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Where Will Radio’s New Talent Come From?

True mentoring and apprenticeship programs can ensure the next generation of broadcasters

I worked for 10 radio companies before becoming a college educator. My longest stretch at any one of those companies was 13 years.

I just retired as a broadcast professor after seven years at Western Kentucky University. It was on my “bucket list” to mentor the next generation of broadcasters in the area of radio sales, management and operations at a college. Mentoring others still remains my passion.

Lately, the thing that has most troubled me is the R.O.I. from a college degree in radio broadcasting. My degrees were not in broadcasting, but physics and education. I went to college to become a teacher. Radio broadcasting was what I did to earn money to go to college.

In 2018, can you afford to earn a college degree to be in radio?

Kiplinger recently published a story about the “Worst College Majors for Your Career 2016–2017” and told radio, TV and film production majors that “demand is low.”

While tuitions for any degree at the same college are “created equal,” the future salaries earned for different degrees are not. The average salary for broadcasting in America is in mid $30s, based on national averages. Starting salaries will most likely be half that.

Compare that to the national average for student loan debt in 2016, it’s up 6 percent. The average college graduate enters the workforce today with over $37,000 in student loan debt.

See the problem now?


I started working in radio in 1968 shortly after taking and passing my FCC Third Class Radiotelephone Operator’s License with Broadcast Endorsement while in the 10th grade in high school. I was paid the minimum wage.

In 1968, that minimum wage had the most buying power it has ever had in my lifetime. It has gone down every year since.

Over the past three decades, tuition at public four-year colleges has more than doubled, even after adjusting for inflation.”

Anyone who says to me, “I paid for my own college education without going into debt when I was growing up — what’s wrong with today’s youth?” doesn’t fully grasp the changes that have taken place since their youth.

Radio owners know you make your money when you buy a station — not when you sell it. In other words, you have to buy it right. That means you can’t start off “upside down.” Student loan debt is upside down when it comes to having to earn a college degree to enter a career in radio broadcasting.


Radio has never been more important than it is in our internet-disrupted world. Listenership continues to be strong. Radio is the mass medium that delivers the largest weekly audience while also delivering affordable frequency for its advertisers. But where will new talent for our industry come from?

I believe the radio industry needs to take a leadership role and create an apprenticeship and certification program for high school students. Radio needs to take away the student loan debt problem for entrance into our fabulous industry. I wrote more about this concept and why it’s needed in a recent blog post called “Just in Time Learning” at:

I would like to lead just such an apprentice program.

If you are one of the future-thinking leaders in radio who believes the industry needs to begin earlier engaging future generations who want to be in radio and who believes the radio industry would benefit from such an apprentice training and certification program for radio, please email me at [email protected].

Insanity is doing the same thing and expecting a different result. The time for change is now.

The time has come to change the way we attract, train and grow radio talent.

Don’t you agree?