Calling play-by-play action for a nationwide audience of Super Bowl or World Series fanatics is at the heart of many a young sports aficionado’s dreams. But in reality, most roads leading to the high-paying top of the sportscasting profession pass through small-market cities where entry-level employment means long hours, low wages and scant followings – along with ramen noodles aplenty. Still, years of perseverance can result in a multimillion-dollar jackpot for those talented few who truly shine.
According to 2010 figures from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, median pay for news and sports announcers is roughly $13 per hour or $27,000 per year – with the lowest 10 percent earning less than $17,000. Entry-level jobs comprise unpredictable shifts, tight deadlines, stressful situations and little room for error. Many gigs are essentially part-time work, yet eager candidates eagerly pursue the chance to enter a field where the top 10 percent makes upwards of $72,500.
Climbing the Ladder
Nothing beats experience as sportscasters climb the ladder toward bigger markets and robust paychecks. While educational requirements vary, sportscasters typically earn a bachelor’s degree in journalism while gaining hands-on experience at a college radio or television station. Once hired at a small-market outpost, neophytes hone their skills as they become comfortable on-air personalities with little opportunity for advancement short of moving on to greener pastures.
The best and most ambitious sportscasters are drawn to the largest markets. According to "Forbes," the New York metro area, with roughly 19 million inhabitants, maintains nine teams in the four major sports of baseball, football, basketball and hockey. Los Angeles, with 12.8 million people and five teams, ranks second, while Chicago is third, with five teams and 9.6 million denizens. More teams and more fans mean more advertising dollars, which translates into bigger paydays for those who make the grade.
A 2012 report by "SportsBusiness Journal" cites four sportscasters – Bob Costas, Al Michaels, Joe Buck and Jim Nantz – who each earn roughly $5 million on the profession’s highest rung. Chris Berman and Mike Tirico are in the next rung at an estimated annual $3 million, while product endorsements add value to those numbers. There may be no easy way to the top, but the good news is that sports television is growing – meaning more employers offering more sportscasting jobs than ever.