Professional Disc Jockey: Career and Salary Facts

Research what it takes to become a professional disc jockey. Learn about education requirements, job duties, median wages and job outlook 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 Professional Disc Jockey?

A professional disc jockey, or DJ, can work as either a radio DJ or party DJ. As a radio DJ, you would select songs to play on the station, provide commentary and organize advertisement plays. Often, this requires coordination with a technician in the broadcasting booth, in order to make sure that your comments coincide with the right song or commercial. Other duties include writing and editing copy, presenting news and weather, interviewing guests and participating in community-related activities. As a party DJ, you would play music and make announcements at special events, such as weddings and birthday parties, or at an establishment like a bar or night club. Party DJs generally operate their own equipment, choosing songs from a collection of digital files or portal music device.

Look through the chart below to become familiar with some of the aspects of a career as a professional disc jockey.

Degree Required Bachelor's degree
Education Field of StudyCommunications, broadcasting or journalism
Training RequiredEmployers prefer some prior experience such as that gained at a college radio station
Key SkillsComputer editing skills, writing, good diction, pleasant voice
Job Growth (2014-2024)-14% for radio and television announcers*
Median Salary (2017)$29,641 (for disc jockeys), $35,344 (for radio disc jockeys)**

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

What Are the Job Duties of a Disc Jockey?

Disc jockeys tend to work for radio stations performing on-air duties, such as playing music, reading commercials, interviewing guests and, sometimes, taking song requests over the phone from listeners. In their off-air time, disc jockeys will create programming and write scripts and commercials for future programming. They may work for radio stations known for playing a certain type of music, or they may be asked to plan a day's programming around a certain theme.

Many disc jockeys also do website editing and promote their station through social media outlets. Disc jockeys are often active in the community, making personal appearances to support their station or serving as master of ceremonies at special events. Besides working in the radio industry, disc jockeys can provide background and dance music for weddings or clubs, keeping the entertainment flowing throughout the night.

What Skills Do I Need?

To be a disc jockey, you'll need good diction, solid voice control and a pleasant speaking voice. When working special events, disc jockeys may need to emcee the event and work the crowd. Being aware of the newest music trends is essential; some knowledge of sports and current events is helpful because radio disc jockeys may talk about these subjects as part of their jobs. Though no degree is required to work as a disc jockey, attending classes in broadcasting, journalism, drama or public speaking can help you develop the skills needed. The knowledge gained in a degree program in broadcasting, communications, journalism or English can help prepare you for a career as a disc jockey as well.

What Experience Do I Need?

Having experience as a disc jockey at a local or college radio station can benefit your employment potential. Internships may also boost your resume and allow you to become familiar with the equipment. You could find unpaid internships that count as college credit hours. These internships can help you make connections within the industry and lead to paid internships. Building a good reputation with clients will help you get more jobs at weddings and other special events. You'll need a reputation as a disc jockey before many nightclubs will hire you, and you may need to perform for free at first to demonstrate your skills.

What Salary Could I Expect?

Salaries can vary greatly based on the job. Payscale.com reported a wide hourly salary range for disc jockeys of anywhere from $10.13-$144.53, as of 2017. Radio disc jockeys in particular earned yearly salaries in the range of $23,138-$78,536 at this time. Most disc jockeys can expect to begin their career at small town stations before advancing into better paying jobs in larger markets. Getting a regular show can also increase your salary.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

If you are looking for a radio station job, you could also consider becoming a talk show host. Instead of playing music, they interview in-studio guests or call-in listeners about particular topics, like politics or sports. Talk show hosts usually need to have a bachelor's degree. Alternatively, if you are more interested in the technical aspects of broadcasting, you could become a broadcast technician, which involves operating audio equipment. You would be responsible for running the controls at a radio station, such as adjusting microphone levels in order to maximize clarity. You usually need to have a postsecondary diploma or associate's degree for this work.

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