Every radio station needs a competent technical person to setup the station and keep it running 24/7. This person is often called a “Broadcast Engineer”, “Radio Engineer”, or “Radio Technician”.

Smaller stations will use contractors to fulfil this role, while others will employ a part-time or full-time staff member. In some regional areas, it’s also common for networks to share one or two engineers between a cluster of stations or facilities.

Here’s some general information on what a typical Broadcast Engineer/Technician does as a part of their job, and which skills you need to acquire to do the job well.

Broadcast Engineer: Responsibilities

A Broadcast Engineer is responsible for ensuring a radio station (or a number of stations in a network) remain on-air continuously, without technical hiccups that could affect programme production or transmission.

This involves working in studios, equipment rooms, and transmission sites to perform maintenance, upgrades and the occasional new fitout.

A Broadcast Engineer will often be on-call, expected to receive and follow-up system alarms and calls for help from on-air talent. This can happen at any time during the day or night, weekends or public holidays.

A Broadcast Engineer will often spend most of their time working on IT systems, as most modern radio facilities rely heavily on IT.

Broadcast Engineer: Training & Experience

In Australia, we have the Certificate III in Broadcast Technology. Few training providers offer this course, and it’s often not required by employers. More commonly, prospective Broadcast Engineers and Technicians undertake on-the-job training.

Now days, Broadcast Engineers often move into Broadcast due to prior Information Technology or Electrical Engineering experience. Microsoft and Cisco certifications are well regarded by employers.

Prior experience in Community Radio and RF Engineering can be helpful.

Broadcast Engineering: Required Skills

  • Strong troubleshooting and problem solving skills
  • Electrical Engineering and/or Radio Frequency experience
  • IT Experience – System Administration, Networking, Virtualisation & Desktop Support
  • Ability to prioritise issues and solve complex problems on the fly
  • Knowledge of Audio over IP and Multicasting networks

Broadcast Engineering: Desirable Skills

  • Software Development & Database Administration skills
  • FM & AM Transmission experience
  • DAB+ Encoding & Transmission experience
  • Satellite technology experience
  • Project Management skills
  • Experience with live event production

Broadcast Engineering: Pathways to Employment

Radio Engineering jobs aren’t often advertised. When they are, it’s often on industry-specific job websites. In Australia, keep an eye on sites such as Radio Info and Radio Today.

The best way to get into the industry, particularly as a future school leaver, is to seek out either trainee positions at a Commercial Radio Station, or a volunteer technical job at a Community Radio Station.

If you’re looking for university or TAFE courses, consider studing Information Technology or Electrical Engineering. Before starting a course, email a couple of local engineers and see if they can offer any timely advice. They may be able to suggest part-time work or traineeships you can do as a part of your studies.

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I'm Anthony Eden, and I'm a broadcast technologist. I've been working in broadcast media since 2008 (getting my start in Community Radio while still at school), and developing software and websites for just as long. Right now, I work full time for Hope Media, and provide some freelance services through Media Realm.

Follow Anthony on Twitter: @anthony_eden or Google+