The work of a DJ can take many forms. Some work in clubs, bars or other venues, ensuring the crowd stays on the dance floor. Others work in radio stations, presenting music and news. Since this is a career that involves entertaining or informing the public, it's also one that requires a lot of networking. Before you start marketing yourself as a DJ, though, seek out some training that helps show your commitment to the craft.
Learning the Craft
If you're aiming to become a DJ on a radio station that handles news or public affairs in addition to music, a bachelor's degree in journalism or broadcasting is the surest way to present yourself as a qualified candidate. That education will give you a foundation in presenting news and using studio equipment, as well as providing opportunities to work at the college radio station and network with professionals in the industry. As a music DJ, your path is not quite so prescribed. You can learn a lot about music on your own, but to learn the craft as quickly as possible, find trade schools and online training courses that teach the basics of editing and mixing tools such as Pro Tools or Logic Pro. Some schools even specialize in a certain type of music, such as electronic or hip hop, where you'll learn the most effective ways to mix and present the music.
To boost your career prospects, seek internships at radio stations during college and soon after or volunteer at community or public radio stations, many of which have tight budgets and can probably use the free help. These experiences can help you learn how to engineer a show, make recordings and host and promote shows. Small-town radio stations also offer similar opportunities. Aspiring DJs who want to focus on music only should learn as much as they can about different genres. Attend events where other DJs are performing to get to know the local music scene and learn the finer techniques of being a successful DJ. Invest in equipment such as turntables, speakers, CDs, records and a laptop. When you meet DJs you admire, ask to shadow them or to assist when they go to a gig. Attending gigs with other DJs can be the way to score your own gigs.
Creating a Demo Reel
Whether you want to work for yourself and book DJ gigs, land a job at a radio station or work for a company that provides DJ services to weddings and other events, you need something to show prospective employers. That's the demo reel. Keep recordings from your community radio programs or gigs you've done, or create a compilation solely for the demo reel. If you're creating something new, record about an hour of yourself presenting information or mixing songs, and then go back and choose the best parts to add to the beginning of the reel. Hiring managers might spend 30 seconds or less listening to your reel, so put the best stuff first. Create a website that promotes your style and your brand, and then upload your reel to the site so you can point potential employers there.
Other Helpful Skills
Other skills, such as video editing and video production, can improve your chances of landing a DJ job, especially for mixed media events. You can gain these skills by attending a trade school or community college. Some employers might also prefer candidates who can set up lighting for live dances -- another thing you can learn through community college courses. You should also take public speaking courses in case you are ever asked to emcee shows. Having all these additional skills will make you more marketable for a wider variety of gigs.
2016 Salary Information for Announcers
Announcers earned a median annual salary of $30,860 in 2016, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. On the low end, announcers earned a 25th percentile salary of $21,320, meaning 75 percent earned more than this amount. The 75th percentile salary is $50,780, meaning 25 percent earn more. In 2016, 52,700 people were employed in the U.S. as announcers.