Telephone operators
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Overview
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.
Predicted employment growth
Over the next decade, jobs for telephone operators are expected to shrink by 23%, and should have about 900 job openings a year.
Safety from automation
Telephone operators are more likely to be automated than 91% of other careers.
Workforce size
Telephone operators, with 9,100 workers, form a smaller workforce than 88% of careers.
Education
Only 13% of telephone operators have a bachelor's degree or higher.
Education attained by telephone operators
High School
Some College
Bachelor's Degree
Master's Degree
Doctorate
Context: workers with bachelor's degrees
Fewer telephone operators have bachelor's degrees than 64% of other careeers.
Salaries
The median (middle) salary for 71% of all other jobs is higher than the middle salary for telephone operators. The graph shows inflation-adjusted salaries for most telephone operators.
This job's median $37KAll jobs' median $39K$38K$38K20142015201620172018$0$10K$20K$30K$40K$50K
Context: Median Salary
Gender
Women account for 73% of telephone operators -- that's a larger percentage than 87% of other jobs.
Gender of telephone operators
Men
Women
Context: Salary inequity
For each career, we compared the median (middle) men's salary to the median women's salary. For telephone operators, the median men's salary was 11% more the median woman's salary.
Race/Origin
About 38% of telephone operators are minority, and 9% are foreign-born.
Race/origin of telephone operators
White
Black
Pacific Islander
Hispanic
Asian
American Indian
Multiracial
Other
Context: Foreign-born workers (9%)
Where are the most jobs?
We ranked the number of jobs in Telephone Operators per thousand workers in each state, DC, and Puerto Rico. The darker the blue, the higher the job density.
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Job benefits
Employer or union-sponsored pension plans are offered to 41% of telephone operators, and 66% have company-sponsored health insurance (8% have dependents enrolled in their employer's health plan).
Employer-provided health coverage for telephone operators
100% premiums covered
Partial premiums covered
Plan with no cost sharing
No health insurance
The downside
Some jobs are more stressful than others, and some are just plain dangerous. The following list gives the percentages of telephone operators who report hazardous or difficult situations typically occurring at least once a week.
  • Deal With Unpleasant or Angry People (100%)
  • Degree of Automation (67%)
  • Time Pressure (48%)
  • Frequency of Conflict Situations (44%)
  • Responsible for Others' Health and Safety (34%)
SOURCES:24.0 O*NET
Salary and diversity
Salary overview
What do telephone operators earn?

In this section, we want to give you a clear idea of what you can expect to earn in this career. We use two sources of data here: the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), which asks employers to classify their workforce and to report salaries using the SOC-specialty level of reporting, and the American Community Survey (ACS), which asks people to classify their jobs using the broad classifications that ididio uses for career profiles, and to self-report their salaries. For some jobs, the differences in survey approaches between BLS and ACS can paint a very different end-picture. Whenever possible, we provide data from both sources.

The BLS-compiled salary data is reported by companies for their employees. This data excludes self-employed workers. We first show the distribution of salaries for telephone operators, and then we show how the middle (median) salary for telephone operators compares to the BLS-computed median salaries of other careers.
Distribution: Salaries for telephone operators (BLS Salary Data)
$37K$0$20K$40K$60K$80K$100K$120K
Context: Median salaries across careers (BLS Salary Data)
$37K$0$20K$40K$60K$80K$100K$120K
We compiled household data from the ACS to determine the salaries that people working at least 35 hours a week report themselves to earn. Unlike the BLS estimates, this data includes self-employed wages. We first show the full salary distribution for all telephone operators, and then we show how the median (middle) salary for telephone operators compares to the median ACS-reported salary of other careers.
Distribution: Salaries for telephone operators (ACS Salary Data)
$29K$0$20K$40K$60K$80K$100K$120K
Context: Median salaries across careers (ACS Salary Data)
$29K$0$20K$40K$60K$80K$100K$120K
Employers and salary
A look at employers and corresponding salaries
The donut shares the break-down of workers by employer type, and following we show the salary distributions for these workers based on those employer types. For some careers, the salaries can be vastly different between private, government, and self-employment. As with our salary overview, we view the both the BLS economists' salary profiles and the household-reported salaries from ACS to get a thorough understanding of where telephone operators work and for what salary. We have the great faith in the accuracy of economist-vetted BLS data; however, the BLS restrictions on which employers are surveyed skews the data a bit (read more in the sources), and the ACS responses provide different and useful categorizations of employers and salaries.
Employers of Telephone operators (ACS)
Private for-profit (79.0%)
Private not-for-profit (6.8%)
Local government (6.6%)
State government (3.6%)
Federal government (3.2%)
Self-employed incorporated (0.2%)
Self-employed not incorporated (0.5%)
Working without pay (0.1%)
Distribution: Salaries of telephone operators by type of employer (ACS data)
Following are the salary distributions by employer type calculated by aggregating individual household survey responses.
$29K$27K$31K$31K$38K$0$20,000$40,000$60,000$80,000State governmentLocal governmentPrivate not-for-profitPrivate for-profitAll
Distribution: Salaries of telephone operators by type of employer (BLS data)
Following are the salary distributions by employer type as reported by BLS based on large employer-focused surveys. We note that smaller employer categories are not included by BLS.
$37K$39K$37K$36K$0$20,000$40,000$60,000$80,000State governmentLocal governmentPrivateAll
Age and career advancement
Salary growth for telephone operators

The biggest take-away from the following two charts is the relationship between salary and experience that we can infer from age. Does this job seem to attract especially younger or older workers? Does it reward experience?

Take a minute a look at how much you might expect your salary to increase with each five years' experience, as well as how the numbers working in this career changes. We only provide this data when there are enough consistent ACS survey responses to allow a reasonable margin of error, so for some careers you will see gaps in our reporting of salary by age.

$31K$35K$33K$18K$31K$28K$35K$25K$33K$0$20K$40K$60K$80KSalary distribution20-2425-2930-3435-3940-4445-4950-5455-5960-64
01K2K3K4K5KNumber employed20-2425-2930-3435-3940-4445-4950-5455-5960-64

Our only sources for career data containing age, gender, or origin/race come from the Census Bureau. To provide these breakdowns, we have aggregated ACS person-level career survey responses by career, gender, race, and age. These graphics reflect the results of our aggregations, and are useful for identifying trends. A careful statistical study of the impact of age, gender, and race on salaries would correct for other factors that could be contributing to salary differences.

Gender and Equity
Telephone operators and gender

With 73% women, this occupation has a higher percentage of women than 87% of careers.

Context: Women in the workforce
73%0%20%40%60%80%100%
Gender of Telephone operators
Men (27%)
Women (73%)
Distribution: Salaries by gender

As we'll illustrate at the bottom of this section, the median salary for all full-time male workers in the US exceeds the full-time median salary for women by 20%. The situation is a little better for telephone operators, with the median salary for men 11% higher than the median salary for women. This chart shows you the salary range for most workers by gender.

$28K$31K$0$20K$40K$60K$80KWomenMen
Context: Salary Inequity

Nationwide there are twenty careers for which men do not have a higher median (middle) salary than women. The chart below shows the salary inequity, the percentage by which the median men's salary is higher than the median women's salary, for most jobs. Telephone operators have one of the smaller percentage increases for men's salary, with the increase the men's median salary over the women's median salary in this job lower than that for 67% of other jobs.

11%0%20%40%60%80%100%

Our only sources for career data containing age, gender, or origin/race come from the Census Bureau. To provide these breakdowns, we have aggregated ACS person-level career survey responses by career, gender, race, and age. These graphics reflect the results of our aggregations, and are useful for identifying trends. A careful statistical study of the impact of age, gender, and race on salaries would correct for other factors that could be contributing to salary differences.

Race/Origin
Race and origin of telephone operators

The representation of minority and foreign-born workers is quite different between careers, and the relative pay of those workers also varies significantly between careers. There is a higher percentage of minority telephone operators than for 96% of other careers. While this career employs many minorities, it employs a relatively small number of foreign-born people.

Race/origin of telephone operators
White (58% )
Black (29% )
Asian (4% )
Other (4% )
Multiracial (3% )
Hispanic (1% )
American Indian (1% )
Pacific Islander (0% )
Context: Representation of minorities in the workforce
38%0%20%40%60%80%100%
Context: Representation of foreign-born workers
9%0%20%40%60%80%100%
Distribution: Salaries for telephone operators by race/origin

For some careers, there is a pay disparity depending on race or origin, though this is not prevalent. We calculate standard errors for all of our calculations, and when the error is high we do not show results. Therefore, for some jobs will have omitted race/origin categories.

$25K$26K$28K$29K$38K$0$20K$40K$60KOtherHispanicBlackWhiteAsian
Distribution: Salaries for telephone operators by nativity
$28K$34K$0$20K$40K$60K$80K$100KAll native citizensAll foreign-born

Our only sources for career data containing age, gender, or origin/race come from the Census Bureau. To provide these breakdowns, we have aggregated ACS person-level career survey responses by career, gender, race, and age. These graphics reflect the results of our aggregations, and are useful for identifying trends. A careful statistical study of the impact of age, gender, and race on salaries would correct for other factors that could be contributing to salary differences.

Pathways to this career
Education requirements and salary
Education attained by telephone operators

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), telephone operators typically hold a high school diploma or equivalent.

Sometimes the typical education identified by the BLS differs a bit from the reality of the how much education current workers actually have. The donut shows the education level held by people currently working as telephone operators as reported in responses to the American Community Survey. Following, we investigate whether education level influences salary for telephone operators.

Education attained by telephone operators
None
High School
Some College
Associate's Degree
Bachelor's Degree
Master's Degree
Professional Deg/Doct
Doctorate
Distribution: Salary by education level

What level of education is truly needed for telephone operators? Below we see the distribution of telephone operators salaries based on the education attained. These comparisons are based on all survey responses by those who identified themselves as telephone operators, and are not intended as a statistical analysis of salary differences that would correct for non-educational factors that could contribute to high or low earnings.

$30K$27K$28K$30K$31K$0$20K$40K$60K$80KNone (4%)High School (33%)Some College (39%)Associate's Degree (10%)Bachelor's Degree (10%)
Switching Careers
Most common new jobs
The most common next careers for telephone operators

What jobs will most telephone operators hold next year?

The data in this chart comes from person interviews for the Census Bureau's Current Population Survey. The survey interviews households eight times over a two-year period, allowing us a glimpse into how people move from job to job. You can see more details from the results of the survey in our last tab in this section, and you can read about our methodology in our source descriptions.

Here we see all of the jobs that at least 1% of telephone operators reported holding in their second year's survey. Is your future job on this list?

Receptionists and information clerksCustomer service representativesTelemarketersRetail salespersonsSwitchboard and answering service operatorsTelephone operatorsComputer support specialistsChief executives and legislatorsSecretaries and administrative assistantsDispatchersSecurity Guards and Gaming Surveillance OfficersCashiersPhotographersHealth Technologists and TechniciansInterviewersMedical and health services managersPainters and paperhangersComputer systems analystsCooksFirst-line supervisors of office and administrative support workersEmergency medical technicians and paramedicsRadio and telecommunications equipment installers and repairersSpecialized media/broadcast techniciansProduction workersMaids and housekeeping cleaners
Lateral career moves
Lateral job transitions for telephone operators

A lateral career transition is a move to a job with similar pay and responsibilities. A move to such a job can offer a change of pace without an increase in stress or a decrease in pay. The following table simply identifies all 9 jobs which were held by at least 1% of survey respondents before working as telephone operators as well as 1% of respondents after working as telephone operators. Select a row to investigate the job's full description and determine if it truly offers an opportunity for a lateral transition.

Full prior and next career listings
Prior and next careers for telephone operators: full listings

What do people typically do before and after they work as telephone operators? Here are the full lists of all jobs that at least 1% of telephone operators surveyed reported as holding a year earlier or later.

Choose which type of transition to view
Prior jobs
Next jobs
Prior careers for telephone operators
Annual openings
How many openings are expected each year?
Salary
Salary distribution for people in this occupation. Range is 0-$200,000.
Median
Middle 50%
Middle 80%
Education
High School
Some College
Bachelor's Degree
Master's Degree
Doctorate
Gender
Men
Women
Percentage Transitioning
What percentage worked in this job the previous year?
Retail salespersons
676,200
$0$200K$31K
1.1%
Cashiers
659,300
$0$200K$20K
7.1%
Secretaries and administrative assistants
395,200
$0$200K$36K
1.4%
Hand laborers and freight, stock, and material movers
389,900
$0$200K$28K
2.2%
Driver/sales workers and truck drivers
376,900
$0$200K$41K
2.2%
Customer service representatives
373,800
$0$200K$32K
7.7%
General office clerks
356,600
$0$200K$33K
1.0%
Food preparation workers
158,000
$0$200K$19K
2.1%
First-line supervisors of office and administrative support workers
153,100
$0$200K$48K
2.1%
Receptionists and information clerks
151,300
$0$200K$27K
20.6%
Teacher assistants
148,000
$0$200K$21K
2.0%
Medical assistants
95,000
$0$200K$30K
1.9%
Secondary school teachers
85,500
$0$200K$53K
1.9%
Shipping, receiving, and traffic clerks
67,300
$0$200K$31K
1.9%
Billing and posting clerks
59,700
$0$200K$34K
1.9%
Tellers
51,500
$0$200K$26K
2.0%
Engineering technicians
40,100
$0$200K$54K
2.0%
Insurance claims and policy processing clerks
35,700
$0$200K$37K
2.3%
Telemarketers
33,500
$0$200K$22K
1.2%
Radio and telecommunications equipment installers and repairers
23,700
$0$200K$52K
3.0%
Trends in employment
Salary trends
Distribution and trends: Salaries for telephone operators
Choose actual dollars or inflation-adjusted dollars to view
Adjusted for inflation
Historic dollars

In 2018, the median (middle) for 71% of all other jobs were higher than the median (middle) salary for telephone operators. This graphic shows how the salary distribution (adjusted for inflation) has changed for this job over recent years. The gray line, as a comparison, shows the median salary of all US workers.

This job's median $37KAll jobs' median $39K$38K$38K200420052006200720082009201020112012201320142015201620172018$0$10K$20K$30K$40K$50K
Projected versus actual employment
Exploring actual employment trends versus projected trends

Currently, jobs for telephone operators are anticipated to shrink by 23%. over the next decade; 99% of jobs are projected to grow more.

The projected employment for telephone operators is the best guess created by talented economists and statisticians at the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). However, as you look through several careers you'll notice that the projections are heavily influenced by past performance and may miss current trends. No one can tell the future, and as new information and better techniques are developed, actual counts and future projections may change. Here's a glimpse at the actual counts versus the projections over time.

2000201020202030020,00040,00060,000
Employment counts
Actual measured employment
BLS 10-year predictions
Variation by state
Employment
State-by-state employment numbers

Some careers tend to be centered in specific parts of the country. For example, most jobs in fashion are in New York or California. Let's see if your dream job is easy to find in your dream location! We have a few choices for viewing the data that can help you get a full employment picture.

Job density versus job count

Which states hire the most telephone operators? We wonder if that's a fair question since states come in all sizes, so instead let's start with the question of which states have the highest density of people working as telephone operators. You can choose to view the number of jobs per state if you prefer.

BLS vs ACS data

This map defaults to employment information from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), which provides job totals carefully compiled for accuracy and with a primary focus on how employers describe their workers. The BLS job totals do not count self-employed workers. We've also compiled totals using the Census Bureau's American Community Survey (ACS) which are based on how workers describe themselves. Sometimes ACS results are quite a bit different from the employer-based BLS data.

Choose the metric to review
Jobs per 1000 working
Number of jobs
Use this data source
BLS
Number of Telephone Operators per 1,000 workers (BLS)
Select a state to see local area details
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0.00.10.10.10.20.3
Salary
Salaries by state
Let's get a feel for where telephone operators earn the highest salaries. There are several choices for which data we consider and how we view that data, and each can lead to different conclusions, so please read on...
Median salary versus state ratio

We use two methods to compare salaries across states:

  • In-state comparisons: the ratio of median (middle) salaries for telephone operators compared to the median salary for all people working in each state, or
  • Median salary: the unaltered median salaries for telephone operators.

We hope the ratio allows perspective about how salaries may compare to the regional cost-of-living.

BLS vs ACS data

We have two sources for statewide salary information with important distinctions. The BLS data is created by surveying companies, missing individuals who are self-employed or work for smaller companies. The ACS data is compiled from multi-faceted household surveys and may reflect the inconsistencies that people may have in reporting information.

Choose the metric to review
In-state comparisions
Median salary
Use this data source
BLS
Median salary ratio: Telephone Operators to all workers (BLS)
The darkest shading corresponds to states in which telephone operators earn the highest salary when compared to other jobs in the state. We think this ratio might be a better indicator than the actual salary for your buying power as a state resident.
Select a state to see local area details
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0.00.20.40.60.81.01.2
Compare to similar jobs

If this job interests you, then use the dots below to find other jobs you might like. The dots closer to the top represent jobs that are like Telephone operators (shown with a blue star). Look for the dots to the right to find the best salaries! (We pulled salary data from BLS, and they give a top salary value of just over $200K to protect privacy, so our graph would go much higher if the salaries were not top coded.)

How should the career similarity be computed

There are a number of ways to measure the similarity of jobs, here are a few we provide:

  • Interests: Also known as a Holland Code - Are you a thinker? A helper? What fits your personality?
  • Environment: Are there hazards? Will you be comfortable? Will it be stressful?
  • Knowledge: What do you need to know the most about?
  • Physical Abilities: Do you need to especially strong or coordinated?
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