Job description

Telephone operators work for telecommunications companies, assisting callers with public phone numbers and addresses, placing calls, and emergency situations. They calculate charges for pay phones, collect calls and other services, and handle related billing issues.

Telephone operators may also work for the hospitality industry and other businesses, routing calls, paging employees, taking messages and other services. They use telecommunications software, paging systems and relay services.


    • Use directories to respond to customer requests for public phone numbers and addresses,/li>
    • Search alternate spellings and locations to assist callers with incorrect or incomplete information
    • Assist those who are unable to dial or are in an emergency situation
    • Provide assistance to customers making collect, pay phone or international calls
    • Calculate charges for pay phones and other services and handle related billing issues
    • Utilise telecommunications software to route internal, local, national and international calls
    • Provide relay service for hearing-impaired users
    • Operate paging and other notification systems, alerting recipients to pick up calls or messages
    • Interrupt busy lines to connect a caller in an emergency
    • Inform callers about company services, payment and savings plans when appropriate
    • Maintain records of completed calls, charges assigned and other billing issues
    • Monitor automated systems and intervene if customers need assistance
    • Provide message service, wake-up calls and transfers to appropriate departments for hotel guests

Skills, qualities and knowledge

Telecommunications software
Customer service
Active listening
Social perceptiveness
Critical thinking
Oral expression
Selective attention
Stress tolerance

Working hours and environment

Average working hours


Typical schedule

Shift Work

On a rota

Most telephone operators work full time in an office environment. Those directing calls in a corporate setting will typically work normal business hours. For directory and emergency services that are available 24/7, operators may take on various shifts that can include nights and weekends.

Telephone operators spend extended periods sitting down and answering calls. Dealing with difficult customers or emergency situations in a busy, fast-paced environment can be stressful for some operators.


Bottom 10%




Top 10%


Annual salary estimates are based on percentile wage data collected through the Occupational Employment Statistics (OES) survey of US workers.

Qualifications and training

Education level

High school

DVM / VMD degree

Study time


Most telephone operators have a high school diploma or equivalent. You will receive on-the-job training, usually by working with an experienced operator. Training may include instruction on company guidelines, customer service and telecommunications software.

Job outlook

Projected growth
The projected growth rate of employment in the US from 2018 to 2028, based on data collected through the BLS Employment Projections (EP) programme. The national average growth rate for all professions is 5%.


No of new jobs
The number of jobs projected to become available in the US between 2018 and 2028, based on data collected through the BLS Employment Projections (EP) programme.


Automation risk
The probability of computerisation, based on data published in ‘The Future of Employment’, a 2013 working paper by Carl Benedikt Frey and Michael Osborne.


Career progression

Gaining experience and positive job performance reviews can lead to bumps in pay and supervisory roles at large call centres.

Telephone operator skills allow you to transition to other customer service roles, such as emergency services dispatcher, hotel clerk, receptionist or bank clerk. Pursuing additional education in sales, communications or computers can lead to more lucrative career paths.