If you’re an avid sports fan who often flips to ESPN and turns on sports talk radio, then you know that sports broadcasters can literally make or break a game. Sports broadcasters do more than just give the play-by-play; they provide live on-air coverage of sports events to capture the feeling of the game for viewers and listeners. After all, who could ever forget Al Michaels exclaiming “Do you believe in miracles?” during the 1980 U.S. Olympic hockey team victory, or Harry Kalas shouting his trademark phrase “It’s Outta Here!” when the Phillies score a homerun? Whether on television, radio, the Internet, or live in the stadium, sports broadcasters are responsible for sharing their commentary, game analysis, and personal experiences with viewers. Also referred to as sportscasters or announcers, sports broadcasters keep fans engaged and entertained throughout the entire event.
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According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the 40,020 radio and television broadcasters currently working in the United States earn an average annual salary of $41,800, which is equivalent to a mean hourly wage of $20.10. In particular, broadcasters employed in the spectator sports industry earn significantly higher than average at $92,360 each year.
When just starting out in the broadcasting field, it’s common for new sports broadcasters to land in the bottom 10 percent of the profession with an annual salary around $37,890. However, it’s important to note that sports broadcasters with years of experience who cover the most televised sports events can often make a six-figure salary over $104,670 annually.
Sports broadcasters have the overall responsibility to put actions on the field and stories from inside the locker room into words that viewers or listeners will enjoy. Sportscasters will be involved in preparing, writing, and presenting news coverage or analysis on sports events to inform fans of the latest happenings in the sports world. On a typical day, sports broadcasters may be involved in researching game statistics, analyzing sports news stories, learning about sports history, writing scripts or articles, reading from a teleprompter, announcing play-by-plays, and offering their game predictions on the air. Some sports broadcasters may also interview coaches, athletes, and other team officials as part of the pre- or post-game sports coverage.
In order to be successful, sports broadcasters must have exceptional public speaking skills with a pleasing voice, good pronunciation, solid timing, and witty personality. Most sportscasters must write their own material for presenting on the air, so writing skills are a must. Research skills are important because sports broadcasters need to find up-to-date information on the latest sports topics for commenting on during the broadcast. Sports broadcasters should have excellent interpersonal skills to make interviewing guests, interacting with other broadcasters, and answering phone calls on air more comfortable. It’s also essential that sports broadcasters in radio have the technical skills to operate computers and editing equipment.
Degree and Education Requirements
Although the educational qualifications can vary greatly, most sports broadcasters have earned at least a bachelor’s degree from an accredited four-year higher learning institution. Aspiring sportscasters often choose to receive an undergraduate major in communications, broadcasting, journalism, radio and television, media, or mass communications. Although they can be harder to find, it’s advised that sportscasters specialize their broadcasting skills by enrolling in a program for sport journalism, sports broadcasting, or sports management. If this isn’t offered at your chosen college, make sure you fill up on electives in sports broadcasting, public speaking, sports history, media marketing, sports production, and station operations.
Pros and Cons of the Position
As with any other career, becoming a sports broadcasters will provide its fair share of both pros and cons. Firstly, sports broadcasters have a decent salary that outpaces the earning potential for many other broadcasting industries. Sportscasters are given a good amount of autonomy and independence in choosing their own creative material. Since sports teams are playing across the entire world, sports broadcasters also have flexible options for job locations. On the flip side, sports broadcasters must be prepared for competition in a sluggish job market that isn’t seeing much growth. Some sports broadcasters may feel pressured to only report accurate facts and garner high ratings for their station. Being a sportscaster also means a significant amount of travel for viewing and providing commentary at live sports events.
Due to the great deal of competition for on-air sports broadcasting positions, you’ll need to start making yourself stand out from the crowd. While earning your undergraduate degree, jump on every opportunity to build a resume filled with sports commentary experience. You could apply for an internship at a local news station, work part-time at a sports talk radio station, and announce games for your college’s sports teams. After you graduate, you can start applying for full-time sports broadcasting positions at smaller stations to begin developing your on-air confidence level. In your spare time, you might also want to start a podcast or Internet radio station to widen your reach to new listeners. Joining the National Association of Sports Public Address Announcers (NASPAA) could be helpful for taking voice training workshops and networking with stations too.
Unfortunately, the Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that there will be little to no change in job growth for sports broadcasters with only around 800 total broadcasters being hired across the United States before 2022. This is mostly due to technological advancements and the consolidation of many radio or television stations. In radio, it’s common for stations to use voice tracking now to prerecord segments of broadcasts rather than air them live. Rather than heading right to ESPN, news sportscasters will have the most favorable prospects for finding work at local broadcasts and Internet radio stations. Sports broadcasters should market themselves with a baccalaureate education in sports journalism and plenty of on-air experience to compete for available openings.
Overall, sports broadcasters are very knowledgeable sports fanatics who provide coverage for games or competitions in a certain sport. While some broadcasters may only provide on-air commentary, others may specialize in conducting research or supervising the production of different sporting events. The road towards becoming a sports broadcaster may be lined with steep competition, but this career is the ideal path for individuals with superb communications skills who have a passion for helping others enjoy sports.