If you are one of the millions of Americans who tune in to the radio, you're probably familiar with your favorite station's roster of on-air talent. While these professionals may make the drive home from work more enjoyable, it's the radio program directors working behind the scenes who determine what makes it on air. They decide what music and commercials are played, and when disc jockeys and other on-air talent hit the airwaves.
Radio program directors, often referred to as PDs, are responsible for determining the format of their station and ensuring that their programs reach the largest audience possible. They decide what music is played on their shows and when. In some cases, they may collaborate with their station's music director to put together the right playlist to achieve this goal. At smaller stations, a program director and music director may be one in the same. Whatever music is chosen -- such as top 40 or adult contemporary -- must support the show's format.
Education and Experience
Program directors typically have at least a bachelor's degree in broadcasting or another communications-related field. They also typically have previous experience working in the radio industry. Many program directors get their start as disc jockeys or have dual roles as PDs and disc jockeys. Starting out at a college radio station is an ideal way to gain the entry-level experience necessary to become a PD.
The salary range for radio program directors is rather wide and depends on several factors. These include the size of the radio station, the location, the program director's cumulative experience, and the number of listeners the station attracts. According to the Careers in Music website, radio program directors can expect to make between $27,000 and $100,000 a year, as of 2014, with more seasoned PDs at larger stations earning salaries at the higher end of the scale. Competition for program directors increases when candidates attempt to transition into larger radio markets.
While program directors often begin their careers working in college radio or as a disc jockey at a small station, there is significant opportunity for career growth. Program directors typically advance their careers by moving to larger radio markets with more listeners. They can also choose to become the general manager of a radio station. A combination of radio and sales experience, buoyed by a master's of business administration, can help a program director achieve this goal.
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