Music, Not Money, Motivates Most of Those in the Field
Do people tell you that you’ve got a voice for radio? You may be able to put that voice to work for a listening audience. Be aware, though, that only a select few earn a high salary. Salaries for most radio DJs are low compared to many other professions, averaging around $31,000 per year. Still, the opportunity to share music over the airwaves attracts many hopefuls to the profession. Many radio DJs work part-time, enabling them to balance their jobs with family life.
A radio disc jockey, or DJ, plays music and communicates with listeners between tunes. DJs may offer commentary about music and musicians, deliver news and weather, and lend their voices to commercials. Most DJs do not choose their own songs; instead, they play selections according to a playlist put together by the radio station’s music director or program director. DJs usually specialize in a particular genre of music, such as country, jazz or hip-hop. When starting out, radio DJs may have to take on-air shifts at odd hours, such as late night, early morning or weekends.
Although no formal education requirements exist, a college degree in broadcast journalism or communications can be an asset. College study may offer the opportunity for an internship, which is important since experience is the most important qualification for the job. Aspiring DJs should volunteer at a local radio station, if possible, or get on-the-air experience at their high school or college radio station. It’s also helpful to perfect your public speaking skills in a class or through a community-based group such as Toastmasters.
About the Industry
Radio host Delilah has about 8 million listeners who tune in every week to her nationally syndicated show, which she hosts from a home-based studio. With an income in the millions and a sympathetic ear for some 50 to 70 callers a night, Delilah is sometimes called “the Oprah of Radio.” Her success is hardly typical. The industry is extremely competitive, and salaries are generally low.
Years of Experience
Nationally syndicated DJs like Delilah and John Tesh earn millions, as do celebrity DJs in big markets like New York and LA. Otherwise, salaries vary depending on the station, location, music genre and other factors. The median salary nationwide is $35,469, which means that half earn more, and half in the profession earn less. Here’s the salary you might expect, based on years of experience:
- Entry-level: $26,660
- Mid-level: $31,000
- Late career: $36,580
- Experienced: $44,020
Job Growth Trend
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics tracks salary and job outlook under the category “radio announcer.” It’s estimated that employment opportunities will drop by about 9 percent over the next decade. With the increasing availability of digital music and other entertainment options, listening habits have changed. Radio no longer enjoys the popularity it had years ago, so fewer jobs will exist in the future.