Telephone Operator  What They Do

Just the Facts


Operates telephones or switchboards to receive and relay incoming, outgoing, and interoffice calls. May also act as receptionist or perform routine clerical work.

This career is part of the Business, Management and Administration cluster Administrative and Information Support pathway.


A person in this career:

  • Operates communication systems, such as telephone, switchboard, intercom, or public address.
  • Answers incoming calls, greets callers, provides information and routes calls to appropriate persons.
  • Places telephone calls as instructed.
  • Records messages, suggesting rewording for clarity and conciseness.
  • Relays and routes written and verbal messages.
  • Performs clerical duties, such as typing, accepting orders, scheduling appointments, and sorting mail.
  • Keep records of calls placed and the charges incurred.
  • Date stamps and files messages.
  • Routes emergency calls appropriately.
  • Pages individuals to inform them of telephone calls.

Insider Info

Dig into the details and check out what people in this job have to say about their work.



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Telephone Operators

Working Conditions and Physical Demands

People who do this job report that:

  • You would sit most of the time. There's some walking and standing. You may have to lift and carry things like books, papers or tools weighing 10 lbs. or less.
  • Work in this occupation involves using your hands to hold, control, and feel objects more than one-third of the time
  • Work in this occupation requires being inside most of the time
  • Work in this occupation involves making repetitive motions more than one-third of the time
  • Work in this occupation involves sitting more than one-third of the time

Working in this career involves (physical activities):

  • Speaking clearly enough to be able to be understood by others
  • Identifying and understanding the speech of another person

Work Hours and Travel

  • Rotating shift work
  • Weekend work

Specialty and Similar Careers

Careers that are more detailed or close to this career:

  • Bilingual Operator -- Answer calls and take phone messages in more than one language.
  • Customer Service Representative -- Interviews applicants for water, gas, electric, or telephone service and receives orders to start, stop, or change service.
  • Emergency Operator -- Answers incoming emergency calls and decides whether the caller has an actual emergency or not, and if so, directs the call to the department that is needed.