Projectionist: Salary and Career Facts

Research what it takes to become a projectionist. Learn about the training programs, licensing requirements and salary information to find out if this is the career for you. Schools offering Radio Broadcasting degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Is a Projectionist?

Projectionists operate and maintain the equipment at movie theaters. In some cases this still may include inserting film, operating projectors and shutters and monitoring equipment as it runs. You may also be responsible for splicing film reels, including featured presentations, movie trailers and ads. The following table displays some basic information for this career:

Education Required No formal education required
Training Required Vocational training on the job
Key Responsibilities Operate projection equipment, receive & test film prints
Licensure City license (required in certain locations)
Projected Job Outlook (2014-24) -18%*
Median Salary (2015) $21,490*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

What Are the Job Duties of a Projectionist?

As a projectionist, your main job is to run the projection equipment in movie theaters. However, there are many other duties that go along with the position. You'll often be responsible for receiving the film prints that are sent to a movie theater from film distributors. You'll then test the film prints to make sure images or sound are in order and that no physical damage has occurred to the prints themselves.

When you work as a projectionist, you're often responsible for putting the reels of a film print onto a tower device or long-play platter; these reels are combined with any trailers or advertisements that will run during the screening of a particular film. You'll then be responsible for starting and stopping each screening on time.

Where Might I Find Work?

Your duties as a projectionist might vary depending upon where you work. If you're employed by a large multiplex or movie theater chain, you'll probably work alongside a crew of other projectionists. If projection equipment breaks down, you might be responsible for calling a serviceman to fix the problem.

If you work for a small or independent movie theater, you may be expected to maintain and even repair projection machines. In some cases, you might consider joining a projectionist union; a union may provide you with membership benefits, like job placement or health coverage.

Are Any Training Programs Available?

Some private organizations offer projectionist training programs on a non-credit basis; most projectionists gain vocational training on the job. You might have to work your way up from another position at a movie theater, like ticket seller or usher. Once you've proven your reliability as an employee, you could gain a promotion to be apprenticed as a projectionist. You'll then learn the skills of the trade through a seasoned projectionist.

Some cities, such as New York City, will require you to obtain a license before you can work as a projectionist at a movie theater. To get a license, you may have to pass an examination and pay a licensing fee.

What Salary Can I Expect to Earn?

Very few individuals worked as motion picture projectionists in 2014, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. These individuals mostly worked for movie theaters, although some were employed by museums or performing arts companies. The median annual salary for movie projectionists was $21,490 in 2015.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

With the job market for projectionists being small and the job outlook predicting a future decline, you may want to consider alternative careers. For example, you might look into working as a solderer or brazer. These professionals join two metal components using heat, and the occupation only requires a high school diploma and some on-the-job training. Another career possibility is that of a computer-controlled machine tool operator. These workers handle computer-operated machines that perform specific tasks on metal or plastic components. The career has a bright outlook, and workers may only need a high school diploma and some on-the-job training to enter the field.

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