A Simple Plan to Start Your Radio Career

start your radio career

Photo Courtesy: Delilah/Conduit Media

Let’s deal with the 500 lb gorilla first – there seems to be some fear of pursuing broadcast radio jobs amongst young people today.

With the evolution of internet radio and mobile devices, today’s generation seems concerned that jumping into a traditional radio career would be akin to jumping on board a sinking ship.

But that is a superficial conclusion.

“More choices only adds value to broadcast radio as a media option,” says Columbus Radio Group Brand Manager Jimmy Steele. “Most people who use the iPod, Pandora or satellite radio also consume local radio.  Do you watch TV, listen to the TV or read the local paper?  All three, right?”

Taking a deeper look at broadcast radio:

The advancement of online radio will continue to erode some market share from traditional broadcast radio stations, but there are reasons audience members will always be loyal to their local station.

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“On air personalities truly set us apart from the iPod or Pandora,” adds Steele. “Internet radio stations do what they do better than radio can, however, they don’t have the ability to form audience relationships in the way that broadcast radio does.”

And while on demand music options put the control back into the hands of the listener when it comes to music, there is a local component that can’t be beaten.

“The way traditional radio will combat emerging technologies is two-fold,” says 5 Star Radio Group President and General Manager Katie Gambill. “We advance our online options and we become even more locally oriented and connected with our community.  I’m sure how we consume radio will evolve, but I feel that being hyper-local combined with over-serving our community is the key to keeping our listeners loyal. “

All of this brings us to one conclusion; the future is still bright for traditional radio jobs…so now you just have to figure out how to get one.

Here are two entry points into the radio business that can help get your career off on the right foot, whether you desire the creativity of developing the radio product, or an executive career path behind the scenes.

The Creative Path: Promotions Assistant

“If you want a career in radio, start as a promotions person,” says FM99 Morning Show host Rick Rumble. “You’ll be setting up tents, driving the van, doing various things that need doing. That’s how we found our producer/board-op guy.”

The role of a promotions assistant is consistent with being a human Swiss-army knife –you do a bit of everything:

  • Help coordinate on-site events and promotions
  • Represent the stations at local events
  • Contest and prize fulfillment
  • Answering phones
  • Setting up equipment
  • Helping out the talent
  • Mingling with fans and audience members

It’s a high energy position that often requires long hours and weekends – but it’s a way in the door.

Just like with an internship, being a promotions assistant is a way to show your passion for radio and prove you are capable of taking the next step in your career.

“You’ve got to be around when the next job opens up,” adds Rumble. “And it sure helps a lot if we already know you and your work ethic.”

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What does it take to be a Promotions Assistant in Radio?

Let’s take a look at the required skills for a promotions assistant –

radio jobs promotions assistant

A: Must be outgoing, enjoy working in a team environment, communicate effectively – A big part of the job is interacting with fans and audience members at local events, your ability to connect will be incredibly important to your overall career, as well as your ability to communicate.

“The truth is I can teach most people how to operate a studio console within a day,” says Steele. “In time, anyone can learn how to operate most studio gear. It has become increasingly difficult however to find individuals who possess strong writing and communication skills.”

B: Understanding of social media platforms – This sentence will appear is just about every entry level job you could possibly be interested in. Know social media, or fall behind.

C: Knowledge of Video Editing software – people are always surprised to see this one…its radio, why is video important? Well, in today’s social media world radio stations are crafting more and more videos to post on their blog, share with sponsors and use as a sales tool. If you know video editing, you’ll be ahead of most of the competition.

Learn Final Cut Pro, it’s the industry standard for mobile editing and is almost as powerful as online editing suites that cost thousands of dollars more.

Your Career Path After Being a Promotions Assistant

So what are the next steps… and the steps after that? Here are some of the radio jobs that will be future options if you start in promotions:

Just remember, if you are setting up a tent or driving a van to yet another local Car Toys store opening, it may be hard to see positively into your future, but you are learning more skills than you think.

“One of the most important skills to succeed as on-air talent is to connect with the audience socially – and effectively – whether on Facebook or Twitter or in person,” according to radio consultant Fred Jacobs.

Show your managers you can connect with people, even if it’s at the local grocery store and they will see someone they want to grow at their station, possibly into an on-air role.

“The key to getting a job in radio is simply getting your foot in the door.  When we see talent we want, we try to keep it,” adds Gambill.

The Executive Path: Sales Assistant

If you want to make your way up the executive path in radio, starting out in sales could be your best option.

“Great sales people are hard to find,” according Gambill.  “I learned radio in the trenches.  I started in sales, fell in love with the business and never imagined myself doing anything else.”

Gambill would know, after beginning her career in an entry level sales job, she’s advanced to her current role as President/General Manager of five radio stations in Clarksville, Tennessee.

According to the National Association o Broadcasters (NAB), sales staffs at radio stations have increased by about 15-20 percent over the last decade, largely because the growth of social media has increased selling opportunities. Many of the larger radio conglomerates also own outdoor advertising (think billboards) and theatrical and live entertainment events under their corporate umbrella, which adds to their sales opportunities.

Being successful in sales requires relationship building, but more importantly problem solving skills. The best sales representatives  are able to listen to their advertisers, understand their goals and then present options for reaching the goals by using the station products.

“We have so many different products in our tool belt now with radio, text blasts, and all the digital advertising available to us that being able to figure out how to use multiple products to help your clients is beneficial for any sales person,” says Gambill.

The Executive Path in Radio: Start as a Sales Assistant #radiojobs Click To Tweet

What does it take to be in Radio Sales?

Let’s take a look at the required skills for Sales Assistants in Radio:

radio jobs sales assistant

A: Creating Leads for Account Executives – As an entry level member of the sales team, one of your main goals will be helping Account Exectuives with their current clients and assitingin the development of new leads. Working as part of a team is essential, you all have one goal in mind.

B: Prepare promotions plans and advertising proposals – This is where a background in business is essential. Understanding the client life cycle, how to conduct market research and understanding the impact of every deal will help you prepare an effective plan. Creativity sure helps too.

C: Develop weekly sales pieces to present to sales staff – One of the unheralded skills necessary to succeed in sales is the ability to speak with confidence in front of a crowd. Knowing how to present your ideas with confidence is a skill essential to most radio jobs, but especially in sales.

Your Career Path After Starting in Radio Sales

So what is next after beginning in sales? The sky is really the limit when you develop your ability to understand and impact the bottom line of the business.

When ownership groups look for Presidents and General Managers of their radio stations, they look for someone with business savvy who understands the bottom line, not the radio host or producer with the most creativity.

Final Thought

It all depends what you want, you can go the creative route starting out in promotions, or go the executive route by following a sales path. Either way, passion is what will get you ahead.

“Radio isn’t something that’s just a job, people who love radio are passionate about it and couldn’t image doing anything else,” concludes Gambill. “I get excited when I see a new employee come in, not knowing what to expect and then I see that passion ignite.  When I see that, I know they’ll be successful.”

Adds Steele, “I have often hired the second best person for a position when comparing their skills, because the second best person’s passion to grow and win was more advanced. That second strongest candidate will always end up running circles around the candidate which initially had the stronger skill-set.”

So whether you want to end up in a suit, making deals and impacting the bottom line or on the creative side making radio happen, the most important skill for radio jobs is desire.

Article Name
A Simple Plan to Start Your Radio Career
It's easier to get radio jobs than most people think, find out two ways to break into the radio industry and start a radio career that you'll love
Publisher Name
About Brian Clapp

Brian Clapp has worked in the broadcast media for over 14 years as a writer, editor, producer & news director. After beginning his career in Atlanta at CNN/Sports Illustrated, he switched coasts to Seattle to work at Fox Sports Northwest. In 2010, Brian began pursuing a new found passion on the digital media side, launching a successful website and then taking on the role of Director of Content for WorkinSports.com & WorkinEntertainment.com.

Recently Brian has become addicted to Google+ and LinkedIn so add him to your circles and make him a contact. No seriously, you should.


  1. Amber Grim says:

    As a teenager listening to my favorite rock and roll stations ,crazy fun techno dance stations, and even my easy listening channels or so I thought ( old people music)lol . Basically stations that played only love songs.I realized that those were the best days of my life! Most radio stations were definitely censored, I’m grateful for that. Considering music was a huge part of my teenage( as many a teen of today) existence. I must say I am a proud strong Generation X survivor and healthy adult, who got the privilege to grow up with some really great music! I would love to be involved with any kind of radio programming , even just running errands if it may be. sincerely, Amber L Grim

  2. Hi Brain I love your website and find it very helpful ! But I wish it was free to apply for internships and jobs I want to work in Radio since I was six I am wrapping up my first internship with IHeart media and I know a few people in the Industry . However my question to you is what advice would you give to people with physical disabilities like myself who want to work in Radio? Thanks so much
    Nothing but the best

    • Garrett – thanks for reading and checking out our site! As for people with physical abilities, if you have the skills necessary to do the job and there aren’t any limitations to your performance, nothing should hold you back! I the past I have hired two different people with physical disabilities, because all that mattered to me is their ability to do the job the right way, have the right attitude and have a passion for the industry – which it sounds like you have. That said there are idiots out there who will be prejudiced against you, but I’m sure you knew that. My advice, ignore the a-holes and keep looking for the right boss in the right situation! – Brian

    • Carey Baldwin says:

      Garret, I have had s great positive experience in working with 2 physically radio personnel. One young man was fabulous. The station was sorts radio. He loved all types of sports and even loved learning more sports through Newspapers, magazines, interviews and even Twitter. He interned 6 months and then was hired as a production assistant and commercial voice. His only downfall was not being able to help with setup of remote locations. So, the station just worked around him and he stayed in touch with talent per phone or Skype. He was a great asset to the station.
      The other young man was a terrific sales person. His smile delighted many business owners throughout the market.
      These two were great assets to each station. Hope this helps.

  3. I’ve definitely worried about the future of broadcast radio as a career. It’s always something I’ve been interested in, but thought it was on it’s way out because of the internet. I’m really glad to see statistics that show otherwise. My husband is convinced it’s a dead end path, so I’m really hoping these numbers will help change his mind. Thanks!

  4. I have a background in radio, with three years of school at my college radio station (completely produced a show weekly all by myself) in addition to a Clear Channel/iHeratMedia internship under my belt. I still have not found it easy to get even call backs for a slew of jobs I have applied to. Everything from phone screeners (which I did during my programming internship) to even being a PT promotions assistant. I have no idea what I am doing wrong! There is a new assistant producer role I applied to last Thursday, that I would die to have, any ideas? I even asked some of my prior contacts to assist myself. Tips and ideas Brian? Radio has been a passion of mine since I was like 10 years old and would record songs onto cassette tape.

    • If this AP role is the one you really want, study the job description hard and know exactly what they are looking for and what they expect out of the role. Make sure your cover letter and your resume focuses on the exact skills they need and why/how you would fill them. In your cover letter, tell a story of how you accomplished one of the job requirements they want. In your resume, emphasize the skills they want and need. You need to make yourself unavoidable by clearly demonstrating you have the skills they want and need. Do you have any contacts at the station? Do you have any professors with contacts there? Friends? Family? Keep going, it’ll happen for you! – Brian

      • Hi Brian. No I don’t have any direct contacts at the station. I have done my online digging and found people via LinkedIn who are workers there and even some in the HR dept (such as a coordinator) but I don’t know if contacting them makes any sense to help my chances…? I have some contacts located in a different city’s branch of the company (via my internship). I’ve tried with two different people. No friend and family contacts though. Yeah, I feel like my cover letter was pretty good, and certainly would touch on the duties and skills they ask for. Do you think there is such thing as “doing too much” in a cover letter? Perhaps making it too long or wordy? It sucks because I feel like a phone interview would allow my passion for the role and radio to shine through even more, but without the call or pre-interview. Stuck at the beginning.

        • Your cover letter shouldn’t be more than a few paragraphs, definitely no longer than a page. It’s not my favorite move, but if you are really interested in this role reach out the the HR person and just ask if the role is still available, you feel like it matches your skill set well and hope you will be considered. Be short, to the point and don’t ask for help directly – they don’t know you or owe you anything. All you are asking is if the role is still available….and then subtly mentioning how great of a fit you are. – Brian

  5. Alasha Williams says:

    Hi Brian!! I am in the IT department now at Fox and seeking to do anchor/voiceover work. I was told I would can start by shadowing a PA. Any other suggestions which would be beneficial for my career?

    • Congrats Alasha – learn how to edit, learn how to shoot cameras, learn how to adjust audio, learn all the skills necessary in TV production – that’s what it takes to be a good anchor reporter – you have ot know the tools of the industry. Oh, and practice your writing and delivery every single day. – Brian

  6. Alex Weidman says:

    Dear Brian,

    I have been trying to find a way into Radio since i graduated broadcasting school over a year and a half ago, and i still haven’t had the slightest bit of luck. I love music and love radio as a career but how is it that i can get hired for say a promotions assistant, when i am no longer in school and am not doing it for college credit? I really could use some major advice on what to say to local stations to try to see how i can work my way in, I am really starting to lose hope in my career decsion and feel like im not gonna get a chance. I could really use the help becasue i have no idea really how to present myself to stations as my teacher at my broadcasting school honestly never covered much ground with interning or assisting, he pretty much worked us to get a job right out of school. He was a great teacher and owns his own station here in Wisconsin (also where i live) and i dont know what to do its really stressing me out.

    Thank You,
    Alex Weidman

    • Im in a similar boat. Though graduated a bit longer ago, and graduated from a media related field but not Communications. It really sucks because you feel like you have spent time learning about and or loving radio for life and then when the positions and roles applying come up, its no call backs and such. Well least I now know it isn’t just my state since you are in Wisconsin. Good luck to us both.

      • When I wanted to work in radio, my first interviewer in Youngstown, Ohio told me to try to get a start in a smaller market? Was there a smaller market? Yep. Niles, OH and WNIO, “Wonderful Wino.” Then to the thriving metropolis of Warren, Ohio – WHHH. I got pretty good at sales and management and even spent 4 years with the Radio Advertising Bureau as the most successful Regional Manager in America. Got to train the sales manager on his RAB membership at the great KDKA – the first ever broadcast radio staation. My main job was interacting with sales staffs and helping them to sell more.

        If I couldn’t get in the door today, I’d start as a broker. Learn all you can about the target stations (ask them to send you a media kit (to Alex Advertising). Listen to who is advertising, then make up a list of local clients who would benefit from ads on one of your target stations. Research a couple of businesses as deeply as you can, then write a great 60 second commercial for them. Go to the local business, read it to them and ask they they run a schedule on WXXX. Be sure they know you are acting as a transaction-broker for the benefit of all parties. Mock up a letter of intent or memorandum of understanding and ask the business owner to approve it.

        Congratulations. You are now a radio advertising broker. Head to the station and tell them they have a new customer for them if they want it. You can then join the staff or start your own advertising agency concentrating on radio. If you want it, go get it. It’s not going to be handed to you.

        To get to my first paid radio sales gig, I had to drive 1/2 mile down a dirt road through the woods to the office at the transmitter site. It was even worst than it sounds. They left a dog there overnight to guard the joint so the morning DJ got the job of removing the dog’s waste from the studio every morning. This all to work at a 500 watt daytimer! But I was in the door! Start somewhere. Start something. To paraphrase Gandhi – Be the change you want to see in your job situation. God bless and good luck. I swear to you it’s all worth it. – Edgar

  7. Kevin S says:

    Hi Brian,

    Thanks so much for all your help; this is a wonderfully informative article.

    I would like to break into the radio industry, but I come from a strictly rigorous performance background. Do you have any advice for someone like me, looking to make a somewhat “drastic” life change?

    Would you recommend I apply for internships before I apply for any more permanent kind of position? Were you to reach out to any HR departments, what might you say?

    Thanks in advance!

  8. Hi Brian,
    I see other 2 people have a very similar situation than mine: how to get in?
    I’m from another country and I graduated in communications there (6 years ago) I came to the US right after graduating and could not pursue my so desired career in radio due to being tied to a visa that would not allow me to work. Now that I don’t have restrictions anymore, I don’t find a way to get in. I’m currently working with accounting, but I don’t want to spend my life doing something that does not fulfill me. I love people, interacting with people, communicating, creating, innovating; It’s very frustrating not being able to do that, so Im not giving up on radio. It’s my passion! I tried emailing radio producers, leaving my resume in a station, but nothing… Not even an interview. What could I do to get in? How can I approach? What are your suggestions? Please! 🙂

  9. Hi Brian, I have a passion in radio since I was young. So I’ve done a research in all corners of the media especially, in radio broadcasting. But I dnt hv qualification in this lovely career. I have a communication and and computer, so should I apply for community?

  10. Craig A Bartal says:

    Hi Brian. I am 53 years old and hopefully on the brink of a career change. I’ve decided my calling would be to contribute in any way to further the success of Me-TV FM radio. I want to contribute in any capacity and will do promotion or anything and don’t need to be paid until I prove myself. your blog has given me a lot of great ideas but please let me know if you have any specific suggestions.

  11. Miriam Autumn says:

    Hi Brian.. I love your website. Thanks for educating me on my new found passion in radio broadcasting​.


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