Whether you aim to be a radio host who reads the news, a morning show host who puts a comedic spin on current events, or you want to focus more on music or radio theatre, don't expect to make a mint doing it. Radio personalities tend to earn less than the mean wage among all U.S. workers, and they often work only part-time.
Average Reported Income
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics puts radio and television announcers -- who read scripted commercials or public addresses for TV -- into one group. As of May 2013, the BLS reports that radio and TV announcers employed in radio and television broadcasting made an annual mean wage of $39,980. That's an hourly wage of $19.22, which can give you an idea of how much you might make if you were working as a radio personality part-time.
Earning a salary as a beginner radio personality isn't a given, either. To give yourself the best chance of landing a paid gig, start by earning a degree in journalism, broadcasting, media or theatre. During your training, work -- often unpaid -- at your college radio station where you can gain on-the-job training and get experience hosting. Also seek out summer internships in radio and TV to start networking in the industry. If college isn't part of your plan -- or you want even more training after graduation -- the other way to gain experience is to volunteer at local community radio stations, where you can receive free training as well as the chance to host a show in your particular genre.
Small Market to Large Market
As a new radio personality seeking paid work, expect to start out in small-market stations. In other words, look to small towns or rural communities. The pay there is often very low. According to the BLS, the bottom 10 percent of radio and TV announcers earned a mean annual salary of $17,450 as of May 2013. Still, that's a proving ground for your work. Satellite radio is another option, though with its wide audience, the jobs are often open only to those with extensive experience. Wherever you apply, develop a show reel or "air check" on a CD or digital media file that compiles very short clips of your best shows, and use it to seek work in medium-size and then large-market stations.
Salaries by City
As a general rule, the best-paying jobs are in the major cities. According to salary data from Indeed -- which compiles data from users and job listings -- New York City is the highest-paying city to work in as a radio host, at an average salary of $50,000. That's followed by Chicago, Illinois, at $44,000, Houston, Texas, at $41,000, and Los Angeles, California, at $39,000 per year. Those cities represent the largest media markets in the U.S., giving you a good idea of the salaries you'd earn should you be successful in working in a large-market station.
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: Occupational Outlook Handbook: Announcers: Pay
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: Occupational Employment and Wages, May 2013 27-3011 Radio and Television Announcers
- Indeed: Radio Host Salary in New York, NY
- Indeed: Radio Host Salary in Chicago, Illinois
- Indeed: Radio Host Salary in Houston, Texas
- Indeed: Radio Host Salary in Los Angeles, California
- Sirius XM: Careers at Sirius XM: On-Air Host, Music
- Photo Credit 4774344sean/iStock/Getty Images
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