How to Become a Radio Personality: Career Guide

Learn how to become a radio personality. Research the education requirements, training information and experience required for starting a career in radio broadcasting.

Do I Want to Be a Radio Personality?

Radio personalities (also called on-air personalities, hosts or announcers) play music, provide commentary and interview guests for on-air entertainment. This position requires creativity to generate ideas for new on-air material and the ability to ad-lib for an audience. In addition to working in a studio environment, radio personalities sometimes make appearances and broadcast live from local events or promotional locations. They must interact with the radio audience over the phone, in person and through social media.

There is strong competition for these entertainment industry jobs. Many entry-level positions in the field include working irregular and sometimes long hours, and those beginning their careers may need to start out in smaller markets.

Job Requirements

Educational requirements for this career vary by employer, but a formal degree in a field such as broadcasting is sometimes required. Often, having strong on-air skills and experience are even more important to securing a job as a radio personality. The following table describes the common qualifications and requirements that employers listed in job postings for radio personalities during September 2012:

Common Requirements
Degree Level Varies by employer, but a degree is often desired
Degree Field Communications or broadcasting
Experience 1-2 years of prior on-air broadcasting
Key Skills Strong voice, positive attitude, multi-tasking, people skills, copywriting, proficient at reading in public
Computer Skills Social media programs, posting media online, Adobe Audition software, digital editing
Technical Skills Control and mixing board operation, audio recording and playback equipment
Additional Requirements Ability to work on-call or non-traditional shifts, knowledge of various music genres, ability to follow Federal Communications Commission (FCC) guidelines

Step One: Research the Career

The level of experience needed to become a radio personality is dictated by an employer. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) states that radio announcers usually have a bachelor's degree in communications, journalism or broadcasting. Since there are a wide variety of career options, potential radio personalities should research the type of position they're looking for (DJ, program host, on-air announcer, etc.) and perhaps speak to professionals in the field to determine the best education path.

Step Two: Earn a Degree

While a degree may not be necessary, the BLS noted that a bachelor's degree could help radio announcers remain competitive among entry-level workers. Enrolling in a 4-year program can provide valuable skills and experience. Many colleges have on-campus radio stations so that students can gain on-air experience and learn about broadcast operations. Courses in public speaking, writing and broadcast reporting may also prove useful to broadcast students.

Success Tip:

  • Participate in an internship. Many broadcast or journalism degree programs require students to complete internships before graduation. Radio broadcast internships provide hands-on experience in a station setting. The BLS reported that radio stations typically require applicants for on-air personality positions to have a certain amount of broadcast experience, which an internship can help fulfill.

Step Three: Gain Entry-Level Training

Potential radio personalities almost always start in an entry-level position before moving up the ranks. The BLS noted that several years of work experience may be necessary before a candidate might get a chance at hosting. The entry-level work allows them to build their voice, draw an audience and create ratings for their show.

Success Tips:

  • Start in a small market. Stations in small markets cater to smaller audiences and are less competitive in ratings than their large-market counterparts. Many announcers start their careers in small markets, which gives them an opportunity to learn the industry, gain confidence and build experience. Applicants may need to consider moving to a smaller market to take advantage of such an opportunity.
  • Learn more about the industry. It may be beneficial to join a professional organization, such as the National Association of Broadcasters. Membership allows individuals to stay abreast of industry information and further professional development.

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