Telephone Operator  What They Do

Just the Facts


Telephone Operators Career Video



Provides information by accessing alphabetical, geographical, or other directories. Assists customers with special billing requests, such as charges to a third party and credits or refunds for incorrectly dialed numbers or bad connections. May handle emergency calls and assist children or people with physical disabilities to make telephone calls.

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


A person in this career:

  • Listens to customer requests, referring to alphabetical or geographical directories to answer questions and provide telephone information.
  • Suggests and checks alternate spellings, locations, or listing formats to customers lacking details or complete information.
  • Offers special assistance to persons such as those who are unable to dial or who are in emergency situations.
  • Observes signal lights on switchboards, and dials or presses buttons to make connections.
  • Operates telephone switchboards and systems to advance and complete connections, including those for local, long distance, pay telephone, mobile, person-to-person, and emergency calls.
  • Provides assistance for customers with special billing requests.
  • Calculates and quotes charges for services such as long-distance connections.
  • Monitors automated systems for placing collect calls and intervenes for a caller needing assistance.
  • Performs clerical duties such as typing, proofreading, and sorting mail.
  • Consults charts to determine charges for pay-telephone calls, requesting coin deposits for calls as necessary.

Insider Info

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



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.