Telephone Operators
43-2021.00

Provide information by accessing alphabetical, geographical, or other directories. Assist customers with special billing requests, such as charges to a third party and credits or refunds for incorrectly dialed numbers or bad connections. May handle emergency calls and assist children or people with physical disabilities to make telephone calls.

Sample of reported job titles: 411 Directory Assistance Operator, Directory Assistance Operator, Information Specialist, Live Source Operator, Long Distance Operator (LD Operator), Telecommunications Operator, Telephone Operator, Toll Operator

Occupation-Specific Information

Tasks

  • Listen to customer requests, referring to alphabetical or geographical directories to answer questions and provide telephone information.
  • Suggest and check alternate spellings, locations, or listing formats to customers lacking details or complete information.
  • Offer special assistance to persons such as those who are unable to dial or who are in emergency situations.
  • Observe signal lights on switchboards, and dial or press buttons to make connections.
  • Operate telephone switchboards and systems to advance and complete connections, including those for local, long distance, pay telephone, mobile, person-to-person, and emergency calls.
  • Provide assistance for customers with special billing requests.
  • Calculate and quote charges for services such as long-distance connections.
  • Monitor automated systems for placing collect calls and intervene for a callers needing assistance.
  • Perform clerical duties such as typing, proofreading, and sorting mail.
  • Consult charts to determine charges for pay-telephone calls, requesting coin deposits for calls as necessary.
  • Interrupt busy lines if an emergency warrants.
  • Provide relay service for hearing-impaired users.
  • Promote company products, services, and savings plans when appropriate.
  • Operate paging systems or other systems of bells or buzzers to notify recipients of incoming calls.
  • Update directory information.
  • Keep records of calls placed and received, and of related toll charges.

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Technology Skills

Hot technology Hot Technologies are requirements frequently included in employer job postings.

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Occupational Requirements

Work Activities

  • Working with Computers — Using computers and computer systems (including hardware and software) to program, write software, set up functions, enter data, or process information.
  • Communicating with Supervisors, Peers, or Subordinates — Providing information to supervisors, co-workers, and subordinates by telephone, in written form, e-mail, or in person.
  • Resolving Conflicts and Negotiating with Others — Handling complaints, settling disputes, and resolving grievances and conflicts, or otherwise negotiating with others.
  • Getting Information — Observing, receiving, and otherwise obtaining information from all relevant sources.
  • Establishing and Maintaining Interpersonal Relationships — Developing constructive and cooperative working relationships with others, and maintaining them over time.
  • Updating and Using Relevant Knowledge — Keeping up-to-date technically and applying new knowledge to your job.
  • Documenting/Recording Information — Entering, transcribing, recording, storing, or maintaining information in written or electronic/magnetic form.
  • Processing Information — Compiling, coding, categorizing, calculating, tabulating, auditing, or verifying information or data.
  • Interpreting the Meaning of Information for Others — Translating or explaining what information means and how it can be used.
  • Developing and Building Teams — Encouraging and building mutual trust, respect, and cooperation among team members.
  • Analyzing Data or Information — Identifying the underlying principles, reasons, or facts of information by breaking down information or data into separate parts.
  • Assisting and Caring for Others — Providing personal assistance, medical attention, emotional support, or other personal care to others such as coworkers, customers, or patients.
  • Judging the Qualities of Objects, Services, or People — Assessing the value, importance, or quality of things or people.
  • Making Decisions and Solving Problems — Analyzing information and evaluating results to choose the best solution and solve problems.
  • Developing Objectives and Strategies — Establishing long-range objectives and specifying the strategies and actions to achieve them.
  • Communicating with People Outside the Organization — Communicating with people outside the organization, representing the organization to customers, the public, government, and other external sources. This information can be exchanged in person, in writing, or by telephone or e-mail.

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Detailed Work Activities

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Work Context

  • Spend Time Sitting — 98% responded “Continually or almost continually.”
  • Telephone — 100% responded “Every day.”
  • Deal With Unpleasant or Angry People — 96% responded “Every day.”
  • Contact With Others — 97% responded “Constant contact with others.”
  • Importance of Repeating Same Tasks — 94% responded “Extremely important.”
  • Deal With External Customers — 84% responded “Extremely important.”
  • Frequency of Decision Making — 95% responded “Every day.”
  • Importance of Being Exact or Accurate — 73% responded “Extremely important.”
  • Indoors, Environmentally Controlled — 87% responded “Every day.”
  • Impact of Decisions on Co-workers or Company Results — 67% responded “Very important results.”
  • Spend Time Making Repetitive Motions — 83% responded “Continually or almost continually.”
  • Spend Time Using Your Hands to Handle, Control, or Feel Objects, Tools, or Controls — 78% responded “Continually or almost continually.”
  • Level of Competition — 55% responded “Extremely competitive.”
  • Physical Proximity — 66% responded “Moderately close (at arm's length).”
  • Work With Work Group or Team — 38% responded “Extremely important.”
  • Degree of Automation — 23% responded “Completely automated.”
  • Duration of Typical Work Week — 78% responded “40 hours.”
  • Pace Determined by Speed of Equipment — 36% responded “Very important.”
  • Face-to-Face Discussions — 43% responded “Once a month or more but not every week.”
  • Time Pressure — 38% responded “Never.”

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Experience Requirements

Job Zone

Title
Job Zone Two: Some Preparation Needed
Education
These occupations usually require a high school diploma.
Related Experience
Some previous work-related skill, knowledge, or experience is usually needed. For example, a teller would benefit from experience working directly with the public.
Job Training
Employees in these occupations need anywhere from a few months to one year of working with experienced employees. A recognized apprenticeship program may be associated with these occupations.
Job Zone Examples
These occupations often involve using your knowledge and skills to help others. Examples include orderlies, counter and rental clerks, customer service representatives, security guards, upholsterers, and tellers.
SVP Range
3 months to 1 year of preparation (4.0 to < 6.0)

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Training & Credentials

State training
Local training
Certifications
Apprenticeships
Have a career path or location in mind? Visit Apprenticeship.gov external site to find apprenticeship opportunities near you.

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Worker Requirements

Skills

  • Active Listening — Giving full attention to what other people are saying, taking time to understand the points being made, asking questions as appropriate, and not interrupting at inappropriate times.
  • Speaking — Talking to others to convey information effectively.
  • Service Orientation — Actively looking for ways to help people.
  • Social Perceptiveness — Being aware of others' reactions and understanding why they react as they do.
  • Critical Thinking — Using logic and reasoning to identify the strengths and weaknesses of alternative solutions, conclusions, or approaches to problems.
  • Reading Comprehension — Understanding written sentences and paragraphs in work-related documents.

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Knowledge

  • Customer and Personal Service — Knowledge of principles and processes for providing customer and personal services. This includes customer needs assessment, meeting quality standards for services, and evaluation of customer satisfaction.
  • English Language — Knowledge of the structure and content of the English language including the meaning and spelling of words, rules of composition, and grammar.
  • Telecommunications — Knowledge of transmission, broadcasting, switching, control, and operation of telecommunications systems.
  • Communications and Media — Knowledge of media production, communication, and dissemination techniques and methods. This includes alternative ways to inform and entertain via written, oral, and visual media.

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Education

How much education does a new hire need to perform a job in this occupation? Respondents said:

  • 84%
     
    responded: High school diploma or equivalent requiredmore info
  • 16%
     
    responded: Less than high school diploma required
  • 1%
     
    responded: Post-secondary certificate required

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Worker Characteristics

Abilities

  • Oral Expression — The ability to communicate information and ideas in speaking so others will understand.
  • Oral Comprehension — The ability to listen to and understand information and ideas presented through spoken words and sentences.
  • Speech Clarity — The ability to speak clearly so others can understand you.
  • Speech Recognition — The ability to identify and understand the speech of another person.
  • Written Comprehension — The ability to read and understand information and ideas presented in writing.
  • Selective Attention — The ability to concentrate on a task over a period of time without being distracted.
  • Problem Sensitivity — The ability to tell when something is wrong or is likely to go wrong. It does not involve solving the problem, only recognizing that there is a problem.

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Interests

Interest code: CSR
Want to discover your interests? Take the O*NET Interest Profiler at My Next Move.
  • Conventional — Conventional occupations frequently involve following set procedures and routines. These occupations can include working with data and details more than with ideas. Usually there is a clear line of authority to follow.
  • Social — Social occupations frequently involve working with, communicating with, and teaching people. These occupations often involve helping or providing service to others.
  • Realistic — Realistic occupations frequently involve work activities that include practical, hands-on problems and solutions. They often deal with plants, animals, and real-world materials like wood, tools, and machinery. Many of the occupations require working outside, and do not involve a lot of paperwork or working closely with others.
  • Enterprising — Enterprising occupations frequently involve starting up and carrying out projects. These occupations can involve leading people and making many decisions. Sometimes they require risk taking and often deal with business.

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Work Values

  • Relationships — Occupations that satisfy this work value allow employees to provide service to others and work with co-workers in a friendly non-competitive environment. Corresponding needs are Co-workers, Moral Values and Social Service.
  • Support — Occupations that satisfy this work value offer supportive management that stands behind employees. Corresponding needs are Company Policies, Supervision: Human Relations and Supervision: Technical.
  • Independence — Occupations that satisfy this work value allow employees to work on their own and make decisions. Corresponding needs are Creativity, Responsibility and Autonomy.

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Work Styles

  • Stress Tolerance — Job requires accepting criticism and dealing calmly and effectively with high-stress situations.
  • Integrity — Job requires being honest and ethical.
  • Dependability — Job requires being reliable, responsible, and dependable, and fulfilling obligations.
  • Adaptability/Flexibility — Job requires being open to change (positive or negative) and to considerable variety in the workplace.
  • Self-Control — Job requires maintaining composure, keeping emotions in check, controlling anger, and avoiding aggressive behavior, even in very difficult situations.
  • Attention to Detail — Job requires being careful about detail and thorough in completing work tasks.
  • Cooperation — Job requires being pleasant with others on the job and displaying a good-natured, cooperative attitude.
  • Independence — Job requires developing one's own ways of doing things, guiding oneself with little or no supervision, and depending on oneself to get things done.
  • Achievement/Effort — Job requires establishing and maintaining personally challenging achievement goals and exerting effort toward mastering tasks.
  • Concern for Others — Job requires being sensitive to others' needs and feelings and being understanding and helpful on the job.
  • Persistence — Job requires persistence in the face of obstacles.
  • Initiative — Job requires a willingness to take on responsibilities and challenges.
  • Social Orientation — Job requires preferring to work with others rather than alone, and being personally connected with others on the job.
  • Analytical Thinking — Job requires analyzing information and using logic to address work-related issues and problems.
  • Innovation — Job requires creativity and alternative thinking to develop new ideas for and answers to work-related problems.
  • Leadership — Job requires a willingness to lead, take charge, and offer opinions and direction.

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Workforce Characteristics

Wages & Employment Trends

Median wages (2021)
$18.09 hourly, $37,630 annual
State wages
Local wages
Employment (2020)
4,800 employees
Projected growth (2020-2030)
Decline (-1% or lower)
Projected job openings (2020-2030)
400
State trends
Top industries (2020)

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics 2021 wage data external site and 2020-2030 employment projections external site . “Projected growth” represents the estimated change in total employment over the projections period (2020-2030). “Projected job openings” represent openings due to growth and replacement.

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Job Openings on the Web

State job openings
Local job openings

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More Information

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Sources of Additional Information

Disclaimer: Sources are listed to provide additional information on related jobs, specialties, and/or industries. Links to non-DOL Internet sites are provided for your convenience and do not constitute an endorsement.

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