How Can I Become a Radio DJ?

Research what it takes to become a radio DJ. Learn about degree programs you might pursue, opportunities for gaining experience while in school, job duties, necessary skills and typical salary to find out if this is the career for you. Schools offering Ethnomusicology degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Is a Radio DJ?

In general terms, a DJ (also known as a deejay or disc jockey) chooses and plays already-recorded music for an audience. These individuals may work in various settings, including dance clubs, parties and other special events. The radio DJ is typically employed by a music station and will work in a sound booth either independently or as part of a broadcast team. In conjunction with a producer, the DJ selects music that is played over the airwaves. Since many stations cover a particular genre of music, strong music knowledge and familiarity with the station's target audience are essential assets for the radio DJ.

The radio DJ will also often assume other responsibilities, such as conveying local news and weather, conducting interviews, hosting contests and interacting with listeners via call-in requests or games. Unlike disc jockeys who work in front of a live audience, the radio DJ usually does not mix or alter music recordings.

The following chart gives an overview of a career in radio.

Degree Required Bachelor's
Education Field of Study Broadcasting, communications, journalism
Training Required College radio and/or on-the-job training
Key Skills Announcing songs and other information, using studio equipment, using social media to promote the station
Projected Job Outlook (2014-24) -14% (decline for radio and television announcers)*
Median Salary (May 2015) $28,480 (radio announcers)*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

What Education Will I Need to Become a Radio Disc Jockey?

Radio broadcasting is a challenging field to enter. Although there are no formal training requirements for this position, the first thing you should do is enroll in a broadcast journalism or Radio/TV Broadcasting program. These can be found in accredited universities, community colleges, or through vocational or technical schools. You can pursue a certificate, associate's degree or obtain your bachelor's degree.

You will take courses such as audio and radio production, mass communication, public speaking, radio and television announcing and computer applications. A background in English and drama will also be helpful. As you complete your studies, gain experience by working at small, local radio stations or at a college radio studio. Be prepared to work your way up in the business, perhaps by starting out as an intern.

What Job Duties Will I Have?

You will have varied job duties as a radio disc jockey, including producing radio programs, writing and delivering news stories and writing and editing scripts for on-air discussions. Additionally, you will be announcing the weather and delivering commentary on music, traffic or current events. As a radio disc jockey, you should possess the ability to think quickly. You must be able to talk to your audience without always relying on prepared scripts.

There may be times when you are required to fill empty air space. Another aspect of your job will entail talking with your listeners as they call in live to your radio program. You may have the opportunity to attend many social functions as a representative of your radio station.

What Other Skills Will I Need?

A clear, charismatic speaking voice will be one of your greatest assets. Organizational skills will be necessary in your chosen profession, because music must be played within certain time frames, and commercials have to air as well. Being aware of the time is important, so that you can fit everything into the program on schedule. Vast knowledge of the type of music your radio station specializes in is also key to being successful. You must also be able to network socially, because this could increase your job prospects.

What Earnings Could I Expect?

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that radio announcers earned a median salary of $28,480 in May 2015. The BLS noted that disc jockeys in larger metropolitan areas tended to have greater earnings potential. The sizes of the radio stations were also a factor.

What Are Some Related Alternative Occupations?

Consider the most personally appealing aspects of the job when evaluating an alternative career. If you have a passion for the music industry, you might look into becoming a performer, writer, director or producer within the industry. Each job will allow you to work closely with others in creating and generating music products. Talent and creativity will be vital in any of these fields; individuals with a strong inclination toward organizing and leading collaborative projects might particularly thrive in directing or producing. Opportunities in these professions are also available within other media and communications outlets, such as television, theater and the movie industry.

If the interpersonal nature of the job holds appeal for you, a career as a correspondent, broadcast analyst, public relations specialist or voice actor might be an ideal fit. Those interested in more behind-the-scenes technical aspects of communication might consider editing or broadcast and sound engineering jobs that are offered in various industries. Most related professions necessitate a bachelor's degree, though sound engineers typically only need a certificate or an associate's degree.

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