Entertainment Jobs Q&A – Career Paths in the Television Industry

entertainment jobs television jobs

Deciding between a career in front of, or behind, the camera can be a tough career choice

We’ve had a flood of questions coming in for our weekly Entertainment Jobs Q&A and I really enjoy writing this column so please keep sending your questions in.

The most vocal part of our audience lately has been early college students looking for career guidance, or in this weeks case, a junior in High School!

If you are tired of reading entry level questions and want something more advanced – send in your questions by adding them to the comments below or by joining our LinkedIn group and asking your questions there.

If you like the entry level stuff well by all means keep sending those in too…we aim to please.

Entertainment Jobs Q&A - Career Paths in the Television Industry Click To Tweet

The Q:

Hi Brian, I just finished my junior year of High School and I feel pretty confident that I want to work in Television – I love the idea of helping create something that millions of people could see and enjoy. I’m not sure if I want to go into the news production side or the on camera side and I’m hoping you can help give me some pro’s and con’s of each scenario. Thanks I love your blog it has helped me learn so much!

Devon – Seattle, Washington

The A:

Wow Devon, the fact you already know that you want to pursue a career in Television this early in life is a huge advantage, affording you the opportunity to start getting focused earlier than most. You can do an initial internship at a local TV station your senior year of High School or at least set up your curriculum from the start of college so that you get the most out of your experience.

Talk about hitting the ground running! But lets get to your specific questions and we can circle back to that later:

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Pro’s and Con’s of the Various Sides of the Television Industry

If you end up pursing a production career in Television news there are obvious positives:

  • An ever-changing landscape, no two days are the same
  • The ability to specialize: politics, entertainment, sports, weather etc
  • You can find jobs in various markets all across the country – big or small, where ever your comfort level is
  • Travelling to cover big events from the inside

And some obvious negatives:

  • Jobs are in high demand so pay can start out pretty low
  • The hours and schedule can be challenging – my first year I was working 6pm-2am with Tuesday and Wednesday as my days off. I’ve worked 7pm-3am, 4am-noon and just about everything in-between.
  • Holidays are something everyone else celebrates

On a personal note, I always loved working in a TV news environment – there is a sense of urgency I lived for, and I always liked being “in the know”. I felt connected to the world around me and as if I had the ability to influence viewers opinions on a certain subject.

Most people I have worked with agree, the TV news business is addictive.

Working in TV is addictive, but it has some downsides too #tvjobs Click To Tweet

The Career Path

There are two sides to the behind the scenes world of TV News – operations and editorial. Operations involves the technical jobs: camera, audio, graphics, technical directors, directors, playback etc. Editorial involves content manipulation – i.e. writing, editing, producing, story gathering etc.

Most people that work behind the scenes in editorial TV News start out as a Production Assistant – which is a job about as generic as it sounds. You do a bit of everything; editing, camera work, log video, carry cables, set up lights, put mics on guests – you name it. It’s important to know technical skills and be a well-rounded and versatile employee – it’s not enough to know how to write, you better know things like non-linear editing and how to operate a camera.

entertainment jobs television jobs video editing

To work behind the scenes in television, knowing non-linear editing systems like Avid, Quantel and Final Cut Pro, is essential

As for the operations side – a well-rounded technical background is a must. If your dream is to be a Director, you’ll need to know how to run an audio board, manipulate studio cameras, operate a switcher and more.

What You Should Do Now

You are entering your senior year of High School, so you have time to pinpoint your career – you don’t need to decide everything today. I’d try to get an internship at a local TV station this year, and if one isn’t available, volunteer or set up a job shadow with an employee at the station.

Trust me, we TV folk love to show someone the ropes that has a true passion for the television industry.

When you enter college, again internships and volunteering are your immediate focus.  Is there a campus TV station? Get involved! A campus radio station? Get involved! A Local TV station? Start getting to know people over there and make a name for yourself.

As for classes, make sure you learn non-linear editing however you can. Avid, Quantel, Final Cut Pro – these are expected skills.

Follow this career guide for working in TV, you'll be happy you did Click To Tweet

Other Articles you Should Read:

TV Production Assistant Jobs: How to Get Them and What to Expect

Why Local TV News Still has a Bright Future

Want a Job in Television News? Think like an Executive Producer

On Camera Career Pro’s and Con’s

Working on camera is a whole different TV world – the best are well-versed in TV production, understand what the crew needs, work well with others and are journalists first. The worst love the idea of seeing their name in lights, their face on a billboard, don’t really understand the stories they read on air and refuse to work well with others.

I beg of you, if you pursue a career on camera, strive to become person #1.

Be a journalist first, intent on finding and telling great stories that are accurate. Know the business and the work that production staff endures so you can appreciate the people around you and quite possibly…wait for it…capably lend a hand when needed. CRAZY!

television jobs becoming a tv news reporter

Finding an interesting way to tell a story includes going up in a helicopter for reporter Michael Konopasek

Positives of a life On Camera

  • Crafting and presenting stories that the world can see
  • Being on location for news as it happens
  • Digging for stories and angles that other may not have considered
  • Let’s be honest – being recognized by strangers, even on a small scale local level, can be seen as a positive event for most
  • A chance to make a real difference, contributing your thoughts and perspective to a story that matters to you
  • The pay, while small to start, can reach some really high numbers if you are talented and ambitious

Negatives of Life on Camera

  • Its a cutthroat side of the business, where quality of work is sometimes less important than the shininess of one’s teeth
  • Starting out requires small market experience, which means places like Sheridan, Wyoming or Dothan, Alabama could be home for a while
  • Weird hours, tough schedules, working on holidays – this is the TV life.

The Career Path

There are really two ways to go about a career on camera in Television – graduate and get out there immediately, or graduate and work for a bit in production while you hone your on camera skills.

I’m an advocate of working for a bit in production and then trying to pursue a job on camera, here’s why: If you graduate and get right out there, the best you can expect is a market size in the 150-200 range, of course there are exceptions, but that is the norm. And while there is a lot you can learn at small stations with even smaller staffs, having been inside many small stations I wonder how much high-level learning you can do on out-dated equipment with fellow staff members that may be as green as you are.

If you start out in production, maybe at a larger network like CNN, MSNBC or Fox News, you are exposed to the best of the best, the highest technology, the brightest minds, the most talented anchors and reporters. These are the people you can truly learn from.

Now, as you enhance your craft, you have a big name network on your resume, which will stand out to employers and most likely begin your on camera career in a higher market (as long as you don’t stink).

entertainment jobs tv reporter

Starting out in a small market is a stepping stone to bigger things. It’s part of paying your dues as a TV reporter.

What You Should Do Now

Practice. Use your webcam to record yourself and critique your work. Set up informational interviews with reporters or anchors in your local area, volunteer at a local cable access show.

Here’s a good one – find a story on your local news website, something you think will be on the nightly news later, and after reading the full story try to turn it into a 25 second version. You’ll find writing for television is a much different experience than writing for the web or for class papers.

You’re resume will be your demo reel, so record everything you do and keep a library of all your work so that you can eventually put together your “Greatest Hits” for potential employers to see.

Other Articles you Should Read (or Videos you Should Watch)

Video: How to Make a Demo Reel Part 1 – The Format

Video: How to Make a Demo Reel Part 2 – Owning Your Personality

Video: How to Make a Demo Reel Part 3 – Take the Time to Prepare

Video: How to Make a Demo Reel Part 4 – Where to Send Your Demo Reel

Video: How To Make a Demo Reel Part 5 – Staying Mentally Strong

Television Jobs: The Truth About Becoming a News Reporter

Transitioning from College to TV News Reporter Jobs


I hope this helps you Devon, if anyone has any additional thoughts please add them to the comments and if you have a question you’d like us to answer in the next edition of Entertainment Jobs Q&A the comments are the right place to include it!

About Brian Clapp

Brian Clapp has worked in the broadcast media for over 14 years as a writer, editor, producer & news director. After beginning his career in Atlanta at CNN/Sports Illustrated, he switched coasts to Seattle to work at Fox Sports Northwest. In 2010, Brian began pursuing a new found passion on the digital media side, launching a successful website and then taking on the role of Director of Content for WorkinSports.com & WorkinEntertainment.com.

Recently Brian has become addicted to Google+ and LinkedIn so add him to your circles and make him a contact. No seriously, you should.