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The Announcing Profession

Module by: Philip Thompsen. E-mail the author

Summary: Discusses the profession of announcing.

What do announcers do?

The specifics of each announcing job vary widely, but in general, all announcers uses their voices to communicate messages. Announcers must be able to use their voices effectively, and often must do so for long periods at a time. Good "vocal hygiene" is essential to remain productive as an announcer. Many announcers must also appear on camera, so a groomed appearance is important. Often announcers also appear in person at promotional events and remote broadcasts.

The most common announcing job is that of a radio announcer. A typical day in the life of a radio announcer might look something like this: 4:00 a.m. - Rise and shine! 5:00 a.m. - Arrive at radio station. Start preparing for show. 5:30 a.m. - Begin radio "airshift." 10 a.m. - End airshift. Take a break for lunch. 11 a.m. - Work in production, recording commercials. 2 p.m. - Participate in a "remote broadcast." 6 p.m. - Make a guest appearance at a charity event. 9 p.m. - Time for bed! Of course, every announcer's schedule is different. While the typical radio airshift is 4 to 6 hours long, most announcers have additional duties with off-air production, promotional appearances, and remote broadcasts. Some announcers even work in sales, selling commercial air time.

How many announcers are there?

Although it is difficult to find precise figures, the best estimate is provided by the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).[1] As of 2004, the BLS estimated the number of people working in this profession at about 69,000 people. Since the population of the United States is about 300 million, that means that about 1 out of every 4,400 people in the USA are announcers. Or to put it another way, in a typical city of 1 million people, about 230 people would be employed as announcers. To be fair, however, one should compare the number of announcers to the actual number of people employed in the US (excluding children, retired people and those who are unemployed). As of July 2006, the BLS estimates the US labor force at 144 million, which means that about 1 out of every 2,000 jobs are in in the announcing profession.

This suggests that announcing is a very competitive field, and indeed it is. In general, more people want to work in this field than there are jobs in this field. It's not uncommon for people in the business to feel that there are a thousand people waiting to have their job if they leave. That may be an exaggeration, but not a gross one. This is one reason why entry-level announcing jobs tend to not pay well (more on this in a moment). But keep in mind that not everyone who is seeking employment in this field are equally talented. Those who have polished their skills and demonstrate considerable talent will find it much easier to find work than those who don't seriously devote themselves to excellence in announcing. Perseverance and practice can go a long way.

How much money do annoucers make?

Some announcers make very good money, because they have talents that are in great demand, and people are willing to pay handsomely for them. The very few announcers who have reached the top of their profession, such as network news anchors, can earn millions. When Katie Couric accepted the job of anchor of the CBS Evening News, she reportedly agreed to a salary of $15 million a year. Perhaps even more amazing was that Couric reportedly turned down NBC's offer of $20 million per year to continue hosting The Today Show in favor of the prestige of being the first sole female anchor of a major network evening newscast. Of course, it should be pointed out that the CBS Evening News is a half-hour program, while The Today Show is three hours. So on an hourly basis...well, let's just say Katie is doing quite well for herself.

Unfortunately, most announcers don't make nearly that kind of money. It is not uncommon for entry-level radio announcers to make w:minimum wage or just slightly more, especially in smaller towns and for those employed on a part-time basis. While most announcers earn more than minimum wage, many people are surprised to discover that the average salary is not that much higher.

According to the same U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) report cited above, in 2004 the median hourly salary for announcers was $10.64. The BLS reported that half of all announcers earned between $7.43 and $16.81 per hour, the lowest 10 percent earned less than $6.16 per hour, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $27.61 per hour.

Such salary figures may seem discouraging. But keep in mind that most announcers earning salaries at the lower end of this range are probably either just starting their careers or working part time (or both). Also, there tends to be considerable employee turnover in announcing jobs at the lower end of the pay range. It is fairly common for announcers to move from one job to another many times in the early stages of their careers, as they "work they way up to the top." Within a few years of working in the profession, young announcers find that they either "have what it takes" to reach the top, or they don't. There are many people who work as announcers in their 20s, only to move on to more lucrative careers in their 30s. For those who stay in the profession, most find they are eventually able to make at least a modestly comfortable salary.

What kind of training do announcers need?

Some people who work in the announcing profession do not have any formal training in the art of effective communication. A college degree, or for that matter, a high school diploma, is not a requirement for many announcing jobs. It is quite possible that a person who has a good voice, an engaging style and a persuasive personality can succeed in the announcing profession regardless of academic credentials.

Nevertheless, most announcers have completed at least some post-secondary work. A college education can greatly increase one's chances of success in the profession, and provides a foundation for a wider range of career opportunities. This is especially true of those who work in news; nearly all broadcast journalism positions require a bachelor's degree. Serious journalists often pursue a master's degree in journalism or communication.

Sometimes courses in announcing are combined with other courses in a curriculum designed specifically for those pursuing a career in broadcasting. An aspiring announcer should consider coursework in audio and video production, journalism, broadcast management, voice and articulation, acting, script writing and mass communication. Depending on one's particular interests, courses in music, sports officiating, marketing, film, advertising and public relations can also be helpful.

Many announcers get their first real "job" at college radio or television stations. College stations, especially radio stations, are typically operated by students and advised by a faculty member, graduate student or staff person. The role of the advisor varies greatly from station to station, but most stations fall into one of two categories: faculty-supervised stations that are funded by an academic unit and operated as part of a broadcasting curriculum, and student-managed stations that are funded by student government and operated as a student activity organization. Both kinds of stations can provide valuable opportunities for learning practical broadcast skills.

The future of announcing

It is likely that there will continue to be a need for announcers. As long as there are messages that people want to be communicated, there will be those willing to pay for those who can communicate those messages effectively.

It is also likely that technological, cultural and economic forces will change the nature of the announcing profession in the coming years. Radio is changing as people gravitate to iPods and satellite audio delivery services. Television is changing as people increasingly download videos from the internet. News is changing as the traditional gatekeeping function of the "mainstream media" is being challenged by the "blogosphere" and alternative media.

Yet while change may be inevitable, the fundamental skills that talented announcers possess will always be in demand. Formats may change, news values may change, media may change. But people who can use their voices to convey meaningful messages effectively, persuasively and passionately will rarely be out of a job. At least not for very long.

The bottom line: not everyone who seeks to be successful in this profession will be successful. But if you polish your communication skills, sharpen your vocal talents, continually seek to learn more about as much as you can, possess a strong and abiding work ethic, and are willing to be flexible, you can and should go far in this field.

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