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Media careers

Radio

Why get into radio?

“Radio I'd sit alone and watch your light, My only friend through teenage nights, And everything I had to know, I heard it on my radio.”

Of course, these are the poignant words of the late great Freddie Mercury, and if they don’t stir something deep within your soul, we really don’t know what will!

This was written some time ago, but with radio undergoing something of a digital revolution at the moment, it’s an exciting time for those of you wishing to pursue a career behind the mic or the control panel.

Virtually every home, office block, factory, café or car across the UK has a radio. Whether you’re listening to the football scores, tuning in to BBC 6 Music for a bit of air-guitar action, or chilling out with a massive mug of Horlicks, a Cuban cigar and some beans on toast, whilst listening to an episode of The Archers, it’s all good.

With digital radio becoming so prominent these days, there are more genres and more areas of radio than ever before. These include both commercial and independent radio stations that broadcast all kinds of different shows, with content ranging from sport and music to debate and news. And many of them have plenty of graduate jobs on offer!

What will I need to get into radio?

Most careers in radio will require some sort of training or qualification. Audio engineers, for example, will need to have specialist sound engineering training to break into the industry, either through a degree or relevant vocational qualification. However, a lot of people in the radio industry work their way up before taking on more responsibility.

If you’re planning to become a radio presenter or DJ, it might be a good idea to undertake a specialist radio presenter course. You’ll need to make sure that your dedicated listeners can hear every word you utter into the microphone. You’ll never be successful if you’re a mumbling motor-mouth! Therefore, this training will allow you to refine your speaking skills and give you a voice for radio.

You’ll learn how to use the tone and intonation of your voice to great effect. Afterwards, you’ll be a natural at getting to grips with the microphone and projecting your voice properly using specialist techniques. 

If you’re interested in this line of work, it’d be a good idea for you to get involved with your university or college’s radio station. Your audience might not be massive, but it’s a great place for you to learn the ropes and get involved. Experience is key to success, so start early and move on from there.

Of course, there’s much more to the world of radio than being the voice behind the microphone on Radio 1. There’s a whole world out there. The DJ is just the tip of the broadcasting iceberg.

What roles can I pursue in a radio career?

The main roles are split between creative, technical and management positions. As station manager, for example, you’ll be the head of the station. Your role will be all about taking charge and managing the DJs, producers and technical team.

If the technical side of radio is more your thing, and you’ve got a vested interest in sound engineering, then you could be more suited to the world of audio engineering. You’ll assist the presenters, producers and DJ in actively broadcasting the radio show. You’ll ensure that all technical hiccups are dealt with and that everything runs as smoothly as possible.

If you’re ever wondered who decides what goes on each show, then stop wondering right now! It’s the radio producer. Yep, these guys are kind of a big deal. They rule the roost and decide what features and interviews each show should include. They are in charge of all the content.

They tell the DJ what needs to be mentioned and may even have the final say in what music is pumping out of people’s speakers. Radio producers are also the guys that liaise with sponsors, advertisers and media buying agencies.

Finally, we have the showmen, the voices we hear from day to day. That’s right, the presenters and DJs. And yes, there is a difference between the two. Presenters usually present individual sections of the radio show. For example, they might be the person that reads the news. A DJ, on the other hand, is responsible for keeping the show moving and interesting. They’re the people that we get to know pretty well, e.g. Zane Lowe, Terry Wogan or Chris Moyles.

They keep people entertained between songs with banter, debate and jokes. They interview guests, talk to listeners and control phone-ins. To become a successful radio DJ, you’re going to have to be confident, enthusiastic, interesting and witty and have the ability to develop your own individual style. You’ll also be in charge of mixing music and dropping in the occasional cheeky sound bite or sound effect.

If you want to be a radio star, don’t worry – you are not at risk of being killed by video. Now that’s out of the way, there’s very little between you and one of the incredibly diverse occupations available in radio!