Radio Operator: Salary and Career Facts

Explore the career requirements for radio operators. Get the facts about degree requirements and key responsibilities, job growth and average salary to determine if this is the right career for you. Schools offering Radio Broadcasting degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What is a Radio Operator?

Radio operators handle the technical side of the broadcasting industry. They are trained on how to set up and operate various forms of technical equipment and understand how to create quality audio recordings. Employment opportunities can be found in governmental agencies or local broadcasting stations.

Take a look at the following chart for an overview of what you need to know to enter this field.

Degree Required High school diploma or equivalent; vocational training preferred by some employers
Licensure/Certification Certifications are available
Key ResponsibilitiesTransmitting and receiving communications, operating and maintaining communications equipment
Job Growth (2014-24) 7% (for all broadcast and sound engineering technicians)*
Average Salary (2015) $47,200*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

What Does a Radio Operator Do?

As a radio operator, your main responsibility will be to transmit and receive communications while using radiotelegraph equipment. You must also be able to operate and maintain communications equipment and electronic testing equipment. You'll most likely be hired either by government agencies or by radio stations or broadcast news outlets. You may be able to work a traditional 40-hour work schedule as a radio operator, or you may have to work nights and weekends to address technical issues during odd-hour radio broadcasts.

What Kind of Education Will I Need?

As a radio operator, you may not need any formal type of training or educational background aside from a high school diploma or GED. The position is often an entry-level one, and many radio stations train new employees on the job.

Nevertheless, if you're looking for formal education, some community colleges do offer vocational programs that prepare you to become an entry-level radio operator. A general certificate program in radio broadcasting will provide you with a fundamental overview of the telecommunications and radio industries. You'll also learn the basics of radio production and station operation.

Will I Need Certification?

The Society of Broadcast Engineers (SBE) offers a Certified Radio Operator designation. Although you don't need to earn this certification in order to work in the field, it might help give you a competitive edge in the job market. In order to earn the certification, you'll be required to take an examination that covers typical radio station operations. You'll also be tested on specific topics, such as audio mixing consoles, transmitter remote control systems, satellite systems and audio patching.

What Kind of Salary Can I Expect?

Radio operators' average salary was about $47,200 in 2015, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The primary employers in the field in that year were government agencies and radio and television broadcasting companies. The top-paying states for radio operators in 2015 were New York, Michigan and the District of Columbia.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

If you're unsure that becoming a radio operator is right for you, but are interested in pursuing a career in sound engineering, you may want to consider becoming a recording engineer or a sound mixer. Each of these positions may only require a postsecondary nondegree award or certificate and present an opportunity to hone your skills while on the job. Recording engineers work with video- and sound-recording equipment to produce certain audio effects for radio, television and movies while sound mixers work to create specific soundtracks for the film industry.

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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