How to Become a Disc Jockey
By Eric Hammer
Want to know how to become a disc jockey? The answer is a
little like the answer to the old joke about how to get to Lincoln
Center (practice, practice, practice). The bottom line is that
getting a job as a radio disc jockey is hard. It's a very competitive
field with a very finite number of openings.
That said, most of the resources we've quoted for this review
fail to mention the explosion of satellite radio stations and
especially Internet radio stations. While these stations often
pay much smaller amounts of money (especially Internet radio
stations) than commercial stations, they are a source of growth
in an otherwise static industry (after all, there are only so
many stations that can fit on the radio dial - it's all about
frequencies and once all the usable frequencies are gone, there
is no more room for another over the air station in a particular
Now, all that being said, the news isn't all bad. Being a
radio disc jockey is a fun job for many people and, like acting,
a dream for many. In addition to plenty of practice (get an internship
at a smaller radio station to get started and also try to get
on the college radio station when you're in school), you'll also
need to be quick on your feet and able to ad lib (come up with
something to say on the spot).
You will also need to have perfect diction (i.e. you can speak
clearly as well as quickly - people who slur their words and
slow talkers don't tend to work out well when they try to work
on the radio). Finally, a background in creative writing and
journalism helps a lot since you'll often need to write your
own ad copy and or rewrite news stories to be short and snappy.
How Much Can You Make?
The average salary for radio DJs in the United States is $19.43
per hour according the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Of course,
salaries can vary widely with top markets paying very good money
and some small radio stations offering a little over minimum
Ways to Make More | Related Opportunities
Any time you try to find out how to become a DJ, you'll immediately
be asked what kind of DJ you want to be. Remember that in addition
to working on the radio, you can also land work playing at events
such as weddings, confirmations, bar/bat mitzvah celebrations
Keep in mind that you'll need an excellent speaking voice. Note
also that your voice has to play well over the radio; you'll
generally be given a "radio test" before being hired
for a DJ job where your voice will be tested to see how it sounds
on the radio.
Probably the most important thing however that any DJ needs
is the ability to think on his or her feet. Take a look at the
movie Good Morning Vietnam with Robin Williams and you'll get
an idea of what we mean. Robin purportedly ad libbed every time
he was "on the radio" during the filming of the movie.
In other words, if you can come up with something to say on the
spot and keep things moving at a fast pace, you're much more
likely to succeed in this business.
Qualifications / Requirements
While no formal qualifications exist for the job of radio
disc jockey, the reality is that most people who want to know
how to become a DJ are told to start by getting a bachelor's
degree in journalism or English. Public speaking experience is
also very helpful in getting a job as a DJ.
Start by applying to be an intern at a small radio station,
or even better, working at the college radio station. While you
won't make much money (if any) at first, the experience and contacts
you'll develop will prove invaluable to you as you move forward
with your career.
Check out these helpful resources to find out more about how
to become a DJ:
U.S. Bureau of
Labor Statistics: Disc Jockey - Search "disc jockey"
on this site for good information on pay and requirments.
Artist House Music: How to Become a Radio Disc Jockey
- This is actually a video from the owner of a small radio network
(34 stations) where he offers advice gained from several decades
in the industry on how to become a DJ.
Broadcasting School - This is a school which teaches you
how to become a DJ.
WiseGeek: How Can I Become a Radio DJ? - This
is another basic, but well written introduction to the business
of becoming a DJ.