A researcher looks for background information on topics that form the content of radio or television programmes, and helps with different aspects of planning and producing the programmes.
You could be:
working with producers, directors and other professionals to discuss research requirements
working on different programmes, from quiz and chat shows to documentaries and news programmes
researching topics on the internet (or occasionally in archives or libraries)
finding facts, figures and information and getting material such as archive footage, pictures, samples or music
checking copyright and negotiating fees for material usage
coming up with ideas for shows or items on shows
finding and interviewing guests to take part in programmes
finding and checking out possible locations for filming
assisting with script writing, recording and editing.
The figures below are only a guide. Actual salaries vary, depending on:
where you work
the size of company or organisation you work for
whether you are freelance
the demand for the job.
As a trainee you may be able to earn up to £16,000 a year. Salaries for broadcasting researchers are around £21,000 to £25,000 a year, rising with experience to up to £35,000 or more. As a researcher in factual television, you might earn from £465 to £729 for a 48-hour week (recommended rates of pay from BECTU – the media and entertainment union). It may be that you would have to work for a minimal rate or for nothing before getting a fully paid job.
You will probably work long irregular hours which could include evenings and weekends.
Although you will be mostly in an office or studio, you will sometimes travel about.
You may sometimes have to spend overnights away from home.
The work can be demanding, with tight deadlines to meet.
Most entrants are graduates. Degrees in journalism, public relations, English, politics, history and media can increase your chances.
You need 4-5 Highers to get on to a degree course.
Postgraduate training in journalism is useful.
It helps to have experience in journalism or broadcasting. Posts often go to those already within the organisation doing other jobs, such as an entry level position like runner (See Runner).
You must have work or voluntary experience to start building your portfolio and make contacts. You can build up this type of experience by working in community or hospital radio or by being involved in local newspapers or student magazines.
Most training is on the job although there are a number of short courses that can be done in-house or externally.
Creative Skillset has information on a range of courses. Along with the British Film Institute (BFI) they run a database to help those in the industry choose relevant courses (see below).
The BBC Academy offers a number of relevant courses. Visit their website for more details.
You will probably work freelance, from one temporary project to another, with gaps of unemployment between jobs. Full time permanent contracts are rare and short term contracts are usual.
You could help yourself to gain work by contacting companies, networking and making sure your name appears on databases of experienced media staff.
The number of job opportunities in broadcasting involving community languages, including Gaelic, Urdu and Punjabi, is increasing.
If you are working long term for a company, you might try for promotion to senior researcher or associate producer. Otherwise, you could move into other areas of broadcasting: journalism, programme editing, directing, producing or presenting.
If you are aged 18 or over you may be interested in The Network. The Network is held each year alongside the TV Festival in Edinburgh. If selected you would attend for four free days of masterclasses and workshops which will provide you with the skills, knowledge and contacts to start a career in TV. You can usually apply from January to May.
BBC Scotland runs an apprenticeship scheme for people who are keen to get into a career in the media industry. The closing date for applications is usually sometime in April or May. The one-year apprenticeship is based in Glasgow and pays £12,500 a year. Training takes place at Glasgow Kelvin College, BBC Scotland at Pacific Quay and on the job in various departments. It leads to a Level 3 Diploma in Creative and Digital Media. Applicants must have National 5 English and Maths, good IT skills and a keen interest in media. You must be at least 18 at the start date of the apprenticeship. There are usually only around ten places available, so entry is very competitive. The selection process includes an assessment day and tests in English and Maths. If you would like to find out more or check on application deadline dates visit BBC Scotland Apprenticeships.