Video Camera Operator: Employment Info & Requirements

Learn the job duties of video camera operators. Find out the education requirements and salary potential for this career, as well as two alternative career options.

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Career Definition

Video camera operators record moving images that are used in news broadcasts, documentaries, sporting events, commercials, and live television. These workers may also perform additional tasks, such as editing and producing videos. Video camera operators work in a variety of places, including universities, television stations, sports organizations, non-profit organizations, and corporations. A skilled video camera operator may find work anywhere in the country, but the areas with the highest number of video camera jobs are found in California, New York, and Florida, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

How to Become a Video Camera Operator

Required Education

While a college degree is not required for many video camera operator positions, an associate's or bachelor's degree with coursework in videography, journalism, television, and film can provide excellent training. Some universities also offer 2-year certificate programs in cinematography with courses in camera operation, shot composition, technique, and lighting. In addition to references and credits, some employers may require a reel of clips demonstrating technical skill. Videographers often start out as production assistants and work their way up while gaining additional experience through freelance and volunteer opportunities. Video camera operators may also be required to join a union to be considered for some positions.

Skills Required

Working in video camera operation requires good eyesight, technical skill, and creativity. Extensive knowledge of cameras, lenses, and lighting, and the ability to operate cameras in different settings - such as studios and remote locations - is essential. Knowledge of editing equipment and software is also required for many positions. A video camera operator must be able to work well under pressure, be a good communicator, and be able to work as part of a team or as an individual. Many jobs require the ability to stand or hold a camera for long periods of time. Freelancers must also have good networking and business skills.

Economic Outlook

According to the BLS, jobs for television, motion picture, and video camera operators are expected to increase at the slower-than-average pace of 6% from 2012 to 2022. Video camera operation is a highly competitive field, and developing a broad skill set can improve opportunities for job security. As technology continues to develop, professionals with traditional television experience may find opportunities in digital production and Internet programming. The BLS reported in May 2012 that the median annual salary for television, motion picture, and video camera operators was $40,300.

Alternative Career Options

Photographer

Like video camera operators, photographers capture images, but photographers capture still images, while video camera operators record moving images. Photographers may specialize in capturing a particular type of still image, such as portraits, landscapes or aerial images. The level of education required to work as a photographer depends on the type of business. For example, while portrait photographers may take a few classes to learn their craft, news photographers may be required to have a bachelor's degree.

The median salary for all types of photographers in 2012 was $28,490, according to the BLS. The BLS projects that jobs for professional photographers will increase at a slower-than-average pace of 3% from 2012 to 2022. This is likely due to the improved camera technologies that make it easier for people to take their own pictures.

Broadcast Technician

For those who want to work on the technical side of television or film but do not want to operate the camera, a career as a broadcast technician may be a good fit. Broadcast technicians take the video images recorded by the camera operator and edit the sound and picture quality. They also operate equipment that maintains sound and picture quality during live television broadcasts. An associate's degree and technical prowess are required for this career. Jobs for broadcast technicians are projected to increase at a slower-than-average rate of 3% from 2012 to 2022, according to the BLS. The BLS reported in 2012 that broadcast technicians had a median salary of $37,880.

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