Switchboard operator

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Telephonists, or switchboard operators, answer and connect calls and take messages.

Salary range: £12,000 to £24,000

How to become a telephonist

You can get into this job through:

  • a college course
  • an apprenticeship
  • applying directly


You could take an introductory course like:

  • Level 1 Certificate in Customer Service
  • Level 2 Certificate in Contact Centre Operations

Entry requirements

Entry requirements for these courses vary.

More information


You could do an intermediate apprenticeship in customer service or contact centre operations.

Entry requirements

You’ll usually need:

  • some GCSEs, usually including English and maths, or equivalent, for an intermediate apprenticeship

More information

Direct application

There are no set requirements for applying directly for jobs, though employers may ask for some GCSEs. Basic computer skills and admin experience can be useful.

More information

Career tips

Temporary work can be a useful way to get started in this career and can lead to permanent jobs.

What it takes

Skills and knowledge

You’ll need:

  • customer service skills
  • the ability to accept criticism and work well under pressure
  • patience and the ability to remain calm in stressful situations
  • to be flexible and open to change
  • to be thorough and pay attention to detail
  • the ability to work well with others
  • excellent verbal communication skills
  • knowledge of English language
  • to be able to carry out basic tasks on a computer or hand-held device

What you’ll do

Day-to-day tasks

Your day-to-day tasks will vary with the type of organisation you work for, but may include:

  • answering and connecting calls using a computerised switchboard system
  • testing lines and reporting faults
  • updating directories
  • taking and passing on messages
  • carrying out basic administration tasks
  • working in a team with ‘front of house’ staff

Working environment

You could work in a contact centre, in a reception area or in an office.

Career path and progression

With experience you could apply for jobs in a related area. You could apply for work as an administrator, customer services specialist or customer services supervisor.

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