Communication equipment operators typically work at switchboards for a wide variety of different businesses including business support services, answering services, hospitals or employment services. They may operate PBX or private branch exchange switchboards or voiceover Internet protocol switchboards, also known as VoIP switchboards in order to relay outgoing, interoffice or incoming calls.
Communication Equipment Job Responsibilities
In addition, they may be responsible for handling clerical tasks such as taking messages, supplying information or announcing the presence of visitors. In some cases communication equipment operators may also be employed as telephone operators, helping customers to make telephone calls. While most telephone calls are automatically connected, in some instances callers may require the help of an operator. Central office operators may assist customers in completing long-distance and local telephone calls. Directory assistance operators are responsible for providing customers with area codes, telephone numbers and other information.
Whenever a caller dial “0” they typically reach what is known as a central office operator. Such operators commonly work for a telephone company. Their jobs tasks have commonly become automated. For instance, a caller might make a collect, credit card or international telephone call without help from a central office operator.
A caller might still need the help of a central office operator for a small array of tasks such as interrupting a busy line if there is an emergency or placing a person to person call. In the event of a natural disaster such as an earthquake or storm, a central office operator can provide a caller with phone contacts. Other operators may monitor an automated system in which callers place collect calls and intervene if a caller should need help with the system.
A directory assistance operator can provide callers with a wide range of information. Most are employed by telephone companies, although there is an increasing trend for companies that offer business services to employ such operators. Automated systems have taken over many of the tasks that were once handled by directory assistance operators. For example, the system might connect a telephone call or prompt a caller for a listing.
Other types of communication equipment operators include those who operate telegraph equipment, satellite communications equipment and many other types of communication equipment.
The employment of operators is anticipated to decline through the year 2012. This decline is mainly due to the implementation of communications technologies that will save in labor as well as the transition of many jobs to other countries and the consolidation of jobs to a smaller number of locations. The introduction of new communications technologies will continue to have a strong impact on the demand for operators. This is particularly true for voice recognition systems that make it possible for automated systems to assist customers. The demand for directory assistance operators has been reduced by the implementation and use of Internet directory assistance services. Local telephone companies do still currently offer the most reliable directory information, but Internet services have increasingly begun to offer information that includes maps as well as addresses along with telephone numbers. The demand for telephone operators will continue to be reduced as the varying functions of computers and telephones converge.*
*According to the BLS, http://www.bls.gov/oco/
Telephone operators may work a standard 40 hour work week; however, they may need to work evenings or weekends in order to meet the round the clock needs of this business. This is particularly true of operators who are employed by telephone companies or business or answering services that are open seven days a week and 24 hours per day.
Communication Equipment Operator Training and Education Requirements
Most communication equipment operators receive necessary training while they are on the job. Entry-level operators at telecommunications companies may receive a combination of instruction on the job and classroom instruction. This training may last for several weeks. In small companies, operators often receive training that is less formal and shorter. In this case operators may work with experienced operators who offer hands on training and instruction. New employees typically receive instruction that includes company policies, customer service and equipment procedures. A high school diploma is commonly required to be hired as an operator. It is important for candidates to have good hearing, clear speech and strong spelling, math and reading skills. Typing and computer literacy skills are also important to this job. In addition, it has become increasingly important for operators to be familiar with a foreign language. Candidates may need to take an exam that covers basic math and language skills to be hired.
Communication equipment operators may be able to advance to positions with higher levels of responsibility after they achieve experience.
Communication Equipment Operator Salary and Wages
In 2002 the median earnings for switchboard operators were $10.19 per hour. This included answering service operators. Operators employed in hospital and physician offices tend to earn more per hour than those employed in business support services.*
*According to the BLS, http://www.bls.gov/oco/
Communication Equipment Operator Certifications
Certification is typically not required for this occupation.
Communication Equipment Operator Professional Associations
Operators who are employed at telephone companies may be members of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers or the Communications Workers of America.