Radio Technician

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Radio Technician


Radio technicians are the behind-the-scenes technicians of radio broadcasting. They design, set up, operate and maintain equipment used for radio broadcasting. They repair radio equipment and transmitters and make sure that technical difficulties never arise. If your radio becomes muffled or dies, there is a radio technician working frantically to restore the sound over the airwaves.

Radio technicians mainly receive and transmit communications using a variety of tools. They are also responsible for repairing equipment using such devices as electronic testing equipment, hand tools, and power tools. These help to maintain communication systems in an operative condition.

Radio technicians are usually assigned to a specific show. For example, a call-in talk show, a morning drive (which is the most popular listening time), or the "drive home" show. It is their responsibility to make sure that the regular dedicated audience of listeners hears the broadcast. Technicians work closely with producers and personalities to make sure the radio program is running smoothly.

Many radio technicians work in the control room, next to the producer who directs the music and the information portion of the program. If you call a talk radio station, you might speak to the technician before you get on the air, so that they can screen your call. Since many programs are aired live, there is a high stress level involved in the job. Technicians must make sure that everything is perfectly in order before a production airs. For instance, they must make sure the sound is correct, and that everything is plugged in, in the studio. Since the radio medium is only an aural stimulant, listeners must be able to understand what the announcers are trying to say and technicians control the sound to that level. Unlike television or film, which have a visual component, radio technicians must be experts in the sound medium and be able to project clear and crisp voices.

In smaller stations, some radio technicians may also involved in the marketing and business aspects of broadcasting. They also must keep a tight budget and strict inventory list of all items or repairs completed. The producer must approve every purchase made by a technician from a new microphone, to lunch and travel budgets.
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  Interests and Skills  
Radio technicians must be good multi-taskers. Sometimes technicians are fixing something, talking on the phone and airing commercials at the same time. They must also be team player, as there is always going to be a crew or other to work with. Punctuality is another important feature because if you work on a news show that airs at six o'clock, the program will start whether you are there or not.

Radio technicians must be patient, understanding and flexible because they will spend long hours in the studio. They must have good ear for musical sound, pitch and tone and have the ability to pay close attention to details. Good communication skills and an outgoing personality are necessary to work with others. They should also enjoy using electronic equipment to perform tasks requiring precision, and troubleshooting problems.

  Typical Tasks  
  • Check that all the broadcasting equipment is in safe working order
  • Advise clients on the best broadcasting equipment to use
  • Repair faulty broadcasting equipment
  • Order parts and equipment, and check and install them on arrival
  • May train clients to use the broadcasting equipment
  • Provide links between the studio and transmitters and satellites
  • Keep up-to-date with the latest technical developments and changes
  • May set up and pack down broadcasting testing equipment
  • May install broadcasting studios and transmitters
  • Radio technicians work in studios or control rooms. They generally work standard weeks with occasional longer hours to meet deadlines. The hours will also depend on the radio show or station that a technician works for. Some may work on a "drive home" show, a call-in talk show or the morning drive, which can start as early as five a.m. and go into the afternoon. Also, for technicians just starting out, they may be required to work the graveyard shift on an overnight station. There is a high level of stress involved because radio shows are live on the air, therefore, this leaves little room for making any mistakes.

  Workplaces, Employers and Industries  
  • Radio technicians work indoors in broadcasting maintenance centers, radio and television studios, and outdoors at transmitting stations. Technicians can also work for police departments as dispatchers and receivers.

  Long Term Career Potential  
Radio technicians with experience can become radio producers. Some take related computer courses and become programmers (since radios now also run off computer programs). Accordingly, they can move into any technical job that requires using and operating technical equipment. Teaching broadcast technology courses at a community college is another option.

  Educational Paths  
It can be extremely difficult to break into the radio business. Experience working at a co-op placement through a school training program or as a volunteer at a local radio station is an asset. Beginning in radio commercial production is another option. Also, volunteering at a campus radio station will teach you about the industry and keep you updated with technological changes.

Although a related pos-secondary degree, certificate or diploma in broadcast technology, engineering or electronics is an asset when seeking employment as a radio technician, there are no formal education requirements. Formal training is very specialized and will help potential technicians to learn specific skills related to the job. Most radio technicians require a working knowledge of today's computer-based recording technologies, such as digital mixing and random access editing, and adapt quickly to many different recording formats and devices by learning on the job or taking related training courses.

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014-15 Edition,
Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Employment Statistics, 2002,

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