Radio operators periodically inspect and test equipment to ensure that the machines are in working order. They prepare for emergencies by maintaining transmission equipment, repairing systems and performing preventative maintenance. Additionally, operators set transmitters, keep records and relay distress calls to emergency response professionals. Radio operators can work for a variety of employers, including the maritime industry, airlines, or the United States Army.
People interested in becoming radio operators can obtain self-study materials, take part in informal courses or complete on-the-job training and later receive a license from the FCC.
Radio Operator Training
Most companies offer on-the-job training to their radio operators. Additionally, some organizations provide self-study materials to prospective radio operators, while informal courses run by radio clubs prepare students to obtain a Federal Communications Commission (FCC) license as a ham or commercial radio operator. These courses take as little as one day to complete.
On-the-job training might include the study of:
- Broadcast preservation and recording
- Electrical principles
- Interpretation of coded messages
- Maintenance of station logs
- Radio equipment repair
- Transmission instruction exchange
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), as of May 2018, there were 870 radio operators employed (www.bls.gov). State and local governments employed most of these professionals. The BLS stated that the yearly median wage for radio operators was $42,220 in 2018. Here are some typical jobs for which radio operators may be eligible:
- Flight communications specialist
- Radio electronics technician
- Telecommunication operator
Continuing Education and Licensure Information
Radio operators who are required to have a commercial license work on certain ships, aircraft or in international fixed public radio communications. For example, radio operators working on ships larger than 300 gross tons or carrying more than six passengers for hire are required to obtain commercial licensure. Professionals working on aircraft radio stations that deal with international travel are also required to obtain commercial licensure.
Commercial operator license exams include both written and telegraphy elements. The majority of commercial radio operator licenses are issued for the lifetime of the license-holder and, therefore, do not need to be renewed.
Aspiring radio operators typically complete on-the-job training or pursue other informal training options. Some topics these individuals might study include interpretation of coded messages, maintenance of station logs and radio equipment repair.