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A Day in the Life of a Media Specialist

If you were about to give a talk to a class or present something at a meeting, to whom would you turn? The best option would be a media specialist. Media specialists get to work with multimedia equipment (such as television and video equipment), cameras, film projectors, slides, and recording equipment, usually on behalf of a school, library, or business. A media specialist is a type of teacher who works with multimedia equipment to make classes, presentations, and lectures more vibrant and exciting. They are sometimes called library media specialists, and, like librarians, they help teachers and lecturers choose and locate audiovisual aids that are used in classrooms, training sessions, conferences, seminars, and workshops. They acquire, catalog, and maintain collateral material such as films, video and audiotapes, photographs, and software programs. Media specialists largely work for schools and institutions of learning, but some of them work in libraries, government agencies, private industries, and other businesses. Media specialists working in school systems help teachers by finding relevant material to be used as teaching aids. They work closely with teachers in ordering course materials, determining what training aids are best suited for particular grade levels, and instructing teachers and students in the operation of audiovisual equipment. They also perform simple maintenance tasks such as cleaning monitors and lenses and changing batteries and lightbulbs. Technicians usually handle repairs and more complex maintenance work. Government agencies, medical and industrial corporations, international humanitarian organizations, and other nongovernmental organizations that need to train workers and distribute information to the public require the services of media specialists. Some media specialists will find work researching and developing public service announcements run by health, welfare, and social services; community action groups; and radio and television stations. Professionals keep on top of developments in media and learning methods by attending conventions, conferences, and seminars; reading trade journals; and communicating with industry insiders. Much of their time is spent previewing products, ordering supplies, and organizing materials. Even though most media specialists have heavy schedules, their reward comes with the knowledge and enlightenment they help bring to students and other audiences.

Paying Your Dues

A bachelor’s degree in educational media or instructional technology is the basic requirement for this profession. A master’s degree in these programs or in communications, library science, library media, or education will benefit individuals applying for work in the school system. Many media specialists start out as teachers and, with additional training, move into this profession. Aspirants to the profession can greatly enhance their job prospects by doing volunteer work in media centers at local libraries or finding part-time employment with companies that sell or produce audiovisual programs and equipment. They must be able to operate different kinds of audiovisual equipment and instruct others on how to operate them as well. Applicants must be inventive, creative, and able to adapt to different environments. Since a media specialist’s salary depends on experience and geography, the specialist will have to work hard at his or her craft before salary scales rise to an optimum level.

Present and Future

Technology has redefined the principles of education. Teaching tools such as charts and maps have been replaced by computers,CD-ROMs,DVDs, and PowerPoint presentations. As more companies set up in-house libraries and research and training departments, opportunities will continue to increase for media specialists who will be needed to locate, catalog, and maintain reference materials. Whereas teachers and students have more access to information today, the effective delivery of this information is now the job of media specialists. With rapid expansion of technology and the explosion of information sources, the job of the media specialist, who is versed in the use of media resources, is virtually assured. As technology continues to drive the growth of industries, training will continue to be an integral part of preparing workers for new job situations and improving and updating current skills.

Quality of Life

PRESENT AND FUTURE

The two-year media specialist has to learn about the business and keep current of all new developments in the industry. Reading trade journals and attending conventions, exposés, seminars, and workshops are crucial for media specialists who wish to succeed in the field.

FIVE YEARS OUT

With considerable experience working with a variety of audiovisual equipment, developing collateral material, and acquiring and maintaining stock, the media specialist should now be able to command a relatively higher salary if he or she is in the right market. Media specialists who are working in the school system start to consider becoming media program coordinators for their school districts, if such a move is possible. At this stage, the professional is still making the rounds at conventions and audiovisual outlets as well as scanning trade publications to keep updated. Returning to school for further education is a possibility for the professional in search of upward mobility.

TEN YEARS OUT

The media specialist at the 10-year level is a marketable commodity with wide-ranging and current knowledge of the industry. If he or she is working within the school system, a move to the private sector will probably prove considerably more lucrative and challenging. Social, health, and welfare services may prove interesting for the socially and politically conscious. With higher education and a PhD, the ambitious media specialist can find work as a college professor or director of a college media program.