How to be a TV researcher (Duties, skills and employers)

Updated 6 June 2023

Television is a powerful medium that informs and entertains people. To create compelling content for TV, researchers have an important role in gathering information, supporting story development and ensuring accuracy. If you have a curious mind and are interested in television, becoming a TV researcher could be an exciting and fulfilling career path. In this article, we discuss how to be a TV researcher, describe their responsibilities and key skills and outline where you can find employment.

What is a TV researcher?

A TV researcher, or programme researcher, has an integral role in the television production process, contributing to the development and production of television shows and series. They conduct in-depth research on various topics, scout for potential guests and locations and assist in script development. Some common tasks include:

  • Developing and presenting ideas: Researchers help to generate and develop programme ideas, writing proposals and treatments to pitch to commissioners.

  • Conducting in-depth research: They research various topics ranging from current affairs to historical events, providing accurate and comprehensive information to inform programme content.

  • Sourcing contributors and locations: Researchers find and contact potential guests and contributors and identify locations for programmes.

  • Assisting with script development: They often assist in creating scripts, providing background information and verifying the accuracy of facts and figures.

  • Liaising with production teams: Researchers coordinate with other production staff, such as producers, directors and camera crews, ensuring everyone is informed and prepared.

  • Staying up to date with industry trends: Researchers regularly watch television and read industry publications to stay informed about trends, audience preferences and competing programmes.

Related: What are media researcher responsibilities? (With skills)

Find TV researcher jobs

How to be a TV researcher

The following steps provide a guide on how to be a TV researcher. Each of these steps helps you build a strong foundation for a successful career in the fast-paced broadcast and media production industry. They outline the education, practical experience and key skills you may require to find a job in this field. Here's a more detailed look at these steps:

1. Complete your A-level education

This stage of your education helps you build key skills to support your career. Your choice of subjects at this stage can provide you with the foundation for further specialisation in media and television. When choosing your A-level subjects, consider:

  • Media studies: Provides a foundation in critically analysing various media forms and formats, helping you offer valuable insight.

  • English literature or language: Refines writing skills and your ability to analyse and interpret texts.

  • History or politics: Encourages the evaluation of sources and develops an understanding of societal issues, which is particularly useful in factual or current affairs programming.

2. Earn a bachelor's degree

Obtaining a bachelor's degree in a relevant field gives you specialised knowledge and skills that can aid you in your role. Your choice of degree can shape the types of programmes you may wish to work on. Relevant options include:

  • Media or communications studies: Equips you with a profound understanding of the media industry, its evolution and societal impact, which is especially beneficial when working on socio-cultural or reality-based programmes.

  • Journalism: Builds strong research and fact-checking skills, alongside a comprehensive understanding of ethics, which is advantageous if you're seeking a role in news and current affairs programming.

  • Film or television production: Provides an understanding of the creative and technical aspects of television, which is helpful when researching for entertainment or drama shows.

Related: Media sector definition, work areas, employers and trends

3. Gain practical experience through internships or volunteering

Practical experience offers an opportunity to apply theoretical knowledge in real-world settings and helps you understand the workings of the industry. You can gain this experience through internships, work placements or volunteering, much of which you can do as part of or alongside your formal studies. Many production companies, broadcasters and universities offer internships or work placements. Volunteering at film festivals or local community TV stations can also provide valuable experience.

Related: How to secure a broadcast production apprenticeship

4. Develop key skills

In addition to academic qualifications and practical experience, certain key skills can significantly enhance your effectiveness as a TV researcher. These skills assist you in performing daily tasks and allow you to foster strong professional relationships, improve your problem-solving capabilities and boost your overall productivity. They also enable you to make significant contributions to the production process, improving the content's quality and relevance. Key skills include:

  • Media literacy: Understanding media forms, language and techniques underpins a researcher's role. You can build on your media literacy skills by studying the work of others and paying specific attention to structure, format and narrative styles in various TV programme genres.

  • Fact-checking: You can enhance a programme's credibility by verifying information quickly and accurately. You can improve this skill by taking courses on investigative journalism and by practising with different sources of information.

  • Understanding of broadcasting regulations: Familiarity with regulatory bodies' rules and guidelines ensures the information and advice you provide is appropriate. Regularly reading the updated guidelines and attending relevant workshops or seminars can help keep your knowledge current.

  • Proficiency in digital research tools: Using online databases, social media and other digital tools to gather information is a key part of a TV researcher's role. You can enhance this skill through regularly using and exploring these tools and completing relevant training.

  • Knowledge of current affairs: Staying informed about local, national and global events helps you create relevant and timely content. Regularly reading news from various sources and attending talks or discussions can help broaden your understanding and perspective.

  • Scriptwriting: A basic understanding of scriptwriting helps you to frame research findings in a compelling way. Participating in scriptwriting workshops or courses can improve this skill.

  • Ability to identify and contact potential contributors: Finding and persuading suitable contributors, such as experts, celebrities or members of the public, to participate in a programme is often part of the role. Learning how to use professional networks, social media and other platforms can help you be more effective.

  • Knowledge of production processes: Understanding the production process, from initial concept to final editing, can help a researcher contribute more effectively to the team. Shadowing different members of a production team or enrolling in a relevant course can provide invaluable insights into this process.

  • Appreciation of audience demographics: Understanding the needs and interests of different audience groups enables you to create content that resonates with viewers. Regularly reviewing audience data and feedback and keeping up with trends in viewer behaviour can help you develop this skill.

Related: How to become a location manager (With role requirements)

5. Network with others in the industry

Building relationships within the industry can give you valuable insights and offer access to mentorship and potential job opportunities. Industry events, film festivals and conferences provide an excellent chance to meet others across the sector. Consider joining industry-related organisations or online groups that can also offer networking opportunities.

When networking, show genuine interest in others' work. Asking insightful questions and sharing your own experiences can help to foster meaningful connections. Remember that networking is a two-way process, so offering help when possible is just as important as seeking assistance. This approach not only increases your chances of getting job leads but also helps you to stay up to date with industry trends and developments.

Related: How to work in TV (With employers and qualifications)

6. Apply for a role

When crafting your CV, include your personal details, a compelling summary statement and a detailed account of your educational background and work experience. Tailor your skills and achievements to the specific role you're applying for, highlighting how you can add value to that employer. Consider applying online in response to job postings or directly contacting potential employers, especially those with whom you've built relationships through your networking efforts. When preparing for your interview, familiarise yourself with common interview questions and practise articulating your skills, experiences and passion for the role.

Related: How to prepare for an interview

Where to find TV researcher roles

As a TV researcher, you might find yourself working in various settings, including:

  • Television production companies: TV researchers commonly work in production companies, where they assist in creating content ranging from documentaries and reality shows to dramas and comedies. The company might ask you to conduct in-depth research for a documentary, find suitable participants for a reality show or fact-check scripts for a drama series.

  • Broadcasting corporations: Large broadcasting corporations often employ TV researchers for their in-house production teams. Here, you might work across various programmes or specialise in a particular genre, such as news, current affairs or children's programming.

  • Freelance: Some TV researchers work as freelancers, taking on projects from various companies. This can offer greater flexibility but requires more proactive job searching and self-promotion.

Explore more articles

  • Library assistant job description (including qualifications)
  • 12 stay-at-home parent jobs (Plus duties and salaries)
  • 14 Interesting Careers in Medicine With Duties and Salaries
  • How to become a hairdresser (with duties and certifications)
  • A useful guide to mortician apprenticeships in the UK
  • What is an apprenticeship after A-levels? (With benefits)
  • How to become a musician: steps, types, tips and skills
  • What are health care manager responsibilities? (Plus FAQs)
  • What does a warehouse operator do? (with primary duties)
  • How to become a chief technical officer (step by step guide)
  • How To Become a Paramedic (with duties and skills)
  • How To Become a Sales Manager (With Tips and Salary Info)