Academic Job Market Growing for Video Professionals

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Exactly 4 years ago in this column, I addressed the lot of us who work in academic media. It seemed then that most schools and colleges had yet to wake up to the growing role of video in their technology landscapes. While I knew many colleagues who were hired specifically to produce educational media, many more had the responsibility shoehorned into a job description dominated by other academic technologies, such as designing online courses or supporting smart classrooms. Others stumbled into video production because they were the most tech-savvy folks in a department, given that video often is simply considered just another IT thing.

As we begin another new year, I’m seeing many positive changes in the job market. I’ve seen more academic job listings for digital and online media producers in 2011 than ever before. This increase is all the more impressive when you consider the overall state of the economy and the difficult budget situations many schools are faced with.

I’ve been keeping tabs on the academic job market for the past 5 years, searching for terms such as “video,” “digital media,” and “streaming,” trying to find positions somewhat or primarily dedicated to production. Four years ago, more than half the time these responsibilities were buried with other barely related IT duties. These days I find that the majority of the hits are for jobs that have production as their principal or secondary responsibility. Increasingly I’m finding titles such as “digital media specialist,” “videographer,” “editor,” and “producer.”

On top of this, the positions I’m now seeing have homes in a variety of departments, not just academic technology units or film and media departments. In particular, I see many jobs in public affairs departments, indicating that schools are warming to the importance of video in communicating their institutions’ value and achievements to local communities, prospective students, and alumni. I’m also seeing jobs situated in academic units across all disciplines and all types of institutions, from elementary and secondary school districts to community colleges and research universities.

Another positive sign I’ve observed is postings of network and server administrator positions that explicitly list streaming video servers, protocols, and transports in their sets of desired skills. It’s all fine and dandy to produce online video, but you’re only halfway there until you’ve determined how to store and serve it. I’m very pleased to see more educational institutions taking this vital aspect into account.

I see all of this as a tremendously positive indicator of the vibrancy of the educational online video sector and its growth potential. It also should be good news for video production professionals who are interested in finding jobs. Working at a school, college, or university can be very fun and challenging. Personally, I enjoy the opportunity to work with students and faculty. Working with faculty exposes you to some of the smartest and knowledgeable people in a field, combined with the opportunity to learn firsthand about cutting-edge ideas and research.

There are a few things that a media professional should keep in mind when considering an academic job. While many schools and universities are enormous institutions, they tend to be less consolidated than companies of a similar size. Individual departments often have much more autonomy, which can be both liberating and frustrating. Even when working in a large central IT department, one should be prepared to wear several hats.

Because online academic media is still pretty young, some jobs can have a real startup kind of feel, with the freedom to innovate and try new things. The flip side to this is that resources can be more limited, making creativity more required than optional.

I can’t help but be optimistic about the future of the education vertical in the online media industry as a whole. It should be a fun ride.

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