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Radio Operator Career

Career Description

A Radio Operator mainly receives and transmits communications using a variety of tools. These workers also repair equipment,  using such devices as electronic testing equipment, hand tools, and power tools. One of their major duties is to help to maintain communication systems in good condition.

Common Work Tasks

  • Monitor emergency frequencies in order to detect distress calls and respond by dispatching emergency equipment
  • Communicate with receiving operators in order to exchange transmission instructions
  • Operate radio equipment in order to communicate with ships, aircraft, mining crews, offshore oil rigs, logging camps and other remote operations
  • Broadcast weather reports and warnings
  • Maintain station logs of messages transmitted and received for activities such as flight testing and fire locations
  • Conduct periodic equipment inspections and routine tests in order to ensure that operations standards are met
  • Turn controls or throw switches in order to activate power, adjust voice volume and modulation, and set transmitters on specified frequencies
  • Operate sound-recording equipment in order to record signals and preserve broadcasts for purposes such as analysis by intelligence personnel
  • Repair radio equipment as necessary, using electronic testing equipment, hand tools, and power tools
  • Determine and obtain bearings of sources from which signals originate, using direction-finding procedures and equipment

Other Job Titles

Radio Operators are also known by other titles, including:

  • Audio and Video Technicians
  • Sound Engineering Technicians
  • Transmission Engineers
  • Broadcast Technicians

Education, Training, and Experience

Education and Training
  Radio operators usually are not required to complete any formal training. This is an entry-level position that generally requires on-the-job training.

  Building electronic equipment from hobby kits and operating a “ham,” or amateur, radio are good ways to prepare for these careers, as is working in college radio and television stations. Information technology skills also are valuable because digital recording, editing, and broadcasting are now the norm.


The median annual salary for a Radio Operator is $40,000. The top 10 percent earn more than $60,000, and the lowest 10 percent earn less than $21,000.  Median earnings in the industries employing the largest number of radio operators are:

  • Radio and Television Broadcasting - $40,770
  • Coal Mining - $70,820

Job Outlook

  • 2006-2016 Employment growth:  -16%
  • Number of new jobs created 2006-2016: -300
  • Employment 2006 : 1,500
  • Employment 2016:  1,300
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