Broadcast assistants help producers and presenters make radio programmes.
They look after administration, help to plan programmes and provide technical support in the studio. Their actual tasks vary widely from one station to the next. There are also big differences depending on whether they work in talk or music radio, and whether they work on live or pre-recorded shows.
Administration duties generally include:
Studio production work can include:
More experienced broadcast assistants may contribute programme ideas, interview guests or present part of a programme.
Broadcast assistants often work in a small team with producers, presenters, researchers and technical staff and also have contact with listeners over the phone or by email.
In speech or news radio, assistants may carry out short interviews (known as vox pops) with the public.
Hours depend on the programme, but may involve evenings, late nights and weekends. Assistants often need to work overtime to meet deadlines.
They work in offices and recording studios, but may also travel locally or nationally as part of an outside broadcast team.
Salaries start at around £12,000 to £14,000 a year.
Broadcast assistants with some experience could earn up to around £17,000. With more responsibilities and on larger stations or programmes, salaries could rise to around £25,000 a year.
Some assistants work freelance and negotiate a fee for each contract.
Broadcast assistants work for:
Many of the national networks are based in London, but most major towns and cities have local stations. In commercial radio, there is a wider spread of stations throughout the UK. The BBC has a strong presence in Manchester and Scotland, and many of its nationally networked programmes are produced in different parts of the UK.
Competition for jobs in radio is strong and many people are prepared to work for free, or on short-term contracts to get a start on the career ladder. The BBC gets more than 20,000 applications a year for its work placement scheme.
Jobs may be advertised in national newspapers, the trade press and online, but many roles are not advertised at all. Making contacts and networking is an important way of finding jobs or work placements. The Radio Academy also recommends sending an email or letter directly to editors, producers or station managers, asking for a placement or work shadowing opportunity.
There is no set route to becoming a broadcast assistant, but practical experience is essential to show initiative and enthusiasm to prospective employers.
Volunteering with community, hospital and student radio can be useful experience.
The BBC has a searchable list of work placements on its jobs website with an 'alert' option for people who register their details. Placements last between one and four weeks.
Commercial radio placements are advertised through a downloadable digest available from the RadioCentre website.
A list of independent production companies, some of which may offer work experience, is available on the Radio Independents Group website.
Because competition for jobs is so fierce, many broadcast assistants have a degree. Entry requirements vary. Applicants for a media production course usually need a minimum of two A levels and five GCSE's (A*-C), including English and maths, or the equivalent.
Other courses in radio or media production can be useful, especially those that include practical skills training and work placements. There is a wide range of full-time, part-time and short courses at colleges, universities and training organisations.
The Skillset website has a searchable list of courses aimed at people wanting to work in radio.
The Radio Academy runs day master classes for young people considering a career in radio. These involve seminars, hands-on skills sessions and lectures.
For news-based and factual radio, applicants may have an advantage with a background in journalism or research.
Many skills are learned on-the-job, but assistants may also take short courses in technical aspects of the jobs, such as operating studio desks or using particular recording and digital editing equipment.
The BBC provides extensive training for new recruits. It also offers a wide range of short courses in technical and production skills. RadioCentre offers a programme of C&G-accredited courses in many aspects of radio work.
Oil Drilling Roustabouts and Roughnecks work as part of a small team on offshore oil or gas drilling rigs or production platforms. Roustabouts do unskilled manual labouring jobs on rigs and platforms, and Roughneck is a promotion from roustabout.
Roustabouts do basic tasks to help keep the rig and platform working efficiently and Roughnecks do practical tasks involved in the drilling operation, under the supervision of the driller.
Broadcast assistants need:
Becoming a broadcast assistant is a common starting point for a career in radio. As assistants gain experience, they may put together a demo or showreel of productions they have worked on to send to potential employers.
Assistants could progress to become a radio producer, a music programmer or a technical studio manager. Some people choose to move into television research or production.
Community Media Association,
15 Paternoster Row, Sheffield S1 2BX
Tel: 0114 279 5219
Hospital Broadcasting Association
The Radio Academy, 5 Market Place, London W1W 8AE
Tel: 020 7927 9920
RadioCentre, 4th Floor, 5 Golden Square, London W1F 9BS
Tel: 020 3206 7800
Tel: 020 7713 9800 or,
08080 300 900 (careers helpline)
Student Radio Association
Additional resources for job seekers and those already in a job.