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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

Camera Operators Skills

Below are the skills needed to be camera operators according to their importance on the scale of 1 to 5 (1 being lowest and 5 being highest) and competency level on a scale of 1 to 7 (1 being lowest and 7 being highest).

   
Skill NameImportanceCompetence
Active Listening3.53.25
Speaking3.383.12
Coordination3.383.62
Critical Thinking3.253.5
Operation and Control3.253.25

Camera Operators Abilities

Below are the abilities needed to be camera operators according to their importance on the scale of 1 to 5 (1 being lowest and 5 being highest) and competency level on a scale of 1 to 7 (1 being lowest and 7 being highest).

   
Ability NameImportanceCompetence
Visualization3.623.62
Oral Comprehension3.53.88
Problem Sensitivity3.53
Far Vision3.54.12
Near Vision3.53.88

Camera Operators Knowledge

Below are the knowledge areas needed to be camera operators according to their importance on the scale of 1 to 5 (1 being lowest and 5 being highest) and competency level on a scale of 1 to 7 (1 being lowest and 7 being highest).

   
Knowledge AreaImportanceCompetence
Communications and Media4.534.53
Computers and Electronics4.244.94
English Language3.683.25
Telecommunications3.453.78
Engineering and Technology3.343.37

Camera Operators Work activities

Below are the work activities involved in being camera operators according to their importance on the scale of 1 to 5 (1 being lowest and 5 being highest) and competency level on a scale of 1 to 7 (1 being lowest and 5 being highest).

   
Work ActivityImportanceCompetence
Thinking Creatively4.444.76
Updating and Using Relevant Knowledge3.814.33
Getting Information3.773.75
Communicating with Supervisors, Peers, or Subordinates3.723.94
Inspecting Equipment, Structures, or Material3.693.55

Camera Operators Work styles

Below are the work styles involved in being camera operators according to their importance on the scale of 1 to 5 (1 being lowest and 5 being highest).

   
Work StyleImportance
Dependability4.54
Adaptability/Flexibility4.38
Attention to Detail4.29
Cooperation4.23
Stress Tolerance4.1

Metro Areas Sorted by Total Employment for
Camera Operators

Listed below are the 10 largest metro areas based on the total number of people employed in Camera Operators jobs , as of 2017

   
Metro AreaTotal EmploymentAnnual Mean Salary
Los Angeles-Long Beach-Anaheim4,930 $76,430
Atlanta-Sandy Springs-Roswell530 $62,940
Las Vegas-Henderson-Paradise430 $53,060
Miami-Fort Lauderdale-West Palm Beach360 $55,000
Houston-The Woodlands-Sugar Land350 $63,400
Dallas-Fort Worth-Arlington330 $58,830
San Francisco-Oakland-Hayward330 $62,980
Denver-Aurora-Lakewood290 $67,330
Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue250 $65,420
Phoenix-Mesa-Scottsdale230 $56,400

Compare Total Employment & Salaries for Camera Operators

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Total employment and salary for professions similar to camera operators

Source : 2017 Occupational Employment Statistics and 2016-26 Employment Projections, Bureau of Labor Statistics, BLS.gov; O*NET® 22.1 Database, O*NET OnLine, National Center for O*NET Development, Employment & Training Administration, U.S. Department of Labor, onetonline.org

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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.