Telephone Operators - Salary and Job Description

Telephone operators handle a variety of jobs to manage incoming and outgoing telephone calls.

By Tess C Taylor
Posted 2012

In the world of business and consumer services, telephone operators serve an important function in communications and administrative processes for organizations and utility companies. Telephone operators handle numerous telephone calls that are received daily, transfer calls to employees and departments, relay important messages, perform various administrative duties, look up directory and billing information, provide basic technical support, and are often the professional voice and face of the company for which work is performed.

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Telephone operators can also work in busy switchboard centers, help disabled persons make telephone calls, give assistance to mobile phone users, or handle emergency calls when needed. In addition, telephone operators work with mobile, telephone and utility companies to provide customer support and directory assistance, as well as billing assistance to customers in an efficient and courteous manner.


  • Telephone operators most often receive ongoing training on the job and mentoring by experienced operators.
  • Candidates for telephone operator jobs must have superior listening ability, and written and verbal communication skills.
  • Work involves being able to look up information quickly for customers and relay this information clearly.
  • Telephone operators must be able to think quickly and give accurate information at all times.

Work Environment for Telephone Operators

The majority of telephone operators work in comfortable office environments, at central atrium guest service desks, call centers and switchboard stations inside air conditioned buildings. Work hours are generally a standard 40 hours per week and may range from days to nights and weekends, depending on caller needs. Telephone operators work in a sitting position for the majority of their shifts at ergonomic desks, with computer assisted telephone systems and headsets to keep hands free and reduce neck strain.

Telephone operators must be able to look at computer screens, search for information in alphabetical or geographical databases, answer calls promptly and provide fast and accurate information to customers simultaneously. In addition, they may be required to handle billing and credit matters.

Education, Training and Licensing

It is preferred by employers that telephone operators have at least a high school diploma or an equivalent such as a general education degree (GED). High school students considering a career as a telephone operator should focus on courses in business, mathematics, English, computers and technology to develop the general skills needed to perform this work. In addition, going on for vocational training in business administration or communications will increase students’ professional skills.

In addition to a high school diploma, it is generally recommended that telephone operators get an associate’s or bachelor’s degree in business administration, telecommunications, or computer science from an accredited college. Working in roles that are geared towards customer service for at least a year or more will also provide the personality and professional attitude needed to perform work as a telephone operator.

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