Radio Operator Training and Degree Programs

Learn about a radio operator's tasks and responsibilities, and get information about the training required for this position. Find out about licensure requirements, median salary and employment outlook. Schools offering Radio Broadcasting degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Does a Radio Operator Do?

As a radio operator, your duties can include monitoring and logging radio signals and operating radio transmitters. You might maintain radio equipment and repair it if it malfunctions. You also may help locate missing ships and dispatch emergency response crews. You can be responsible for communicating with airplanes or worksites in remote areas, providing updates on inclement weather and interpreting incoming communications.

This job typically involves radiotelegraph and radiotelephone equipment. Additionally, you must understand and adhere to government standards for radio operation.

Key ResponsibilitiesOperating radio transmitters, adhere to government standards, logging radio signals, repairing and maintaining equipment, dispatching emergency crews
Required TrainingNo formal degree is required, though training through a technical school would be helpful, as well as on-th-job training
LicensureIt may be necessary to obtain a commercial radio license through the COLEM depending on your job
Median Salary$43,660* (for broadcast and sound engineering technicians as of May 2018)
Job Outlook8%* (for broadcast and sound engineering technicians between 2016-2026)

*Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

What Training and Skills Do I Need?

Radio operators typically do not complete degree programs, so you do not need any formal education beyond a high school diploma. However, courses in radio operation are available through technical schools and could be useful preparation. These courses could train you in basic radio operation, terminology, equipment maintenance and Federal Communications Commission (FCC) rules for radio operation.

As a radio operator, you may receive on-the-job training to develop your skills and acquire a fundamental knowledge of computer hardware and electronics equipment. You may need to have an understanding of computer software, programming and circuit boards, and you'll need to develop telecommunications systems skills. You're also likely to need non-technical skills, such as professional communication, reading comprehension, customer service and problem-solving.

Do I Need a License?

Depending on your chosen job, you may need to earn a commercial radio license. According to the FCC, you need a license if you operate a ship radio station that has more than six passengers for hire or uses high frequencies for operation ( Aircraft radio station operators and individuals who repair ship and aircraft radios also need a license.

You can earn a license by passing an exam administered by the Commercial Operator License Examination Managers (COLEM) of the FCC. Exams include both written and telegraphy components.

What Is the Job Outlook and Salary?

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported that the number of jobs for broadcast and sound engineering technicians was expected to grow eight percent between 2016 and 2026 ( This was approximately as fast as average for all occupations.

As of May 2018, radio operators made a median annual salary of $42,220, according to the BLS. The highest-paid radio operators earned upwards of $71,470, while the lowest made less than $21,850. The highest paying industries for this profession were state governments, local governments and nonscheduled air transportation, respectively.

To continue researching, browse degree options below for course curriculum, prerequisites and financial aid information. Or, learn more about the subject by reading the related articles below:

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