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Telephone Operators
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Description: what do they do?
Provide information by accessing alphabetical, geographical, or other directories. Assist customers with special billing requests, such as charges to a third party and credits or refunds for incorrectly dialed numbers or bad connections. May handle emergency calls and assist children or people with physical disabilities to make telephone calls.
Also known as:
Directory Assistance Operator, 411 Directory Assistance Operator, Information Specialist, Operator, Customer Service Assistant, Toll Operator, Long Distance Operator (LD Operator), Telephone Operator, Live Source Operator, Telecommunications Operator

    What does this information tell me?

    This description is a quick overview of what workers in this career might do.

    "Also known as" shows other common names for this career.

    What is the source of this information?

    This information comes from the O*NET Resource Center.

Career video
00:00
00:00

    Transcript: It used to be that the telephone operator was the heart and soul of the phone industry. Over the years, as technology became more sophisticated, automation began to replace the live voice at the switchboard. However, there are some things automated phone systems can't handle without human help, which is where the telephone operator continues to provide service. Telephone operators step in when customers are having difficulty finding a phone number. They help people place collect or credit card calls, and use telephone switchboards and systems to complete connections. The job often involves dealing with special needs, such as children or people with speech limitations. Operators are often called upon to contact the authorities in an emergency. These workers are most often employed by telephone companies or large businesses. Operators need to speak clearly and have good hearing. They need good spelling and computer skills, too. Fluency in more than one language can be a big advantage in getting a job. The work can be stressful -- you need to be able Entry level positions generally require a high school diploma or high school equivalency, with training then provided on the job. As technology takes on more of the operator's duties, the number of available jobs continues to decline. Part-time and shift work is common. Many operators move on to become dispatchers, receptionists, customer service representatives or supervisors. But no matter how few in number, telephone operators add a needed human touch to an increasingly automated industry.
View transcript
Outlook: will there be jobs?
Image. Employment outlook for this occupation
New job opportunities are less likely in the future.


    What does this information tell me?

    Outlook information can tell you whether a career is expected to be in demand in the future—that is, whether there are likely to be job openings if you choose this career. Careers can have one of three outlooks:

    • A Bright outlook means new job opportunities are very likely in the future
    • An Average outlook means that a small number of new job opportunities are likely in the future (less than an 8 percent increase)
    • A Below Average outlook means new job opportunities are less likely in the future

    You can also view local job listings in this field by clicking "Find job openings" above. This can help you see if local businesses are hiring—another way of looking at demand.

    What is the source of this information?

    This information comes from the O*NET Resource Center. Learn more about O*NET’s Bright Outlook occupations. Note this information is only available at a national level, so even if you selected a state, you’ll only see this information for the whole country.

Projected employment
US
N/A
2014 Employment
N/A
2024 Employment
N/A
Percent change
N/A
Annual projected job openings
United States
13,100
2014 Employment
7,500
2024 Employment
-42%
Percent change
320
Annual projected job openings
N/A: We do not have employment projections in this state for this occupation.

    What does this information tell me?

    Projected employment shows how much employment is expected to grow in this occupation over a 10-year period. This can help you decide if this career is a good choice for future job opportunities. You can look at projected employment in your state, or in other states where you might consider living.

    You can see the total number of people employed in this occupation in 2014, the number expected to be employed in 2024, and rate of growth over those years.

    The projections are based on assumptions including a 5.2 percent unemployment rate in 2024 and labor productivity growth of 1.8 percent annually over the 10 years. While the projected numbers may not be exact, they are helpful to compare one career to another, or one location to another.

    What is the source of this information?

    State-level data come from Projections Central: Long Term Projections, through 2024.

    National-level data come from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Office of Occupational Statistics and Employment Projections, Employment Projections: 2014–24.

Typical wages

Annual wages for Telephone Operators in United States
LocationUSUnited States
10%N/A$22,790
25%N/A$28,180
MedianN/A$37,000
75%N/A$56,270
90%N/A$66,230


    What does this information tell me?

    This chart shows you a range of how much most workers in this occupation earn per hour, in the location that you selected.

    You can select from three views of this data:

    • The Graph shows you wages at the 10th, 25th, 50th, 75th and 90th percentiles. Note that the lowest (10th %ile) wage shown is not necessarily a "starting wage." Instead it means that 10 percent of all workers in this career earn less that this amount, and 90 percent earn more. However, you can assume that you might earn close to the 10th or 25th %ile wages when you start out in most careers.
    • Select "Chart" to see a visual comparison between national wages and wages in the location you selected.
    • Select "Table" to see more wage data the national and local level.

    Please note that wage data are not available at the city or ZIP code level. If you selected a city or ZIP code, you will see wage data for the regional area.

    You can learn more about wages for this and other occupations by clicking “See more wages” above.

    What is the source of this information?

    The wage information comes from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Employment Statistics Program, 2016 data. For more detailed state wage data, please find the link to your state's wage data program in the Other Resources box.

Education and experience: to get started
People starting in this career usually have:
  • High school diploma or equivalent
  • No work experience
  • Less than 1 month on-the-job training

    What does this information tell me?

    This shows you the typical level of education, work experience, and on-the-job training that most people have when they start in this career. Note that these are not requirements for entering this field, but the information can help you understand how qualified you might be.

    Interested in starting in this career? You can search for education programs in your local area by clicking “Find local training” above.

    What is the source of this information?

    This information comes from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Office of Occupational Statistics and Employment Projections Education and Training Data.

Typical education
How much education do most people in this career have?
Chart. Percent of workers in this field by education level attained

    What does this information tell me?

    This chart shows you the range of education levels that people who currently work in this field have. You can use this to see if you fit in this range. Note that this includes ALL people who work in this field and not just those getting started.

    Interested in getting qualified for this career? You can search for programs that lead to the education needed, in your local area, by clicking “Find local training” above.

    What is the source of this information?

    This information comes from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Office of Occupational Statistics and Employment Projections Education and Training Data.

Certifications: show your skills
Let employers know you have the skills to do well at this job.
Earning a certification can help you:
  • Get a job
  • Get a promotion

    What does this information tell me?

    When you click "Find certifications" you'll see a list of national certifications that are related to this career. From there, you can learn how to achieve one of these certifications to help you enter or get ahead in this field.

    What is the source of this information?

    This collection of occupational certifications is collected and regularly updated by CareerOneStop. Learn more at Certification Finder Help.

Licenses: do you need one?
Some states require an occupational license to work in this career.

    What does this information tell me?

    When you click "Find license details in your state" you'll see the license name and contact information for the agency in your state that oversees licensing for this field. If you have not selected a location, you'll see a list of all state licenses for this occupation.

    What is the source of this information?

    Information on licensed occupations is gathered in each state by Labor Market Information units under a grant from the U.S. Department of Labor. Learn more at License Finder Help.

Apprenticeships: learn on the job
Apprenticeships combine paid on-the-job-training with classroom lessons.

    What does this information tell me?

    When you click "Find apprenticeship sponsors" you'll find information that can help you locate apprenticeship opportunities in your state:

    • If there are businesses that have sponsored apprenticeships in this field in the past, you'll find their name and contact information.
    • If there are related occupations that might have apprenticeship opportunities, you'll find links to that information.
    • You'll also see contact information for state and federal agencies that oversee apprenticeship programs.

    What is the source of this information?

    Apprenticeship information comes from the U.S. Department of Labor, Office of Apprenticeships, and from CareerOneStop. Learn more at Apprenticeship Finder Help.

Activities: what you might do in a day
  • Answer telephones to direct calls or provide information.
  • Search files, databases or reference materials to obtain needed information.
  • Operate communications equipment or systems.
  • Assist individuals with paperwork.
  • Discuss account status or activity with customers or patrons.
  • Calculate costs of goods or services.
  • Proofread documents, records, or other files to ensure accuracy.
  • Sort mail.
  • Assist disabled or incapacitated individuals.
  • Promote products, services, or programs.
  • Enter information into databases or software programs.
  • Maintain call records.

    What does this information tell me?

    This is a list of typical work activities that people in this career might do on the job. You can use this list to get an idea of whether this career might be a good fit for you.

    Click on “More activities” to see more detailed examples of activities for this career.

    You can also use this list to help you prepare for a job interview. Or, if you’ve already held a job like this, you can copy these activities to use on your resume.

    What is the source of this information?

    This information comes from O*NET OnLine's Occupation Information. They are O*NET’s Detailed Work Activities.

Knowledge
People in this career often know a lot about:
  • Customer and Personal Service - Knowledge of principles and processes for providing customer and personal services. This includes customer needs assessment, meeting quality standards for services, and evaluation of customer satisfaction.
  • English Language - Knowledge of the structure and content of the English language including the meaning and spelling of words, rules of composition, and grammar.

    What does this information tell me?

    This is a list of general knowledge areas that are most commonly required for jobs in the career. Knowledge is typically gained through education and related experience.

    This list can help you learn if you are prepared for a job in this career. It can also help you decide on education or training programs that could help you prepare for the career.

    What is the source of this information?

    This information comes from the O*NET Resource Center. Learn more about O*NET's Knowledge descriptors.

Skills
People in this career often have these skills:
  • Active Listening - Listening to others, not interrupting, and asking good questions.
  • Speaking - Talking to others.
  • Service Orientation - Looking for ways to help people.

    What does this information tell me?

    This is a list of a list the work-related skills most commonly required for jobs in the career.

    This list can help you understand how well your current skills fit this career. It can also help you plan your education or professional development.

    What is the source of this information?

    This information comes from the O*NET Resource Center. Learn more about O*NET's Skills descriptors.

Abilities
People in this career often have talent in:
  • Oral Expression - Communicating by speaking.
  • Oral Comprehension - Listening and understanding what people say.
  • Speech Clarity - Speaking clearly.
  • Speech Recognition - Recognizing spoken words.

    What does this information tell me?

    This is a list of a list of personal qualities that might influence work and are most commonly required for success in this career.

    This list can help you understand if your natural strengths and abilities are a good fit for this career.

    What is the source of this information?

    This information comes from the O*NET Resource Center. Learn more about O*NET's Abilities descriptors.

Interests
  • Conventional - Occupations related to Conventional interests frequently involve following set procedures and routines. They include working with data and details more than with ideas. Usually there is a clear line of authority to follow.
  • Social - Occupations with Social interests frequently involve working with, communicating with, and teaching people. Most involve helping or providing service to others.
  • Realistic - Occupations with Realistic interests frequently involve practical, hands-on problems and solutions. They often deal with plants, animals, and real-world materials like wood, tools, and machinery. Many require working outside, and do not involve a lot of paperwork or working closely with others.

    What does this information tell me?

    This is a list of work environment-preferences that are most commonly associated with the career. It can help you understand if your natural interests are a good fit for this career.

    Click "Take an interest assessment" for a quick 30-question assessment that can help you understand your interests and see careers that might be good matches for them.

    What is the source of this information?

    This information comes from the O*NET Resource Center. Learn more about O*NET's Interest descriptors.

Typical tasks
  • Listen to customer requests, referring to alphabetical or geographical directories to answer questions and provide telephone information.
  • Observe signal lights on switchboards, and dial or press buttons to make connections.
  • Operate telephone switchboards and systems to advance and complete connections, including those for local, long distance, pay telephone, mobile, person-to-person, and emergency calls.
  • Suggest and check alternate spellings, locations, or listing formats to customers lacking details or complete information.
  • Provide assistance for customers with special billing requests.
  • Calculate and quote charges for services such as long-distance connections.
  • Monitor automated systems for placing collect calls and intervene for a callers needing assistance.
  • Perform clerical duties such as typing, proofreading, and sorting mail.
  • Consult charts to determine charges for pay-telephone calls, requesting coin deposits for calls as necessary.
  • Interrupt busy lines if an emergency warrants.
  • Provide relay service for hearing-impaired users.
  • Offer special assistance to persons such as those who are unable to dial or who are in emergency situations.
  • Promote company products, services, and savings plans when appropriate.
  • Operate paging systems or other systems of bells or buzzers to notify recipients of incoming calls.
  • Update directory information.
  • Keep records of calls placed and received, and of related toll charges.

    What does this information tell me?

    This is a list of typical tasks that people in this career might do on the job.  You can use this list to get an idea of whether this career might be a good fit for you.

    Click on “More tasks” to see more detailed examples for this career.

    You can also use this list to help you prepare for a job interview. Or, if you’ve already held a job like this, you can copy these tasks to use on your resume.

    What is the source of this information?

    This information comes from O*NET OnLine's Occupation Information. They are O*NET‘s Tasks.

Other resources

    What does this information tell me?

    These are additional online resources related to this career. You may find different or more detailed information at these sources.

    What is the source of this information?

    This information is collected and maintained by CareerOneStop.