The camera man’s point of view must encompass more than what he sees. It must take into account the desires of his director and the needs of his audience. He must be able to work with digital cameras and computer technology. He needs at least a bachelor’s degree and on-the-job training to earn money in video, television and motion pictures.
Camera men made a mean of $49,010 per year as of May 2012, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Their salaries reached over $86,000 yearly at the highest and fell below an annual $19,610 at the lowest. Contrast these amounts with the average earnings of all workers in arts, design, entertainment, sports and media, which ran $54,4910 per year. Compare them also with the mean $45,790 made by all workers in all industries. The work schedules for camera men are generally long in broadcasting, especially when meeting deadlines. In motion pictures, work may be irregular and frequently punctuated by periods of unemployment.
The state with the most opportunities for camera men was California, also the country's most populous and an entertainment powerhouse. It had 2,430 of the 16,410 total positions and averaged $69,080 per year. The top-paying location was the District of Columbia, which the BLS considers a state and which had mean salaries of $70,340 yearly. For cities, Los Angeles, an entertainment capital, had the highest employment levels, with 1,700 cameramen making a mean annual $76,120. The highest wages were in Las Vegas, at a mean $112,230 per year.
The chief factor for determining the income of camera men was the type of employer. With 6,140 positions, television broadcasting topped the opportunity list with mean pay at $39,150 per year. Motion picture and video were next, with 5,970 jobs averaging an annual $57,100, followed by the federal government, with 440 workers. Government work also boasted the highest pay, at a mean $65,610 yearly. Second for compensation were accounting, tax preparation, bookkeeping and payroll services, averaging $65,530 per year. Other information services, such as Internet video sites, ranked third, at a mean annual $57,650.
The BLS expects that jobs for camera operators will increase by 2 percent from 2010 to 2020. This compares to the 14 percent growth expected for all occupations in all industries. The slow growth is due to the automatic camera systems that are now common at many TV stations. These devices reduce the need for camera operators. On the plus side, production companies are delivering content through alternative means, such as with mobile devices, which present additional jobs for cameramen. The best opportunities will go to those with experience in TV and movies. Nevertheless, competition will be strong.
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: How to Become a Film and Video Editor or Camera Operator
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: Wages for Camera Operators, Television, Video and Motion Pictures
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: U.S. Wages
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: Work Environment for Film and Video Editors or Camera Operators
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: Job Outlook for Film and Video Editors and Camera Operators
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