How Can I Become a Radio Disc Jockey?

Research what it takes to become radio disc jockey. Learn about experience needed, education required, job duties and more 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 Disc Jockey?

Radio disc jockeys work at radio broadcasting companies, where they select music, organize advertisement schedules and provide on-air commentary. They must work closely with technicians and advertisement managers to ensure that their commentary coincides with the songs and advertisements that are played. Although they spend most of their time in the broadcasting booth, they may sometimes do live broadcasts on-location at concerts and other special events. Depending on the type of station at which they work, radio disc jockeys may also need to be familiar with a particular type of music, such as pop or country.

The following chart provides an overview of what you need to know about entering this field.

Degree Required Bachelor's degree
Training Required Work experience; internships
Education Field of Study Broadcast journalism; public speaking
Key Skills Pleasant voice; knowledge of music types; technical knowledge
Job Growth (2014-2024) -14%* (radio and television announcers)
Median Salary (2017) $35,344**

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, **PayScale.com

What Experience is Needed to Be a Radio Disc Jockey?

To become a radio disc jockey, previous experience in the industry is important. Most radio stations require applicants to have worked at a high school or college radio station before becoming disc jockeys. Many stations offer paid or unpaid internships for those interested in entering the radio disc jockey profession. Interns perform many of the same duties performed by regular radio station employees. Serving as an intern not only gives you experience in a radio station but can also help you form valuable contacts in the industry. Many interns go on to be hired as full-time radio disc jockeys.

Radio disc jockeys need to have a pleasant speaking voice, a good sense of humor and the ability to stay on schedule. It's important to be personable in order to attract an audience and get along with co-hosts and guests. Disc jockeys need knowledge of a wide variety of musical genres, as well as current events, sports and popular culture. Some disc jockeys specialize in specific radio genres, but when breaking into the industry it's important to have a broad range of expertise. Some knowledge of computers and technology equipment is increasingly important for successful radio disc jockeys.

What Education Do I Need?

No specific education is necessary to be a radio disc jockey, though a bachelor's degree can be helpful for career placement. Many people interested in becoming disc jockeys pursue degrees in broadcast journalism. Classes in English and public speaking can help develop diction and improve grammar. Computer science classes can aid in developing technology skills, which disc jockeys often need to edit websites or promote the station and themselves through social media. A background in music and music history can also prove helpful.

What Job Duties Can I Expect?

A radio disc jockey plays music and reads news, weather, commercials and other announcements while on the air. They also interview guests, who are sometimes celebrities or local guests. These interviews take place both in the studio and over the phone. While off the air, they may write material and work on other promotions for the show. Disc jockeys are often very visible in the community, making appearances and serving as master of ceremonies at various events. They sometimes host special events on the weekends at local clubs and bars. Disc jockeys work non-standard hours and are often alone in the studio for hours at a time.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

Rather than becoming a radio disc jockey, you might be interested in becoming a party disc jockey. They typically play music at special events like weddings and birthday parties. Instead of coordinating with technicians, they typically operate their own equipment, choosing songs from a collection of digital files or portable media device. Alternatively, if you want to get a job as an announcer on a radio station, you could also consider becoming a talk show host. In this job, you could interview guests or listeners about particular topics, such as politics or sports. For both party disc jockeys and talk show hosts, job prospects are best for individuals who have a bachelor's degree.

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