As camera operator, you'll be the person behind the lens during a broadcast -- though unfortunately, you may only operate and maintain the equipment, while leaving the choice of shots and lighting to the director or cinematographer. Still, even this position typically requires a solid background in film, TV or broadcasting. Some people get their start in this field by learning on the job; others study at a community college, technical college or university first.
A Mix of Education and on-the-Job Experience
The traditional way to become a camera operator is to study film, cinematography, communications or broadcasting after high school. That training will provide you with the computer, technical and communication skills necessary to thrive in the film and TV industry. You can also find an entry-level job as a camera operator in a broadcast station, as a production assistant in a film or TV studio, or volunteer and receive training in community or public access TV. Often, small-market stations in small or medium-size towns are the places to find your first paying jobs. When there, be helpful and willing to learn from other professionals in the studio to work your way up. As of May 2013, camera operators earned a median annual income of $52,530 -- though you'll often work for much less than that as you start out. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the job is expected to grow by just 3 percent from 2012 to 2022, much slower than average, due to the advent of automated broadcast camera systems.
2016 Salary Information for Film and Video Editors and Camera Operators
Film and video editors and camera operators earned a median annual salary of $59,500 in 2016, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. On the low end, film and video editors and camera operators earned a 25th percentile salary of $38,840, meaning 75 percent earned more than this amount. The 75th percentile salary is $92,790, meaning 25 percent earn more. In 2016, 59,300 people were employed in the U.S. as film and video editors and camera operators.