—far outweigh the disadvantages of irregular and often unpredictable hours, work pressures, and disrupted personal lives. The broadcast day is long for radio and TV stations—many are on the air 24 hours a day—so announcers can expect to work unusual hours. Many present early-morning shows, when most people are getting ready for work or commuting, while others do late-night programs. The shifts, however, are not as varied as in the past, because new technology has allowed stations to eliminate most of the overnight hours. Many announcers work part time.
Education & Training Required
Formal training in broadcasting from college or a technical school is valuable. These programs prepare students to work with the computer equipment and software to which they might otherwise not have access. In radio, many announcers will also need Web site editing skills. It is common for announcers to have a bachelor's degree in a subject such as communications, broadcasting, or journalism. High school and college courses in English, public speaking, drama, foreign languages, and computer science are valuable, and hobbies such as sports and music are additional assets.
There are many broadcast programs available and they have varying reputations. Individuals considering enrolling in a broadcasting school should contact personnel managers of radio and television stations, as well as broadcasting trade organizations, to determine the school's reputation for producing suitably trained candidates.
Announcers are often required to complete long-term on-the-job training. This can be accomplished at campus radio or TV facilities and at commercial stations while students serve as interns. Work experience at college or high school radio or TV stations is very valuable. Oftentimes, even for entry-level positions, employees need to have experience, which students can acquire at these stations. Paid or unpaid internships also provide students with hands-on training and the chance to establish contacts in the industry. Unpaid interns frequently receive college credit and are allowed to observe and assist station employees. This experience sometimes leads to paid internships which are valuable because interns may do work ordinarily performed by regular employees.
Once hired by a television station, an employee usually starts out as a production assistant, researcher, or reporter and is given a chance to move into announcing if he or she shows an aptitude for “on-air” work. A beginner's chance of landing an on-air job is remote. The best chances for an on-air job for inexperienced announcers may be as a substitute for a familiar announcer at a small radio station. In radio, newcomers usually start out taping interviews and operating equipment.
Other Skills Required
Announcers must have a pleasant and well-controlled voice, good timing, excellent pronunciation, and correct grammar. College broadcasting programs offer courses, such as voice and diction, to help students improve their vocal qualities. Television announcers need a neat, pleasing appearance as well. Knowledge of theater, sports, music, business, politics, and other subjects likely to be covered in broadcasts improves one's chances for success. Announcers, especially those seeking radio careers, should have good information technology skills and be capable of using computers, editing equipment, and other broadcast-related devices because new advances in technology have made these abilities important. Announcers also need strong writing skills, because they normally write their own material. In addition, they should be able to ad lib all or part of a show and to work under tight deadlines. The most successful announcers attract a large audience by combining a pleasing personality and voice with an appealing style.
How to Advance
Announcers usually begin at a station in a small community and, if they are qualified, may move to a better paying job in a large city. They also may advance by hosting a regular program as a disc jockey, sportscaster, or other specialist. Competition for employment by networks is particularly intense, and employees will need a college degree with at least several years of successful announcing experience if they wish to advance.
Competition for jobs as announcers will be keen because the broadcasting field attracts many more jobseekers than there are jobs. Furthermore, employment of announcers is projected to decline slowly. In some cases, announcers leave the field because they cannot advance to better paying jobs. Changes in station ownership, format, and ratings frequently cause periods of unemployment for many announcers.
Salaries in broadcasting vary widely, but generally are relatively low, except for announcers who work for large stations in major markets or for networks. Earnings are higher in television than in radio and higher in commercial broadcasting than in public broadcasting.
Median hourly wages of radio and television announcers is $22.95. The middle 50 percent earned between $19.05 and $30.31. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $17.45, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $46.42.
Median hourly wages of announcers in the radio and television broadcasting industry were $17.61. Median hourly wages of public address and other system announcers is $23.18. The middle 50 percent earned between $18.82 and $31.04. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $17.51 and the highest 10 percent earned more than $43.58.