What are the Different Switchboard Operator Jobs?

Jessica Bosari

Switchboard operator jobs are found at many mid-sized organizations and almost any large business. Switchboard operators work in hospitals, offices, police stations or government offices. The description for switchboard operator jobs involves answering calls, but will often included administrative duties as well. Most people can find jobs as switchboard operator with only a high school degree.

Modern switchboards are computerized.
Modern switchboards are computerized.

A switchboard operator will typically run a private branch exchange, or PBX switchboard to distribute incoming calls to the appropriate parties. They may need to announce calls over a loudspeaker, or simply introduce callers to the recipient before transferring the call. Some switchboard operators are asked to take messages by hand rather than transferring a caller to voice mail.

A hospital needs switchboard operators to transfer calls to the needed room or department.
A hospital needs switchboard operators to transfer calls to the needed room or department.

Even automated systems sometimes need the aid of switchboard operator jobs. Anyone who does not wish to leave a message will need to speak to an operator to find another person to take his or her call. In addition, most phone company switchboard operator jobs have become automated, such as helping customers make local and long-distance calls or directory assistance. Switchboard operators are still kept on hand to help those that have difficulty with the automated services.

The switchboard operator's job in the office setting often includes serving as a receptionist as well. It can be a challenge to balance incoming calls with incoming customers simultaneously, so a great deal of patience and tact is required in this switchboard operator job. Office switchboard operators often perform other administrative duties like opening mail, typing envelopes or routing incoming faxes.

In a hospital, the switchboard operator job requires attention to detail in routing calls to the correct patients. Because the switchboard operator is the first point of contact for all calls, he or she must project a professional and caring image in representing the hospital. Hospital switchboard operators must learn to use paging systems and monitor various alarm systems. It is important that the operator be familiar with all departments in the hospital ensure proper contact of any given individual during an emergency situation. Many hospitals will only hire a switchboard operator with previous experience.

Local governments need switchboard operators to route calls to the proper departments and department heads. These workers will often answer general questions for callers as well. A basic understanding of the inner workings of the town’s government is important in understanding how to help customers with their questions and direct calls appropriately.

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Discussion Comments


Chances are a person just out of high school probably wouldn't be prepared to be a switchboard operator. To be a good operator requires the ability to be personable, stay calm during a crisis or a very busy time, know about the departments in the company, and direct calls to the right place. Few recent high school graduates could do all that.

Probably many switchboard jobs are filled with people who are working in other positions, at least in large companies.

It would take some special training for those operators who step in on automated switchboard systems when the caller isn't able to navigate the system.

I would say that those who are hired as switchboard operators may have no more than a high school education. But they have experience working at other jobs in companies, hospitals and government agencies before they become switchboard operators.


@JaneAir - 911 switchboard operators really do play an important role in emergency services. I don't think I could keep calm in order to do the job though!

I feel like if someone called me in a crisis I might start flipping out too. I think a cool head is definitely necessary for the 911 operator job. I could definitely pull off switchboard operator in an office building or something though, no problem.


A friend of mine worked as a 911 switchboard operator right out of high school. He really loved that job! He said it was pretty exciting sometimes, but he felt like he was really helping people.

He found it very rewarding to be the first point of contact when a person was having a crisis. He was able to calm the person down, obtain the relevant information, and dispatch the proper emergency services to their location. My friend is a really nice and well spoken person so I have no doubt he was great at that job!


In order to be a switchboard operator I would think that a person would need to be very well spoken, and capable of communicating in a clear manner.

At I said, they should be, but I’ve got to tell you that many of them are not. More and more I’m calling different places (like my credit card companies or student loans center) only to find that I’m speaking with a person from another country.

Actually, not a person just from another country, but a person who is in that country at the time of our conversation.

Granted, these folks might be well spoken in their own country, but I have a really hard time understanding them a lot of times because of the dialect differences.

I know why companies outsource, but gees! I thought the customer always came first. I guess I was wrong.

And, it makes me feel bad when I keep saying things like, "I am so sorry...what did you say again?" Those poor people hate to see me coming, I know.


You know, depending on what your idea of good pay is, of course, a switchboard operator doesn’t make all that bad. Or, at least for a job that requires the same qualifications that a switchboard operator often must have, it’s not a bad wage at all.

I know that I was looking for jobs in my area a year or so ago after I left teaching in our public school system and I found an opening for an operator at our 911 call center.

I wasn’t exactly sure what to think of a person who wasn’t required to have anything more than a high school education making about $10,000 more a year than I had been in my fourth year of teaching.

I suppose that could have had something to do with the stress the job entails as well, and the fact that it could be shift work.

It also came with full benefits, 401K and a separate retirement account.

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