Is a College Degree Necessary for Announcing?

Do you need a college degree to be a good announcer?

Not always, but in some announcing specializations, such as the news area, it is probably required, and it will very likely be necessary if you have any aspirations to move toward an administrative position in broadcasting. Regardless of what announcing situation you find yourself in, having a degree probably will help you. In most competitive situations, a degree makes it easier to get a job and get promoted once you have a job. There are many excellent two- and four-year schools that offer broadcast or communication programs that will help prepare you for a performance career. You can check the web site of the Broadcast Education Association (BEA) to find some of the schools that offer communication programs. Their site is located at www.beaweb.org.

Regardless of what specific school you attend or even what actual major you pursue, your education for an announcing career should include these elements: a broadcast education, a general education, and a specialized education. Obviously, you should get some education in the mass media field. Introductory and history courses will give you a good grounding in the industry, while performance and production courses will provide you with necessary skills and techniques. Additional courses in writing, programming, and management can help create a solid foundation for your work in the broadcast business. Some would recommend an actual major in broadcasting, but others suggest another major with some course work in media. Both approaches have been successful for numerous broadcasters, so choose the one that appeals to you.

In addition to a broadcast background, you will need a broad, generalized educational background. Almost any college degree program will require you to take some type of core curriculum course work. Don't look at this as just taking courses to earn credits, but as an opportunity to become familiar with a wide array of areas. As any type of media performer, you will be expected to be conversant on any number of topics. For example, radio DJs are expected to be able to ad-lib about almost anything, and cable television news reporters should have an understanding of the history behind today's news stories. Take courses in art, music, drama, literature, political science, psychology, and as many writing courses as you can. A mastery of the English language, especially the principles of grammar and proper spelling, are invaluable to the broadcast performer. Broadcast announcers should also be computer literate because computers are a part of most aspects of modern broadcasting. A well-rounded education will also prove helpful if you ultimately find yourself working outside the broadcast industry. 

The final element of your education should be specialized courses: courses that match the announcer specialization you'd like to pursue. For example, if you see yourself as a classical music announcer, a strong foreign language background will be helpful (and probably required).

Similarly, a weathercaster is going to want to take courses in meteorology, and a consumer affairs reporter will probably take some specialized courses in the business, legal, and ethical areas. Regardless of the announcing specialization, you should pursue some very specific course work that will help you attain the position you'd like.

Obviously, this text stresses a college education, but another option for entering the broadcast industry is a trade school, such as the Connecticut School of Broadcasting. Many broadcast trade schools are legitimate and will provide you with a background in broadcasting and plenty of hands-on experience working with broadcast equipment. There are many success stories about their graduates, too, but you need to know what you are getting from a trade school. Essentially, through courses that last six months to a year, you will receive a broadcast background, but that's it—no general education, no specialized education, and no degree of any kind. Because more and more college graduates trained in broadcasting want to get into the industry, it has become harder and harder for non-degree graduates to compete. Be cautious before you decide to take the trade school route. Remember, while there are good trade schools, some are more interested in taking your money than in providing you with any serious broadcast training. Be especially cautious if the school's literature claims "hundreds of stations will want you upon graduation" or "huge sums of money await you upon entering the broadcast field." These are not realistic claims and should alert you to the questionable quality of the school. Before enrolling in a broadcasting school, you might want to contact a couple of managers or program directors of area radio and television stations and ask if they feel the school has a good reputation for preparing its students for entry into the broadcasting business.

At one time, many on-air performers, especially in radio, would have had to obtain a license from the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), in addition to any educational background. The license was not required to perform in any manner, but was needed in order to be in charge of the station's transmitter and take meter readings, which was often an additional duty of the announcer. Because of deregulation, the FCC no longer requires such a license.