How do I get into a career in TV or radio production?
If you want a career in TV or radio production you might decide to start as a runner or a production trainee/production assistant. You could work on lifestyle shows such as The One Show or Strictly Come Dancing, or on culture, drama or comedy productions. Be aware that if you want to work on news or current affairs programmes you will probably be better off training as a journalist – see our advice on how to get a job as a journalist for more information on this route.
A runner helps with the logistics of production, for example booking guests and studio time, finding props, making tea, photocopying, buying lunches, tidying up and helping with admin. A broadcast production trainee or production assistant will also have plenty of admin work but may be involved with the actual technicalities of production such as sound as well. They may also help to keep track of timings, continuity and shots recorded when filming, and make sure that permission is obtained to use any material that is under copyright.
Broadcasting is a very competitive industry to get into. Read our advice on how to get into a career in the media to find out how to start developing your work experience.
What qualifications do I need to become a runner or a broadcast production trainee?
Especially with the right connections and experience, it is possible to get a job as a runner with any degree subject, or with no degree at all.
Some of the largest TV and radio broadcasters run broadcast apprenticeship/trainee schemes for school leavers, as do some of the TV/film studios that service the industry. Employers include the BBC, ITV and Channel 4.
Some broadcasters will take you on as a runner with a degree in any subject, particularly smaller production companies. They will want to see:
- a lot of evidence of interest in broadcasting, crucially including work experience
- any evidence of excellent organisational skills in other areas, particularly if they are creative, eg running student music festivals or theatre events.
You’ll need to learn how to network, as having good contacts is extremely helpful in getting work. Make a good impression on everyone you meet (for example, when doing work experience), keep in touch with them and don’t be shy about asking for advice on how to progress your career.
If you’re applying as a graduate for a role that includes some technical work, it can help to have studied a media production course. You can do this either as an undergraduate, or as a postgraduate if there’s another subject you’d like to study first.
Will my first job be permanent or temporary?
Runners often work on short-term contracts, so be prepared to move from job to job rather than having permanent employment. Keep in mind that jobs are typically based in big cities and salaries are low. Typical locations include London, Manchester, Birmingham, Bristol, Glasgow and Belfast. Unless your parents live in a relevant city and are happy for you to stay at home, you’re likely to find that money is tight. You may also have the odd panic about whether you’ll be able to pay the rent, if you have one job about to finish and nothing else lined up yet.
If you get a place on a broadcast production traineeship, such as the one run by the BBC, you will have a job for at least a year or so. However, some roles will also be short-term.
UK employers who hire broadcast production trainees or runners
Typical employers include:
- TV broadcasting: BBC, IT, Channel 4, Sky, Warner Bros
- Radio broadcasting: BBC, Bauer City Network, Kiss Network