Camera operators in television, movies, and video are generally professionals with both a technical and creative role. This type of job is thus recommended for people who are both visually inclined in a creative sense and those with an interest in technology. Both areas play heavily into this career choice. The field in general is quite labor intensive while also being challenging, interesting, and creatively satisfying.
This is definitely a well paid career choice. The US Bureau of Labor Statistics gives the median annual wages for television, movie, and video camera operators as $41,670, the median 50% range as between $29,020 and $59,970, and the top and bottom 10% as $79,440 and $21,710 respectively.*
Editors make still better pay, with the median given by the BLS as $50,560, with correspondingly higher median ranges and highs and lows, with the highest 10% making $112,410 annually.*
*According to the BLS, http://www.bls.gov/oco/
The site Salary.com places the figure significantly higher, suggesting that either wages have increased since 2008 (the year of the Bureau of Labor Statistics figures) or they are factoring editing positions into the estimate. It gives the median 50% range for camera operators as between $59,688 $89,731. Note that the bottom of the range here is about the same as the top of the range for the BLS figures.
The website Payscale.com gives the median salary for camera operators as between $29,699 and $56,044 which matches up well with the BLS figures, so these figures are probably the most accurate. They place the average salary for television editor jobs between $31,965 and $103,511 yearly.
These figures show that this is lucrative career, with, however, editors making fairly substantially higher pay than camera operators. This is somewhat to be expected since more technical knowledge is required for image manipulation and production than simple filming.
Job Description and Outlook
As suggested above, this career breaks into the two main categories of filming and editing. The filming is done by camera operators and the editing tasks are taken care of by editors.
Camera operators work in a wide variety of environments using movie and video cameras to shoot real time moving images. They are employed on movie sets, by televisions stations filming both TV programs and news, independent production agencies, and by documentary film makers. They film action sequences and must be highly skilled in the use of a variety of cameras.
Editors work with the filmed sequences after the fact, assembling them into a more coherent and viewable format and making any needed changes. Almost all modern editing is done with computers, so editors must be computer literate and well versed in a variety of video production software. Needless to say most of this work is done in indoor environments. It may involve long and irregular hours, since editing can be fairly time intensive and there are often deadlines to be met.
The job outlook as regards growth of job demand is good for the coming years. The Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts an overall growth of 11% by 2018 which is at the high end of the national average for all careers. As the industry becomes more and more computer based, individuals with higher levels of computer experience will have an advantage. In general, experience with camera use in a variety of settings is also highly advantageous.*
*According to the BLS, http://www.bls.gov/oco/
Training and Education Requirements
This career choice requires a good technical knowledge. Bachelor’s degree programs in videography are offered both at dedicated film schools and ordinary academic or technical colleges. At least a bachelor level of education is often required as a prerequisite to being hired, so it is recommended that students interested in the field get formal education. The 4 year time frame is an appropriate one for getting familiar with the many technical aspects involved in this type of work.
Along with classroom education, work experience is gained through entry level camera assistant jobs at cable television stations, movie studios, and with jobs at camera stores (the latter providing familiarization with equipment). The educational program in which a student is enrolled may also offer experiential opportunities with filming and editing. This kind of real world experience is highly necessary in this field as it is in many others.
Certification in the field is provided by the bachelor or higher level degrees in videography conferred by film schools and other academic institutions. These programs are fairly thorough, so successful completion of a 4 year degree is seen as sufficient credentialization of a candidate for a filming job. While not required by law, having a degree puts a job candidate in an advantageous position. His or her credentials can be verified by an employer and this generally places the candidate in a category of higher perceived employability. Chances are that unless someone has been in the business for an extended period that can be shown to have served the purpose of an educational program, prospective camera operators with degrees will be seen as better prepared.
Professional association for the field include the National Association of Broadcast Employees and Technicians and the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees.