How to Choose a Broadcasting School

by R. Craig, BroadcastingSchools.com Contributing Writer
How to Choose a Broadcasting School

Choosing a broadcasting school... picking the wrong school can lead to dead air time.

Degrees from broadcasting school have become increasingly vital to a healthy career path in the broadcasting industry.

Advanced schooling is generally necessary for supervisory positions, even technical ones, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Schools also provide instruction in other fields of knowledge, such as computer networks, that complement broadcast skills.

Students wishing to pursue a degree in broadcasting have two options, each vastly different but equally valuable. If radio or television journalism is appealing, four-year programs at universities offer training in the journalistic and broadcast skills needed to succeed. If basic announcing jobs or production positions are attractive, then students might opt for technical or trade schools with shorter terms, often less than two years depending on the classes completed. Some community colleges provide an option in between universities and trade schools.

Classes at a university broadcast journalism school typically include writing, reporting, videography and editing. Some production classes would be taught in support of the journalism, says Frederic Leigh, associate director of the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism at Arizona State University in Tempe. While the classroom training is important, the practical knowledge gained from working at student-run radio and television stations is essential, he adds.

To enter the journalism school, Arizona State students undergo an application process to the professional program. Applicants' academic performance, media involvement and relevant experience are reviewed by a selection committee, Leigh says. About 80 percent of applicants are accepted, however, enrollment in the school is capped at 600, he notes. "(Students) can prepare by getting some experience with media, whether it's in student media groups or internships," he says.

Students possess the skills to be a reporter or producer upon graduation, Leigh says. Study in complementary fields such as political science, business or marketing makes a student more appealing to employers, he adds. Public speaking, debate, or even acting and drama courses further enhance broadcasting skills.

Trade schools immerse their students in more technical aspects of broadcasting, though they also teach writing and editing. Well over half of the instruction occurs in studios rather than classrooms. "We're not teaching math or criminal justice," says Del Cockrell, president and owner of the American Broadcasting School in Oklahoma City, Okla. "Ninety percent of the work is hands-on. The first day here we put you in a practice studio. That's the best way to teach any trade."

Typical instruction consists of announcing, writing and producing commercials, writing and producing news and sports, Federal Communication Commission regulations, digital production, computer-based broadcast technology, and control room operation. Constant critiques add to the students' continual learning environment, Cockrell says.

Applying to a trade school often involves an interview and orientation, Cockrell says. A voice audition, a Wonderlic IQ test and a review by an administrative board are required by some schools.

Hands-on training is key for any school. Potential employers value practical experience, which starts at school. Prospective students should find a school where students participate in advanced lab work, says Vernon Stone, professor emeritus of the University of Missouri School of Journalism. Stone has compiled a career guide for broadcast journalists, now in its eighth edition (it is available at no charge on the Web). Students' work should not be limited to class discussion or "make believe" labs, he says.

Stone also advises a close look at the faculty. Instructors should have experience working in radio or TV and should understand current trends and technologies.

Whatever choice a prospective student makes, he or she should thoroughly check out the school, Cockrell says. He suggests asking the school for a list of graduates. In addition, students should look for job placement and internship assistance and student-run media opportunities.

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