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What Does a Radio Engineer Do?

By Angela Wheeland
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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Radio engineers — also known as broadcast engineers — radio operators, and broadcast technicians perform a wide variety of duties that generally include setting up and maintaining the electrical equipment of radio stations. To keep the station on the air, a radio engineer must monitor and repair cables, design layouts for equipment, supervise the transmission levels between broadcast towers and antennas, and log readings from radio transmitters. In addition to basic electrical engineering skills, radio engineers must have excellent communication skills and the physical ability to lift heavy equipment.

A radio engineer usually performs duties similar to video engineers, with the main goal of keeping broadcasts on the air. When communication or transmission errors occur, it is the responsibility of the radio engineer to swiftly and accurately assess and repair the problem. These professionals must be physically capable of climbing to great heights to repair antennas, and crawling into tight spaces to repair wiring or equipment. In addition to repair and maintenance, these engineers operate equipment to reproduce music and sound effects, and mix, record, and synchronize audio. Setting up and maintaining gear — like microphones, speakers, recording equipment, soundboards, and mixing boards — is also required of a radio engineer.

Several years of post-secondary education, usually focusing on electrical engineering, are required to become a radio engineer. Many technical colleges offer specialized coursework in radio engineering, which can include a one-year certification or associate's degree. Several four-year colleges, such as state universities, offer four-year degrees to those interested in obtaining a bachelor's degree in this field. In addition to formal training in this area, students often also complete classes in sound production, computer broadcasting technology, and broadcast engineering. During this education, radio engineering students should have the opportunity to practice skills using real studio equipment.

For those interested in pursuing an advanced certification in radio engineering, the Society of Broadcast Engineers (SBE) offers optional certification programs in many fields, including Certified Broadcast Networking Technologist, Certified Broadcast Radio Engineer, and Certified Radio Operator. Obtaining certification may require a number of years of formal education or professional experience. After the student meets the minimum education or professional experience requirements, he must pass a multiple-choice test to earn certification. Upon receiving this designation, radio engineers can advance to become a supervisory technician or a chief engineer. Although advancement in the radio engineering field generally includes additional responsibilities, such a credential can provide a certified engineer with a higher earning power.

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