Embarking on a career in broadcast journalism often begins with a degree in journalism or communications. Either discipline can prepare you for the research and analysis necessary to produce a sound news story. But a bachelor’s degree in political science, economics or even history is also beneficial, especially if you’re hoping to cover stories in a particular area of current events. In addition to education, employers seek candidates with on-the-job experience, so it pays to get an internship while pursuing your degree. As with any job, the more experience you have, the more opportunities you’ll find. The same can also be said for salaries, as more seasoned journalists garner higher salaries than their inexperienced colleagues.
In 2011, reporters and correspondents averaged $43,640 a year, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Because “mean” salary can be skewed by extremely high or even low salaries, median wage is often a better indicator of earning potential. For reporters and correspondents, about half earn almost $35,000 or more a year. But both figures fail to differentiate between broadcast and print media. Journalists working in radio or television are paid a much different scale than those working for newspapers or magazines.
A survey conducted by the Radio Television Digital News Association found that most on-air talent don’t always earn as much as the image might suggest. As of 2012, a news anchor earned an average of $84,800 a year, but the median wage is closer to $64,000. Sports anchors, on the other hand, averaged $60,000 a year, with median wages of $45,000. Weathercasters, however, averaged $70,500 a year, with a median wage of $60,000. News and sports reporters made the least among on-air talent, earning wages of just $32,000 and $31,000 a year, respectively.
Behind the Camera
Much like on-air talent, salaries behind the scenes vary greatly. In 2012, news directors, for example, fared the best, averaging almost $100,000 a year. But median wages are closer to $87,000. Assistant news directors averaged almost $74,000 a year, with median wages of $69,700. Managing editors earned a median wage of $60,000 a year, while executive producers made $55,000 a year. Assignment editors, news writers and tape editors earned $38,500, $31,500 and just $28,000 a year, respectively.
Journalists in radio don’t make as much as those working in television. A radio news director, for example, earned a median wage just $37,000 a year — $50,000 less than a news director in TV. Radio news anchors earned a median wage of $40,000 a year, while sports anchors earned a median wage of just $27,500 a year. When it comes to broadcast journalism, TV is where the money is.
As with any job, location affects salaries, and broadcast journalists are no exception. “The larger the market, the larger the salary,” adds the Radio Television Digital News Association. In the top 25 markets, TV news directors earned $175,000 a year, while those in the next 25 earned $135,000 a year — a $40,000 difference. News anchors, on the other hand, earned $120,000 a year in the top 25 markets and $92,000 a year in the next 25 markets. Executive producers earned $80,500 in the top 25 and $65,000 in the next 25.
Based in Minneapolis, Minn., Dana Severson has been writing marketing materials for small-to-mid-sized businesses since 2005. Prior to this, Severson worked as a manager of business development for a marketing company, developing targeted marketing campaigns for Big G, Betty Crocker and Pillsbury, among others.