Becoming a Radio Personality: Steps & Job Requirements

If entertaining people with music or stimulating dialogue sounds fulfilling to you, a career as a radio personality may be a good option. Here are the requirements and steps to become one. Schools offering Radio Broadcasting degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

Career Information at a Glance

Radio personalities play music, offer opinions or engage in spirited discussions with callers over a range of topics. Most radio jobs require a bachelor's degree in a field like communications, journalism or broadcasting. For more info on becoming a radio personality, check out the chart below.

Degree Required Bachelor's degree
Education Field of Study Broadcasting, journalism, communications
Training Required On-the-job training
Key Skills Speaking, writing, computer skills
Job Growth (2016-2026) -12% (for all radio and television announcers)*
Median Salary (2017) $30,310 (announcers in radio broadcasting)*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

What Do Radio Personalities Do?

Radio personalities entertain audiences over the radio airwaves. There are a few different kinds of radio performers. DJs typically play music, often within a theme or particular genre. They may give the weather, announce news stories, tell people about traffic conditions or even interview guests from time to time. Others do a talk show format, skipping the music for topics like sports, politics, news or entertainment. They may also take phone calls from listeners and debate the subject matter at hand.

How Do You Become a Radio Personality?

There's no one sure path to becoming a radio personality. Some have made it in the business based on pure talent, but most typically need at least a bachelor's degree in journalism, communications or broadcasting to get an entry-level job in the industry. This might get your foot in the door, but keeping it there can be a challenge. Radio stations make money off of advertising; the more people who are listening, the more advertising dollars they can bring in. So, in order to move up to bigger markets, employers want to see that you can attract and keep an audience.

How Much Do Radio Personalities Make a Year?

Radio performers are in the entertainment business, an industry where salaries can vary wildly. Someone just getting into the business might make a fairly low salary while powerhouses like Howard Stern and Rush Limbaugh pull down salaries that approach $100 million a year, according to Forbes in 2018. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics does give a median figure for announcers in radio broadcasting -- $30,310 per year in 2017.

What's the Job Outlook?

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics doesn't paint a rosy picture for the immediate future of radio broadcasters. Data released in 2016 predicts a decline in the number of employed radio and television announcers of 12% between 2016 and 2026. By comparison, the average for all other occupations is +7%.

What Are Some Related Fields?

If the employment for radio personalities is expected to wane in the coming years, are there any alternatives? Yes! Podcasters have adopted the same formats started in the radio world and translated them to the medium of computers and smartphones. Just like radio performers, podcasters play music, interview guests and talk about a subject that might be of interest to listeners, from current news stories and cold case mysteries to sports and celebrities. Listeners can download these podcasts to a range of devices and listen at their leisure.

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