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What is a PBX Operator?

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A private branch exchange operator is an individual who manages telephone calls for a specific office, unlike common carrier exchange operators who manage telephone business for multiple offices or the public. While many PBX operators are human, some companies have now started to employ automated computer operators that use voice recognition software or keypad options to transfer calls.


PBX operators perform several functions for the business they work for. They are responsible for accepting incoming calls, creating connections between incoming lines and internal lines, and creating connections between two internal lines. PBX operators must monitor connected lines to ensure they stay connected and don’t deteriorate, and when the callers are finished the operator must successfully close the connection. Depending on their individual agreement with their employer, some PBX operators may take messages or relay messages between parties as well.


PBX operators became differentiated from common carrier operators when the telephone became a common business tool in the 1920s. Operators would manage calls into and out of the office with a switchboard, a electromagnetic device that requires the operator to plug telephone lines into their destination telephone wires by hand. In the late 1960s, the switchboard began to be phased out in favor of the automatic exchange, an early electric telephone line manager. Since the early 1990s, PBX operators began working with computerized electronic automatic branch exchanges.


Modern PBX operators have started to use VoIP branch exchanges and Integrated Services Digital Networks exchanges that use Internet Protocols to receive, connect and transfer calls. Both these networks allow the PBX operator to mechanize more operations, such as call forwarding, conference calling and caller ID. These new digital branch exchange frameworks are also lowering the cost of running a PBX due to their inexpensive components.


While most PBX operators work for medium and large sized businesses and offices, the past 10 years has seen an increase in PBX operators employed by small businesses and entrepreneurs. One reason for the new job market is the lowered cost of owning a PBX system since digital options were offered. However, another is the expansion of small and individual businesses thanks to the Internet. Websites have allowed the reach of small businesses expands beyond their local area to become worldwide entities, requiring more support and efficiency on the part of the owners.


The advent of the computerized and digitized PBX systems has created fierce competition for the human operators from automated exchange systems that threaten to replace them. Electronic systems have the ability to be programmed to perform all the duties of a human operator as well as some duties human’s can’t do, such as automatically dial and distribute calls, offer callers an automated directory, and electronic voice mail and voice paging services. VoIPs and ISDNs can also run consistently for 24 hours a day, seven days a week.


About the Author

Nacie Carson is a professional development speaker and author who focuses on career evolution, entrepreneurship and the Millennial work experience. Carson's writing has been featured in "Entrepreneur," "Fast Company," "Monster" and "Chicken Soup for the Soul." Her book on adapting your career to the changing job market, "The Finch Effect," was published with Jossey-Bass in May 2012.

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