November 1936 Radio-Craft
[Table of Contents]
Wax nostalgic about and learn from the history of early electronics.
See articles from Radio-Craft,
published 1929 - 1953. All copyrights are hereby acknowledged.
In 1936, a high school graduate could expect to earn about $15 per
week in the radio business. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor
Inflation Calculator, that is the equivalent of around $257
per week in 2015. That is not much to live on. Today, McDonalds
burger flippers think they should be paid a minimum of $15 per
hour. That equates to $600 per week in 1936, which is the
kind of salary top industry executives were drawing back then. Anyway,
this article discusses the benefits of formal education in regard
to potential earnings in the nascent radio business in many roles
ranging from maintenance technician to broadcaster to management.
The trend generally holds today.
A Key to Radio as a Vocation
Have you considered your future in radio? What chance have you
to succeed - what method of procedure will yield. the best results?
The answers are given below.
W. E. Schrage
Fig. 1 - The comparison of earnings in different
Attracted to some extent by the glamorous fame of the few big
money-makers in the broadcasting field, thousands of young people
concentrate their hopes and thoughts upon the radio industry as
the future realm of their vocational careers. A number of them dream
of jobs as announcers or as artists in front of a nation-wide audience.
However, it is not this group in which we are interested. Instead,
our concern is with those who concentrate their thoughts upon the
design or construction of transmitters and receivers, or upon research
in one of the nation's leading laboratories - it is these whom we
should like to guide through the labyrinth of the professional market,
A Chance for Amateurs
An interesting feature about the American radio industry is the
fact that a considerable number of the most successful men in this
industry are former amateurs, and it seems that a consideration
of radio as the future career for a radio amateur is not a bad idea,
because it gives him a chance to utilize valuable experience acquired
from his hobby.
It is certainly more sensible than to start a vocational trip
in "terra incognita," i.e., to go into an industry where lack of
fundamental knowledge of this industry makes it necessary to begin
at the first step in the .long stairway of experience collecting.
But this is not the only reason why a radio career seems to be
a desirable one for the young radio amateur seeking a way to make
good. The Grecian philosopher Plutarch said, some 2,000 years .ago:
"A man's felicity consists not in the outward and visible favors
and blessings of fortune, but in the inward and unseen perfections
and riches of the mind."
This statement, full of wisdom .and knowledge of human nature,
still hits the mark after all this time. However, and this is of
great importance in today's world of dollars and cents - the radio
industry is not only the realm for a young man who seeks "beauty
of soul" but it provides at least as many chances as any other industry
for the "right" man to make good.
But: "Who e , the right man?" Not the one who likes to play around
a little bit with radio, because all his friends do the same, but
the one with inborn technical abilities, re-enforced by proper training.
Playboys, who go about the matter of radio somewhat similar to the
housewife who lets the family starve if either the cookbook or the
can opener gets lost, have little chance to make money, because
creation and not reconstruction is the key to success.
This leads us to a discussion of the "nervus rerum," to the never
expiring question of money. How much money can a young man with
ability and deeper interest make in the radio field if he chooses
it as his vocation? This question must be answered by means of another
question: "What kind of training does this young man in question
The importance of proper training for a successful career in
radio's realm is shown quite impressively by Fig. 1. We see at the
left side an unskilled laborer who "graduated" from the sixth grade
of elementary school, and who would be better out of the radio industry
since a person of his class has but little chance without additional
training. He may eventually get a $12- or $14-a-week job on a factory
assembly line, but he would do much better by going into the shipping
department of the company, or somewhere else where unskilled labor
is much better paid, than in the price-slashing atmosphere of the
Fig. 2 - The balance of education against income.
This does not mean that even such a "graduate" can't become the
executive of a large business. It is, of course, quite difficult,
but the history of American industry contains inspiring examples
of hundreds of insufficiently educated men who did very well. It
was, though, and still is, an infinitely torturous task to succeed
in this way, and the few examples of brilliant careers are by far
overbalanced by the hundreds, and even thousands who did not reach
The history of our industry, however, seldom tells about their
wasted struggles and starvation.
Successful careers of graduates of the 6th grade elementary school,
on the other hand, are even possible today. Remember, too, that
there is always plenty of room at the top for men with real ability.
No one is born too late: who is to go to fill the big jobs in the
big companies when the big men who are filling them now are out
of the picture?
Fig. 3 - National breakdown of technicians' average
But, the chances are very poor for the man who trembles each
time he is confronted with an application blank because he must
bare the fact that he has but a limited school training.
I must also disappoint even those who graduated from junior high
school, and in fact a great many who are graduated from senior high
school, because they are also classified under "unskilled labor"
when they must admit to being without additional training. There
are, at present, thousands of high-school graduates who work on
the assembly lines of American radio factories, and make not more
than $18 weekly, which is, according to the statistics of the Radio
Manufacturers Association, the average income of workers of this
How to Enlarge a $18-Per-Week Income
Now let's take the case of a nice fellow who has not had the
opportunity to attend the evening course of an accredited technical
school. What is he going to do? There are many correspondence schools,
and in addition there are many excellent public libraries all over
the country. If he learns enough about radio technique by this method
of vocational education eventually he may become a laboratory assistant,
a job which is not only better paid, but one which also opens for
him the road to the top, since if he has the chance to work in such
a .place, he may have an opportunity to .show his real qualities
and abilities. However it takes a man with a good brain and great
ambition to succeed in this way.
Vocational Education Makes the Road Smooth
A more promising method in building the road too successful career
is by attending the evening or daytime courses in a technical school,
or study courses of technical correspondence schools of good reputation
(such as Coyne Electrical School, National Radio Institute, R.C.A.
Institutes, Inc. and Sprayberry Academy of Radio. -Editor). Such
a training entitles the man to a job as junior engineer which means
about $25 per week - and even more in a relatively short time, if
the man in question has special qualities.
Of course, graduates from reputed schools of technology, as for
example: M.I.T., etc., have the best chances. However, an education
of this kind means quite a financial investment. In some, it involves
a study consisting of years in elementary school, 4 years in high
school, and an additional 4 years in a college or an institute of
technology. (As stated, in more detail, in the November, 1935, issue
of Radio-Craft. -Editor.) To just what extent this investment may
be advisable in each specific case is difficult to decide, since
a great many of the leading men in the American radio industry obtained
their positions without such "intensive" training.
On the other hand, about 80 per cent of the rank and file of
the great staff of the Bell Telephone Laboratories are graduates
from universities, institutes of technology or similar institutions.
Abilities Determine Success
Getting down to brass tacks, the success of men with or without
academic training depends on other facts than just scholarly wisdom.
It depends on faculties which no one can learn, but which are inborn,
as for example the ability "to see problems" - that is, "to analyze
the factors involved," "to arrive objectively and without prejudice
at solutions"; and, last but not least - "to convert their ideas
into designs of practical value;" (see Fig. 2).
In addition to these abilities and qualities these men must have
"aspects of leadership," and this is the kind of men the American
industry is looking for. But as Mr. Samuel S. Board, the placement
specialist states in a pamphlet, published by the American Society
of Mechanical Engineers: "The demand for such men is greater than
the supply"! And Mr. Board, an authority in this field, knows what
he is talking about.
Women in the Radio Industry
Another point of interest in a discussion of chances for a career
in the radio industry are the vocational opportunities for women
in this professional line. One would think that the radio industry
would offer great possibilities for women, because today the radio
set is just a common piece of household equipment. Knowing that
women are credited with spending 80 cents out of every dollar, one
would expect to find women employed in research laboratories to
give radio sets the "woman's touch."
It is true that there are at present thousands of women employed
on the assembly lines of American tube and set factories, but no
case is known to the author where a woman has an important position
in a radio laboratory. There are, of course, a few women radio operators
known, and some women designers who cooperate as free-lancers with
radio-cabinet factories, but this seems to be all that can be said
at- present about women in the radio industry.
It is of interest that women broke into the radio profession
as radio operators, because the job of radio operator is not only
an interesting, but also a responsible one.
Careers for the Men-Folk
There are also a great many young men who are interested in radio
operating as a career, despite the fact that this profession is
not as highly paid as many believe (the recent strikes of radio
operators indicate this clearly). However, there must be something
attractive in this career because the U. S. Census counts 5,000
employed in the various land stations, and aboard American ships.
About 2,300 men have found employment as technicians in connection
with the American broadcasting stations. What these men earn, and
how their incomes compare with other employees working in the broadcast
industry, are figures that have recently been compiled in the form
of a regular census by Mr. C. H. Sandage, of the U. S. Bureau of
The census is as yet not completed because of the 564 broadcasting
stations covered by the census, only 561 cooperated with the Bureau.
These stations employ 14,561 persons with an annual payroll of $26,911,392.
The average income of broadcast technicians varies according
to the location, but before we give the facts about the higher salaries
paid in certain parts of the country, we will present some surprising
facts. We will then find that the glamorous fame which surrounds
the radio artists and radio announcers is, as far as salaries are
concerned, absolutely unjustified. The average income of a radio
technician, doing his duty in plain overalls, exceeds by far the
average income of the announcers who speak daily to millions.
According to the U. S. Census, an announcer gets on the average
$29 weekly, but the average income of a station technician is $35.
(See Fig. 4A.) The artists employed by the broadcasting stations
receive, on the average, a weekly income amounting to 841. The income
of the nationally-known artists, who are employed mostly by advertisers
("commercial sponsors") are of course not included in this compilation,
since they are paid directly by the advertisers. Additional details
which will do away with many of the tales about the salaries paid
by the stations are given in Table 1.
There is one exception to .be considered, these figures do not
concern the weekly average income of the persons employed by the
great networks. Network technicians receive on the average $60 weekly,
and only network announcers who have an average income of $91 exceed
with their salary the income of the technicians.
What Regions Pay Technicians Best?
And now to the regional tips in regard to the best salaries paid.
To make the story simple. all facts concerning this very important
question have been combined into a map (see Fig. 3) which shows
the average salaries paid to radio technicians in various parts
of the country.
The best salaries, we find, are paid in the Middle Atlantic States,
and amount to $40. A careful study of the map under consideration
showing the different living expenses in each section may provide
some interesting facts for job seekers.
Is it possible, then, that the "big money" may lie elsewhere
than in radio, per se? Let us look further into the story.
Power Companies are the Big Money Makers
Fig. 4 - Various factors involved in radio as
In a series of 8 broadcasts during February, 1936, the Columbia
Broadcast System presented interviews with 8 Americans having widely
different points of view and interest, and asked them for their
opinions concerning some of today's important problems in broadcast
control. Among the persons interviewed was Dr. Orestes Caldwell,
one of the original members of the Federal Radio Commission. Among
other things, concerning American Broadcasting, he stated the following
interesting facts: "The big money in broadcasting goes to the electric
light companies. In fact; they collect 2 dollars for every dollar
earned by the artists, the broadcasting stations and the networks,
combined." (See Fig. 4B).
"For the operation of radio sets alone, the utilities companies
collect about 150 million dollars yearly. This is about twice the
entire amount that it takes to operate all the broadcast stations,
the chains and the networks in the U. S." Dr. Caldwell suggested
that the power companies should pay the entire cost for the present
superb programs, and they would still enjoy a net increase in income
of about 70 million dollars per year.
In connection with the interview quoted above, Dr. Caldwell,
who is one of the leading authorities on broadcasting, made the
following pithy remarks about the future of the radio field, which
will show, much better than all our detailed summaries could do,
what one might reasonably expect, to find upon going into the radio
industry as a career.
He said: "This thing we call 'radio' is just beginning. With
Broadcasting and Communication thus far we have just opened the
first page or two of the radio book. The big chapters are all yet
to come." (See Fig. 4C).
Table I - Analysis of Employment and Weekly Pay
Rolls - (Broadcast Stations only)
"Ahead of us is the vast empire of the Short Waves, and the Ultra-Short
Waves with their hundreds of thousands of channels. Ahead of us,
too, is Facsimile - the delivery out of the radio set, of a little
printed newspaper right in your home. And Television is on the way.
And there's Wired Broadcasting over the electric wires, and over
the telephone wires, both new in experimental operation over considerable
"We'll have plenty of broadcasting of one kind or other to give
all the free speech that anyone wants."
Although these sidetracks in the application of radio are often
of considerable commercial value, if we compare them with the business
possibilities in the broadcast field still waiting to be utilized,
the comparison will be in favor of the broadcast field.
There are about 22,500,000 passenger cars registered in the U.
S., but only 2.400,000 cars are as yet equipped with receivers (see
Fig. 4D). The American radio industry sold, during 1935, 350,000
battery-operated receivers, but according to a survey made by the
Rural Electrification Administration, 80 per cent of all farms are
still without radio (see Fig. 4E). According to statistics published
by the Joint Committee On Radio Research, there are at present 25,000,000
radio receivers in use in the U. S. More than 50 per cent of these
are quite obsolete and the number, which should be replaced by new
models, grows each year. The total number of sets manufactured in
1935 was about 5,350,000, but about 67.9 per cent of the receivers
sold to the American public were replacement sales. Estimates of
the total production for 1936 give as a production mark, the large
number - 6,000,000 radio receivers.
Obsolescence in radio sets is a kind of "life insurance" for
the radio industry, since each day more sets become old fashioned,
and each day thousands of new families become enthusiastic radio
Radio is still a young industry offering great possibilities.
Take your share out of the radio bag.
Posted October 7, 2015