How to Become a Switchboard Operator

Switchboards are necessary for the effective communication of a variety of organizations from hospitals to large corporations. Switchboard operators are trained workers that are responsible for managing a telephone switchboard and related equipment for an organization.


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What does a switchboard operator do?

Switchboard operators manage telephone consoles and switchboards to connect, transfer, and hold incoming, outgoing, and interoffice telephone calls. They also operate other communications systems such as intercoms, public address systems, and two-way radios. They answer questions, provide information to callers, and refer callers to the necessary contacts. They also greet and announce visitors, take and record messages, and operate paging systems. Switchboard operators relay and route written and verbal messages and are responsible for stamping messages with the date and time and filing them correctly. They also keep records of calls placed and assess the applicable charges. Some monitor alarm systems and contact security members when issues arise. Some switchboard operators perform clerical tasks such as typing, filing paperwork, sorting mail, coordinating meetings, managing calendars, and correspondence. Switchboard operators often specialize in a specific area such as emergency response where they must appropriately route emergency calls.

What kind of training does a switchboard operator need?

Switchboard operators must have at least a high school diploma or GED. Some switchboard operators complete switchboard operator training programs through technical and vocational schools or certificate programs. Most switchboard operators learn their skills through on the job training. Employers provide instruction on how to use telecommunications systems and outline the expectations, policies, and procedures. Many new switchboard operators start by observing experienced workers to learn the duties of the position. Some employers provide classroom instruction. Switchboard operators complete additional training as needed throughout their careers.

What are the prospects for a career as a switchboard operator?

Employment of switchboard operators is expected to decline rapidly, decreasing 10% from 2008 to 2018 (1). New laborsaving communications technologies will impact employment growth.

Despite rapid decline, job prospects should be favorable because the turnover of the profession is very high. Switchboard operators with extensive experience will have the best job opportunities.

How much do switchboard operators make?

As of March 2010, the middle 50% of switchboard operators earn annual salaries between $25,136 and $31,968. The top 10% earn annual salaries of more than $35,494 (2).

A career as a switchboard operator is a great choice for people with a strong interest in operating the switchboard and related equipment for a variety of organizations. Switchboard operators must have a solid understanding of the operation of a variety of telecommunications equipment. They must have a clear and pleasant voice, good enunciation, and excellent hearing skills. An aptitude for using computers and other equipment is also a valuable characteristic. Switchboard operators must have good communication and interpersonal skills and ability to interact with a variety of people. They must also be able to make quick effective decisions in stressful situations.

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