How to Become a Television Director

How to Become a Television Director

Many directors get their start in the television production industry as interns or assistants on a television set. By learning the industry up close, an aspiring director will have the chance to form valuable relationships and an inside knowledge of the work.


While in school, students will be able to learn from professionals as well as make short films and projects that can be used in their portfolio. Film school can also be a great place to make friends and form relationships that can translate into jobs later on.


It is highly recommended to utilize your school’s resources; your instructors and the school’s career resource professionals can help you find internships and maybe even leads for entry level jobs.

Landing a job as a director on a television set will likely require investing years into apprenticing in lower level jobs, or in other mediums such as directing webisodes, theatre productions, commercials or short films. 



Education needed to become a television director

Typically, television directors do not require formal education to break into the field, as seldom does an aspiring director begin their career in television as a director. Many of these professionals begin their careers as production assistants, writers, news reporters, directors’ assistants, actors and other television personnel.


Many television directors complete either a Bachelor or a Master's of Fine Arts degree in Film Studies or Film Production from an accredited university. While in school, aspiring television directors take classes in film theory, television, communications, directing, literature, drama and drama literature.


A formal education may be required to join certain professional organizations within the field; the Directors Guild of America requires aspiring members to have at least a Bachelor’s degree in order to be considered for membership.




Television Director Job Description

Television directors act as a liaison between television producers and technical crews. Directors oversee all directing of live broadcasts, filming programs, post-production editing and mixing, general oversight of the technical crew as well as setting up studios to match the vision of the producer and creative writers. Using management, organizational and creative skills, directors are responsible to take the vision for a production from the concept stage to a fully completed project.



Television Director Job Duties

  • • Must supervise auditions, rehearsals and pace of program during filming
  • • Offer direction to television crew regarding props, scenery, costumes lighting and any other necessary equipment
  • • From the control room, directors give instruction to crew regarding elements such as camera angles and lighting during live broadcasts
  • • During post-production, directors oversee the editing, re-taping, music and mixing of the completed program
  • • Oversee project budget and budget adherence
  • • Hold meetings with production crew and producers to ensure the program is following the initial creative direction



Television Director Salary

The median annual earnings of television directors in 2010 was $75,900 USD. (1)


(1) Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2012-13 Edition, Producers and Directors, (visited February 13, 2013).


There are many factors that may influence the salary of a television director, such as reputation, geographic location, and the nature of the program being directed. For the example, the director of a prime-time drama will likely earn much more than public television documentary director.



Who Hires Television Directors?

Television producers hire directors on behalf of studios, typically on a contract basis.


Depending on the type of production, a television director may be hired on a permanent, contract or freelance basis. Television directors typically utilize the services of an agent to promote their services, and to help them negotiate contracts on their behalf.



Television Director Career - Work Environment

Working conditions: The job of a television director is one that is highly stressful. As a result, directors that are typically hired on a permanent basis, such as those for news broadcasting, often leave their positions in favour of other opportunities after just a few years. Performing in this environment and under the unique set of circumstances that television directing possesses can be extremely challenging and rewarding.


Hours: Television directors must work long hours in order to ensure they are developing and executing their vision such that it produces the best show possible. Producing a quality program means having job security in the television industry.


Setting: During a program’s “season”, the director spends time on set, in meetings with various personnel, as well as in their office. Television directors may spend anywhere from 2 to 14 hours a day, 4 to 7 days a week, on set directing a production while it’s being shot. When the program is off season, directors typically spend more time speaking with their agent, negotiating contracts and speaking to producers.


Personnel: Directors must regularly liaise and meet with their agent, editors, actors, writers, camera operators, executive producers and other personnel.




Is this Career Right for Me?

Glitz, glamor, fame? Maybe…maybe not. Some television directors may gain these elements; others may not be so luckily, but almost all will gain the satisfaction that comes with working hard at something they love.


• Like every other career in the history of employment, a career as a television director has its ups and its downs. We’ve listed a few below.


  • • Directors experience a lot of pressure; they have to be highly organized and efficient. If they can’t organize the shots they need in time, the production will fall way behind schedule
  • • Directors must be excellent communicators and have superb coaching abilities; they must be able to effectively direct the placement and actions of actors, broadcasters, hosts, reporters and other personnel
  • • If you work for the right company and do great work, you may be nominated for an Emmy
  • • To succeed in directing requires vision; a director must have great ideas for executing the ideas of the writers and producers
  • • If often takes years working as a writer, actor, broadcaster, editor, cameraperson, host or other television industry professional before a chance to direct a program is earned
  • • Combining artistic vision, delegation and worrying about job security all at the same time can be an extremely challenging and rewarding experience


Personality traits required:

  • • Creativity / artistic vision
  • • Organizational skills
  • • Ability to exercise authority
  • • Remain calm under pressure
  • • Excellent communication abilities



Careers Similar to Television Director

Listed below are careers in our database that are similar in nature to Television Director, as they may involve many of the same skills, competencies and responsibilities:



Casting Director

Film Director

First Assistant Director

Music Video Director




Become a Television Director - Further Information

Please consult the following resources for more information on what a television director does, how much they earn, and other occupational information:



• Occupations in Alberta: “Film Director.” (Jun 1, 2009). ALIS website - Alberta Learning Information Service. Retrieved January 14, 2020.

• Occupational Employment and Wages: “Producers and Directors.” (March 29, 2019). Bureau of Labor Statistics - United States Government website. Retrieved January 14, 2020.

• Explore Careers: “TV or film director.” (n.d.). National Careers Service website. Retrieved January 14, 2020.


• Jarvis, Peter  (1998). The Essential TV Director’s Handbook, Focal Press. ISBN-10: 024051503X

• Hickman, Harold R. (1991). Television Directing, Mcgraw-Hill College Division. ISBN-10: 0070287198



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Scholarships for Becoming a Television Director

Scholarships in Canada and the United States listed for majors that apply to becoming a television director can be found on our Fine Arts Scholarships and Film Studies Scholarships pages.


Success Tip: Be sure to apply for any scholarships that you even barely qualify for, as there are millions of dollars of scholarships that go unused every year due to a lack of applicants!



Becoming a Television Director: Applicable Majors

Studying one of the university majors listed below is an excellent starting point to becoming a television director. Click on the links to find out what else you can do with these majors!


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