Careers In

Disc Jockey

Also Known As:

D.J., Deejay, On-Air Personality

Career Description: Portray the voice and personality of the radio station by introducing music, commercial products, and promoting local venues and shows.

Salary: $25,000 to $1,000,000+

Disc Jockey Jobs

About This Music Career

The disc jockey is responsible for introducing albums, singles, commercials, news, and public announcements on radio stations. He or she usually possesses a likeable, unique personality to entertain listeners; this is what makes certain disc jockeys successful and establishes loyalty among listeners.

A radio station employs many different disc jockeys and each works their own shift, usually lasting three to five hours. Popular disc jockeys receive the most listened to shifts throughout each day, which include the morning commute, afternoon drive, or early evenings. Sometimes the disc jockey is responsible for selecting the music for his or her show; this usually occurs only in small market stations that have relatively smaller staffs. This selection comes from an approved list that has been put together by the radio music director.

The disc jockey sometimes serves as the acting music director or program director. If the station is small, the disc jockey might also be responsible for putting records on the turntable and working the sound board. The disc jockey often times becomes a local celebrity and is asked to make public appearances for certain promotions or charity events. The disc jockey can also provide voice-overs on radio and TV commercials, and they might do guest appearances as live disc jockey at clubs, bars, or discos.

The disc jockey answers to the P.D., M.D., or station manager.

The size of the market along with the experiences and following of the disc jockey, will determine their salary. Salaries can range from $25,000 to as high as $225,000 per year in this career in music. Personal appearances, commercials, and disc jockeying at clubs or bars can help disc jockeys earn additional income. As a result there are some very well-known disc jockeys who earn more than $1,000,000 through salary, endorsements, and other additional income.

Employment prospects range from fair to minimal, depending on the size of the market and radio station. In smaller markets employment prospects are fair, due to large turnover resulting from low pay and people wanting to move on to higher paying positions. As the market gets larger employment prospects start to thin out.

Small market radio stations allow for disc jockeys to advance to the position of program director or music director at the same station or a station of similar size. They can also look for positions at bigger stations in bigger markets.

Education and Training

Many radio stations may prefer for their disc jockeys to possess a college or music school degree or have some sort of vocational training. Useful college courses include communications and broadcasting. There are many vocational music colleges and trade schools, but it is important to check out the reputation of the school before enrolling. You can check out reputations through the attorney general's office and the Department of Consumer Affairs. Working in college radio also provides a valuable experience and hands-on training.

Experience, Skills, and Personality
Many disc jockeys get an early start with their careers by taking part in high school radio clubs. From there they go on to work in radio at the college they attend. To be successful they must have a good, unique and likeable voice that they can project over the airwaves. It is also imperative for disc jockeys to show up for their shift on time. In order to hold a position as a disc jockey they must obtain a license from the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). This license can be obtained by having a letter sent to the FCC by the prospective employer, in which it is stated that the individual has a position in the field of broadcasting. Along with the letter an application must be submitted.

Unions and Associations
The American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (AFTRA) is an association disc jockeys can be a part of. They might also belong to the National Association of Broadcasting (NAB) or the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences (NARAS). Lastly disc jockeys may belong to the National Association of Broadcast Employees and Technicians (NABET).

Suggestions for Getting Started

  • Check for available positions advertised in classified sections of newspapers.
  • Other openings may be posted in the radio and record trade publications such as Billboard, Broadcasting, and Radio and Records.
  • Seek out a college internship at a local radio station.
  • Look for any work at your high school or college radio station.
  • Record a demo and send it to a radio station's general manager or personnel director, along with your resume. Be sure to make a few copies of the demo before sending.
  • Always search for openings online, both on general career websites and on the websites of specific radio stations.