Telephone Operators: Salary Overview
Telephone operators assist customers with billing requests or provide information by accessing alphabetical, geographical, or other directories.
They may also handle emergency calls or help children and people with physical disabilities to make phone calls.
When telephony was in its early days, companies used manual switchboards which needed operators to connect calls by inserting phone plugs into jacks.
As automated systems replaced them, switchboard operators became less and less needed and the profession of telephone operators has changed.
In our day and age, telephone operators no longer manually place phone calls but they have become agents who specialize in customer service or in managing large volumes of phone calls.
They are also employed in emergency dispatch centers and in other settings where human presence is needed to direct calls to the right place.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual wage for this profession was $35,750 in May 0f 2019 which means that half of all workers in this profession made less than this amount and half earned more.
Salaries vary widely based on a variety of factors such as the industry of employment, the region, and the worker’s education and experience level.
The top 10 percent made more than $57,620 per year, while the lowest 10 percent made less than $23,360.
Telephone Operator Salary by Industry
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, most telephone operators worked for general medical and surgical hospitals, a field where they reportedly earned $36,820 per year, on average.
Telephone operators also held jobs in the telecommunications sectors, a field where they were remunerated on average with $47,260 per year.
The average annual wage was $28,550 for telephone operators who worked for offices of physicians and $43,270 for those who were employed by local governments.
Telephone operators who worked in the travel accommodation sector reportedly earned $34,410 per year on average.
The highest-paying fields for telephone operators are junior colleges, where the average annual wage for this occupation was $51,870.
Insurance carriers and the field of other professional, scientific, and technical services also offer jobs for this profession but telephone operators don’t hold many jobs in these sectors.
Telephone operators who worked for insurance carriers reportedly earned $41,480 per year, on average while those who worked in the field of professional, scientific, and technical services earned $40,450.
Telephone Operator Salary by Experience Level
As with any profession, experience plays an important role in determining how much a telephone operator takes home each year.
As an entry-level employee, your salary may be closer to the minimum for this profession but after earning a few years of experience your salary will become closer to the 25th percentile, which, according to BLS, was $27,700 in May 2019.
Mid-career workers may earn a salary that is close to the median while senior-level employees may earn more than $50,000 per year.
However, there are many other factors that influence earnings in this sector, including the region and the state of employment.
According to the report published by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the highest-paying state for this occupation was the District of Columbia, where the average annual wage was $49,130.
Other states where the mean salary for telephone operators was above the $40,000 mark are New York, California, Minnesota, and Connecticut.
On the opposite side of the spectrum, we have South Carolina, Tennessee, Mississippi, Oklahoma, and Texas- states where the salary for this profession was below $30,000.
In conclusion, salaries for this profession vary widely depending on the region of employment and the local economy but there are many other factors that also play an important part in determining a phone operator’s salary.
* Based on information from the May 2021 salary report from the BLS. The figures represent accumulated data for all states of employment for Telephone Operators. BLS data represents averages and medians for workers at all levels of education and experience. This data doesn't represent starting salaries.
* Employment conditions in your area may vary.