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Camera operators shoot videos, television shows, movies and commercials, but their responsibilities can depend on the particular assignment or job. For example, those that work on documentaries, industrial or educational productions may be responsible for all of the shooting and lighting while camera operators employed on other projects could be challenged with additional responsibilities, such as directing.

Most camera operators specialize either in motion pictures or television, while only a small number work in both settings. However, some camera operators are self-employed and find contract work with advertising agencies, documentary filmmakers, independent filmmakers and television networks, while others still could work for trade show and convention sponsors or on individual projects.

Camera Operator

Camera Operator Schools

A bachelor's degree is usually needed to enter the film or broadcasting industry, and attending a college or postsecondary program allows you gain technical skills under the guidance of professionals and experts. While many filmmakers may be predominantly self-taught, a formal education could help you to gain practical and theory-based skills.

There are hundreds of great film, art and media schools out there, and to get you started we've compiled a list of a few well-known camera operator and film schools:

  • New York Film Academy: This school has worked to develop its reputation over the past 20 years and not only offers workshops, but also a variety of associate, bachelor's and master's degrees including a master's in film and video production. Degree-based programs are only available in Los Angeles and South Beach, Fla., while stories of student success can be found on the NYFA website, including that of Chris Lofing whose horror film "The Gallows" has appeared nationwide in theaters.
  • Colorado Film School: Identified as the "Finest Film School in the Western States Region" by ICG Magazine, this school in Denver has featured camera-ready programming since the 1990s. Programs are available in post-production, cinematography, screen writing and more, and students are known to participate as interns and paid cast members for crews around the Denver area. Students and graduates have worked on films including "Hateful Eight," "Total Recall," "Gone Girl," and more.
  • Ringling College of Art and Design: Located in Sarasota, Fla., this film school has alumni such as Zach Parrish and Nathan Engelhardt, who were Head of Animation and Animation Supervisor on "Big Hero 6". Among other creative arts programs, the school offers a bachelor of fine arts degree in film and hosts a studio lab enabling students to build career-specific skills and to work with top-tier professionals.
  • American Film Institute: The AFI, in Los Angeles, offers a variety of programs ranging from production to cinematography, screenwriting and more. In fact, four alumni received nominations for the 2016 88th Academy Awards, and the AFI is well-known for honoring artists through a variety of awards, including the AFI Life Achievement Award.

Camera operating and film production programs help students to gain important career-ready skills, such as how to use a variety of cameras and systems and to manage the camera to capture images and scenes to evoke specific emotions. In camera operator training programs, you also an learn about pre-production, production and post-production and often will find the opportunity to do an internships or create a project.

Camera Operator Education Requirements and Certification

A bachelor's degree in film or broadcasting is typically needed to enter the field, although individuals also may be able to gain skills on the job or while taking supplementary classes at a school, which could include a tech institution, community college, college or university. In a degree program, students should learn about:

  • The types of equipment used in camera operation
  • Various techniques and processes
  • Creative and artistic renderings
  • Digital equipment and editing software
  • General tech and computer skills

Certification may be available in a number of different areas, ranging from use of specific types of cameras, such as with the Phantom V-Series Camera Operator Training Certification, or even for underwater camera operation, which typically starts with scuba certification.

Licensing is not needed in the field, but individuals may choose to join a union like the International Cinematographers Guild, which represents camera operators and others in the field, but first requires applicants to have completed at least 100 days of paid work in their specialty.


Resources for Camera Operators

  • International Cinematographer's Guild
  • National Association of Broadcast Employees and Technicians
  • Steadicam Operators Association
  • The Association of Camera Operators

Sources:

  1. Camera Operators, Television, Video, and Motion Picture, Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Employment Statistics. Jan. 8, 2014. http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes274031.htm
  2. Film and Video Editors and Camera Operators, Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Outlook Handbook, May 2014. http://www.bls.gov/ooh/media-and-communication/film-and-video-editors-and-camera-operators.htm
  3. Local 600, International Cinematographers Guild, no date. https://www.cameraguild.com/Home.aspx
  4. Film School at the New York Film Academy, New York Film Academy. https://www.nyfa.edu/g-landing/filmmaking.php?utm_source=Google&utm_medium=cpc&Keyword=film%20classes&Ad=69144234078&utm_content=type&Campaign=FilmSchool%28USA_Search%29-FilmClass
  5. Colorado Film School. http://coloradofilmschool.co/
  6. Film school insight, Newsweek. http://www.newsweek.com/great-film-schools-2015
  7. Ringling College of Art and Design. http://www.ringling.edu/Film
  8. American Film Institute. http://www.afi.com/about/whatis.aspx

Metro Areas Sorted by Total Employment for:
Camera Operators

Listed below are metro areas sorted by the total number of people employed in Camera Operators jobs , as of 2015

Source: 2015 Occupational Employment Statistics and 2014-24 Employment Projections, Bureau of Labor Statistics, BLS.gov.

     
Metro Area (Alabama) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Hoover 100 $40,610
Birmingham 100 $40,610
Huntsville 60 $34,340
Montgomery 50 $46,240
     
Metro Area (Arizona) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Scottsdale 290 $41,130
Mesa 290 $41,130
Phoenix 290 $41,130
Tucson 60 $43,430
     
Metro Area (Arkansas) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Conway 50 $48,260
North Little Rock 50 $48,260
Little Rock 50 $48,260
     
Metro Area (California) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Anaheim 4390 $59,910
Long Beach 4390 $59,910
Los Angeles 4390 $59,910
San Francisco 230 $57,650
Oakland 230 $57,650
Hayward 230 $57,650
Carlsbad 140 N/A
San Diego 140 N/A
Arden 60 $59,620
Sacramento 60 $59,620
Arcade 60 $59,620
Roseville 60 $59,620
Santa Rosa 40 $28,450
     
Metro Area (Colorado) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Lakewood 230 N/A
Aurora 230 N/A
Denver 230 N/A
Colorado Springs 50 $19,560
     
Metro Area (Connecticut) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
East Hartford 280 $62,060
West Hartford 280 $62,060
Hartford 280 $62,060
     
Metro Area (Florida) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
West Palm Beach 440 $48,790
Fort Lauderdale 440 $48,790
Miami 440 $48,790
Clearwater 90 $54,570
Tampa 90 $54,570
St. Petersburg 90 $54,570
Jacksonville 50 $42,970
Orlando N/A $44,380
Kissimmee N/A $44,380
Sanford N/A $44,380
     
Metro Area (Georgia) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Roswell 270 $55,620
Sandy Springs 270 $55,620
Atlanta 270 $55,620
     
Metro Area (Hawaii) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Urban Honolulu 90 $64,510
     
Metro Area (Idaho) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Boise City 110 $52,860
     
Metro Area (Illinois) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Peoria 70 $28,910
     
Metro Area (Indiana) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Anderson 160 $37,080
Carmel 160 $37,080
Indianapolis 160 $37,080
     
Metro Area (Iowa) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
West Des Moines 60 $29,120
Des Moines 60 $29,120
     
Metro Area (Kentucky) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Fayette 30 $35,010
Lexington 30 $35,010
     
Metro Area (Louisiana) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Metairie 350 $42,120
New Orleans 350 $42,120
Baton Rouge 200 $45,030
Lafayette 50 $40,280
     
Metro Area (Maine) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
South Portland 80 $27,340
Portland 80 $27,340
     
Metro Area (Maryland) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Towson 100 $47,040
Columbia 100 $47,040
Baltimore 100 $47,040
     
Metro Area (Michigan) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Dearborn 200 $51,810
Warren 200 $51,810
Detroit 200 $51,810
     
Metro Area (Missouri) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Joplin N/A $69,000
     
Metro Area (Nevada) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Paradise 150 N/A
Henderson 150 N/A
Las Vegas 150 N/A
     
Metro Area (New Jersey) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Trenton N/A $63,790
     
Metro Area (New York) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Rochester 50 $33,140
Troy 30 $36,830
Schenectady 30 $36,830
Albany 30 $36,830
     
Metro Area (North Carolina) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Raleigh 60 $38,960
     
Metro Area (Ohio) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Columbus 160 $49,650
Elyria 90 $46,680
Cleveland 90 $46,680
Dayton 40 $39,180
     
Metro Area (Oklahoma) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Oklahoma City 100 $32,660
Tulsa N/A $37,210
     
Metro Area (Pennsylvania) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Pittsburgh 100 $40,740
Hazleton 90 $23,570
Barre 90 $23,570
Wilkes 90 $23,570
Scranton 90 $23,570
     
Metro Area (Puerto Rico) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Caguas 100 $26,540
Carolina 100 $26,540
San Juan 100 $26,540
     
Metro Area (South Dakota) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Sioux Falls 50 $23,470
     
Metro Area (Tennessee) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Franklin 190 $44,370
Murfreesboro 190 $44,370
Davidson 190 $44,370
Nashville 190 $44,370
Knoxville 70 $50,760
     
Metro Area (Texas) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Arlington 440 N/A
Dallas 440 N/A
Fort Worth 440 N/A
Sugar Land 290 $43,260
The Woodlands 290 $43,260
Houston 290 $43,260
Austin 140 $50,680
Round Rock 140 $50,680
San Antonio 130 $33,200
New Braunfels 130 $33,200
Mission 40 $38,050
Edinburg 40 $38,050
McAllen 40 $38,050
Lubbock 40 $52,740
Abilene N/A $40,250
     
Metro Area (Utah) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Salt Lake City 190 $34,650
     
Metro Area (Vermont) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
South Burlington 40 $33,350
Burlington 40 $33,350
     
Metro Area (Virginia) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Richmond 100 $45,590
     
Metro Area (Washington) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Bellevue N/A $48,950
Tacoma N/A $48,950
Seattle N/A $48,950
     
Metro Area (Wisconsin) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
West Allis 110 $36,660
Waukesha 110 $36,660
Milwaukee 110 $36,660
Madison 50 $36,840

Career Stories (Job Profiles) for Camera Operators

To find out more about building a career as Camera Operators, we spoke with professionals in the field across a variety of specialties. Learn about their experiences on the job, the steps they took to complete their education, and what it takes to excel in this industry. Click the link to see a story.

All Types

Most Popular Industries for :
Camera Operators

Industries representing at least 1% of total jobs for the occupation.

Source: 2015 Occupational Employment Statistics and 2014-24 Employment Projections, Bureau of Labor Statistics, BLS.gov.

Industry Jobs Percent Annual Median Salary
Media And Broadcasting 8,440 44% $38,480
Movie And Music 6,920 36% $40,830
Professional And Technical Services 1,150 6% $50,110
Government 810 4% $54,100
Office Services And Staffing 530 2% $42,390
Performing Arts And Sports 430 2% N/A
Education 320 1% $41,150
These schools offer particularly quick info upon request, and we have written detailed profiles for each (click school names to see the profiles). Request info from multiple schools, by clicking the Request Info links.
 
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CityTownInfo Career and College Resources

We have some additional detailed pages at the state level for Camera Operators.

Numbers in parentheses are counts of relevant campus-based schools in the state; online schools may also be available.

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