The Engineering Pool is Shrinking

What equipment’s hot, and what’s not? Regulatory matters – discuss!

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The Engineering Pool is Shrinking

Post by steveo » Thu Jul 22, 2010 2:28 pm

I have noticed more and more "help wanted" ads on the internet these days for engineers. Ever wonder why that is?

About 15 years ago a quiet mass exodus began in the radio engineering field. A case in point regards a fellow engineer friend of mine who told me he was leaving his chief engineer job at a big station a few miles away from mine. I asked him why he made that decision. He told me his new job in IT paid more, allowed him to be off weekends, except for once a month or so he had to be on call, and his new company truly valued its people.

Contrast that with how most radio station groups and independent stations pay their engineers; an average of $35,000! If you're lucky you work for a big company and make $45,000. Most IT people start at $60,000 a year and almost never have to roll out of bed at 2 a.m.

All of the consolidation of radio properties has resulted in many cases, one engineer taking care of a dozen or more signals. Every engineer these days has to be a super hero; knowing everything about technology and be ready and willing to leave the family picnic to get a station back on the air, or take numerous phone calls at all hours of the day and night. When you're a chief engineer, or an assistant, you are married to your job; you don't have a life. What kind of appreciation do you get? You are asked to cut your parts and equipment budget again, and in a month or two, surprise, your job is going to be eliminated so the corporation can ad your cluster of stations to their group engineer in the next market.

Yes my friends, engineers and their work are looked at as an expense! Bean counters like cutting expenses, even if it means an engineer has to lose his (or her) job. So what are the incentives to be an engineer in radio broadcasting?

Here are your incentives: 1. Long hours, low pay, and for nothing extra when you go the extra mile; not even a "thanks." 2. You have to leave your wife and family at the worst times to get a radio station back on the air. 3. You're expected to know or learn everything on your own time and at your own expense. 4. You have to be a weight lifter, capable of lifting 100 pounds or more. 5. You are expected to fix things an engineer shouldn't have to; like toilets, and anything else at the station that breaks. 6. You have to know every FCC regulation inside out and backwards and make sure the station(s) is (are) in compliance, even when you're away on vacation.

It's true that some stations and companies treat their engineers like respectable people, but those opportunities are very rare indeed. So their should be no mystery as to why you can't hire an engineer if you desperately wanted to. You can only expect people to work in a thankless, low-paying job so long before they wake up and find something better.

Take a job as a chief or assistant engineer? Hmmmm. That IT job looks better and better all the time.

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Re: The Engineering Pool is Shrinking

Post by na6df » Fri Aug 17, 2012 5:37 am

Yep. I'm a dyed in the wool radio guy, but I'm just tired of the BS. 29 years of it. I do TV now, and no one ever wakes me up at night, and if I work extra, I get paid extra. I do take care of a small mom & pop station for some friends.

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Re: The Engineering Pool is Shrinking

Post by radiokeith » Sat Sep 01, 2012 5:13 am


Sadly, I am one of the ones left and with 50+ years in the field no one wants to hire you?

Talked with a group who had hired a 23 yr old but he did not show up as planned saying he didn't want to leave his children.

Agree IT is better but then you have to fight the 12 year olds...

Any leads appreciated off list

Radio Keith

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Re: The Engineering Pool is Shrinking

Post by k2pg » Sat Feb 15, 2014 4:06 pm

I'm another experienced engineer who has been unable to find steady work. I was "downsized" out of my job at a cluster in a medium market when the parent company was acquired by another company. An "engineer" from another market 60 miles away now covers my position. Only problem is, he is an IT guy, not a transmitter guy. And the quality of their AM signal shows it, with reduced power and an obnoxious hum on the carrier. How long before their cash cow FM station goes down?

If there is such a shortage of engineers, where are the jobs? I have 42 years of experience in broadcast engineering and have even REBUILT an old transmitter that burned up a few years ago...but I have yet to find steady work. I have not had health insurance for over two years. Obamacare? Sorry, can't afford the premiums, at least if I want to buy food and avoid having to live under a bridge. With a $5,000 deductible, those policies are worthless anyway.

It is much easier to teach an old school RF/audio engineer about IT than it is to teach a computer geek about transmitters, especially if that 40 year old RCA transmitter has a 5 kV plate supply that could easily turn that IT guy into a crispy critter.

Phil G.

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Re: The Engineering Pool is Shrinking

Post by countryboy » Sun Feb 16, 2014 8:38 am

Back about 25 years ago, I became aware of the growing number of former radio engineers who were offering outside engineering services to stations in place of their existing employee engineers. These outside service companies made a very good point that you don't need to be fully staffed all the time for the possibility of one emergency. These outside companies had the experience, the knowledge, the parts, and connections with manufacturers to solve the problem as quickly as the employee engineer. This was NOT coming from station ownership, but from the engineering community! It's really hard to argue against these outside engineering companies who are basically offering engineering insurance for radio stations.

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Re: The Engineering Pool is Shrinking

Post by thelegend » Sun Feb 16, 2014 8:07 pm

The reason is: PERCEPTION IS REALITY. And the dumb asses that run radio these days think GEEKS are smarter than your typical transmitter engineer. Maybe so. :o

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Re: The Engineering Pool is Shrinking

Post by WMUD » Tue Jun 03, 2014 12:44 pm

There are still good radio engineers out there - working for themselves or teaming with others. Only the best operators can afford on staff broadcast engineers or contracts with engineering companies that can provide true preventative maintenance and cost-effective project management. The rest pay more for emergency maintenance and equipment. It's a matter of survival. A successful career in radio requires incredible flexibility. I was last employed by a radio station in 1989 but have a very successful broadcast engineering company willing and able to help.

Chip Morgan
Burlington, VT

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Re: The Engineering Pool is Shrinking

Post by tysonradcliffe » Mon Jul 21, 2014 10:44 am

I'm a new engineer. Learning the IT and RF side of things. I ask to oversee engineers to learn all I can about RF but I can't find one. I would really like to get a job where I can OJT since I'm the only engineer at my station. for resume.

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Re: The Engineering Pool is Shrinking

Post by roccotherockdog » Mon Oct 20, 2014 9:43 am

38 years...can't find a full time engineering position to save my life...worked the last engineering position for 10 bucks an hour. Not gonna do it anymore. The radio business is over for me.

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Re: The Engineering Pool is Shrinking

Post by onapthanh » Mon Jul 20, 2015 3:21 am

I aslo think that the rest pay more for emergency maintenance and equipment. It's a matter of survival. A successful career in radio requires incredible flexibility.

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