Careers in Radio: Education Requirements and Job Options

Sep 26, 2019

Some careers in radio require a bachelor's degree, although there are career options that only require a high school diploma or GED. The training requirements vary depending on the specific career. Broadcast technicians, radio managers, sales managers, sales staff and radio announcers are some of the career options for those interested in working in radio.

Essential Information

A career in radio is not limited to acting as an on-air announcer. Although stations need reporters, disc jockeys (DJs) and talk show personalities, there are also managerial, marketing and technical positions. Most positions require a 4-year degree in order to advance in the field.

Required Education High school diploma or equivalent
Other Requirements Bachelor's degree in broadcasting or communication for advanced positions
Projected Job Growth (2018-2028)* 8% for broadcast and sound engineering technicians
Median Salary (2018) $40,080 annually for broadcast technicians

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Managerial Positions

General Manager

The general manager (GM) oversees all the station's activities, business and public relations. GMs set and communicate the station's goals and priorities, including budgeting. Additionally, GMs ensure that the station's broadcasts are in accordance with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) regulations.

Programming Directors

Programming directors manage the on-air personalities and work with promotional managers to publicize the station. Often, programming directors also function as the music directors. They choose what to play and determine the schedule for playing the chosen songs.

Education Requirements for Radio Managers and Directors

Station managers and directors need a 4-year degree, preferably in broadcasting or communications. Stations typically only hire those who have a history of demonstrated managerial abilities. Students can find positions with university radio stations, and then transition to a small local station. A person may need to work at different stations, sometimes in different parts of the country, to advance within a company.

Salary and Job Outlook

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), producers and directors, including program directors, earned a median annual salary of $71,680 as of May 2018, and general and operations managers, including radio station managers, earned a median of $100,930. Employment of producers and directors is projected by the BLS to grow 5% from 2018 to 2028, while jobs for general and operations managers are expected to increase 7% over the same period.

Marketing Positions

Sales Managers

Sales managers sell blocks of air time to advertisers to earn money for the station. One of their primary tasks includes assembling and delivering presentations to prospective advertisers. They also work on promotional initiatives to enhance the station's visibility amongst local demographics. Planning and enforcing budgets, running meetings and overseeing the station's inventory are also part of a sales manager's job duties.

Sales Assistants

Sales assistants provide support for sales managers by billing clients and tending to database management. Working as a sales assistant is an entry-level position that may lead to promotions into other jobs at a radio station, such as sales manager.


Work in promotions requires an understanding of marketing. Station promoters generate creative ways to gain more attention for the station's programming. They are also responsible for raising money. Promoters organize events and seek business sponsors or local donors. They may also participate during sales pitches to advertisers.

Education Requirements for Marketing Positions

Sales assistants need at least a high school diploma, but those hoping to advance to sales manager may consider getting a 4-year degree in a business-related field.

Salary and Job Outlook

As of May 2018, the median annual salary for sales managers was $124,220 and for advertising and promotions managers it was $117,130, according to the BLS. The BLS projected that jobs for sales managers would increase by 5% from 2018-2028; opportunities for advertising and promotions managers should also see a 3% increase during that same decade.

Broadcasting Engineers

Broadcasting engineers are the station's technical workers and are responsible for managing radio equipment, program production and sound engineering. They repair malfunctioning equipment and operate audiovisual technologies. Most importantly, they make sure the program is being broadcast and can be heard on the radio.

Education Requirements for Broadcasting Engineers

Broadcasting engineers need technical training, which is usually gained through completing a formal degree program in areas such as engineering, broadcast technology, electronics or computers. Usually an associate degree is adequate for an entry-level position, but a bachelor's degree can provide more advancement opportunities. Broadcasting engineers frequently pursue continuing education courses to stay informed on changing technologies.

Salary and Job Outlook

The BLS projected that employment of broadcast and sound engineering technicians would increase by 8% from 2018-2028. The BLS reported that broadcast technicians earned a median of $40,080, as of May 2018.

On-Air Personalities

Announcers and Reporters

Radio stations need on-air personalities who will attract listeners. News-oriented stations need reporters to read the news or analysts to offer feedback on current events. Analysts with their own shows need to stay informed on the latest headlines and have some expertise in their area of analysis.

Disc Jockeys

Some disc jockeys have a minimal role at stations, overseeing music sets and announcing a song's artist and title. However, many stations want someone with a dynamic personality that retains listeners. Some DJs get their own talk shows and often capture an audience by saying or doing outrageous things on-air. Other DJs offer advice to listeners, or manage song requests.

Education Requirements for On-Air Personalities

Reporters often have 4-year degrees in communications, broadcast journalism or international relations. Analysts need at least a 4-year degree in their area of expertise.

The station's talent does not always need a degree. Having at least a high school diploma is helpful. DJs need an extensive knowledge of music and music history. Talk show hosts need a background in the topics relevant to their show's content, whether about sports or celebrity gossip. It is also their responsibility to stay informed on current developments in their subject area.

Salary and Job Outlook

According to May 2018 BLS statistics, radio and television announcers made a median of $33,220, and broadcast news analysts earned a median annual salary of $66,880. The BLS projected that employment of announcers would decline by 5% and that employment of broadcast news analysts would only grow by 1% during the 2018-2028 decade.

Radio announcers, broadcast technicians and sales assistants may find work in radio without any postsecondary training. Sales managers typically need a bachelor's degree in a business-related field, while station managers are required to have a bachelor's degree in communications or broadcasting. Postsecondary education may increase job prospects and may be required for advancement from entry-level positions.

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