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How does a student with no previous experience get a job in radio?

I'm interested in working at one of my local radio stations as a job during college and I'm not sure what jobs I would have at an entry level. Would working at my new college's radio help? Do those stations usually pay? What does the salary of those entry level jobs look like? radio radio-host college-radio

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Benjamin’s Answer

If you are interested in getting a job at a local radio station, but have no previous experience, I would recommend getting your foot in the door any way you can. That might mean volunteering, applying for an internship, or taking any job at the station, even if it isn't what you ultimately want to be doing at the station. Simply being at the station will lead to interactions and relationships that may lead to opportunities.

I would also recommend reaching out to as many people as possible at various stations and asking if they'd be willing to talk with you about what they do. If you don't know anyone at a station, it's ok to reach out to strangers. Explain to them your interest and that you'd like their guidance as you learn. Most people want to talk about their own experiences and want to help others follow in their path and learn from their experiences. Ask them what they like and what they don't like about working at a radio station. Ask them who else they recommend you talk to. This will help you build a network.

There are a wide variety of stations out there. Some are entirely run by unpaid volunteers. Some are quite profitable and will pay pretty well.

My own experience is in Public Radio, where salaries are low, but the work is extremely interesting and the people are very interesting. I worked as a radio reporter on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. and then as a radio producer for National Geographic.

I studied radio in graduate school, learning how to report a story and how to edit audio. It was a very helpful experience and led directly to my first radio job.

While I no longer work professionally as a radio reporter or producer (I currently work in communications at a software company in San Francisco), I still have my hand in radio through my own personal podcast that I record and produce.

The podcast actually brings up an interesting point. I highly recommend building your own resume and a portfolio of work simply by creating your own content, be that news piece, as the DJ or a music show, or more elaborate produced pieces. Doing that might give you a sense of what you really enjoy about radio and also something to show to station managers or others who you might be talking to about a job - even if you've never worked at a station.

For example, after graduating from journalism school, five friends and I decided we were going to produce a news magazine radio show covering New York City. We did it for ourselves, but found a station on Long Island that was interested in running the three episodes we created. It ended up providing very useful for all of us in finding jobs after school because we had something more than just our schoolwork to show potential employers.

Benjamin recommends the following next steps:

Start reaching out to people at radio stations for informational interviews
Create your own radio content to build a resume and portfolio
Get your foot into the door at any station simply to learn about what it's like and to build relationships
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Stephen’s Answer

Your best option is to check into your local college stations. When I started radio on WRPI, there were a couple high school students involved with the station. Community radio is a great place also. These are unpaid, but great education and experience.