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DJ Deejay, disc jockey

DJs play music for audiences at venues, or on the radio.

Salary, a pound sign Salary: Variable average per year
Hours, a clock face Hours: Variable per week

1. Entry requirements

There are no set entry requirements, but you’ll need to know about music technology, what the current music trends are, and have your own collection of music and equipment.

You’ll also need:

  • to develop your own style as a DJ, based on your personality
  • practical experience of using music software, mixers and other equipment
  • to make contacts in the industry

You could make contacts and get experience by:

  • working on internet, student, community or hospital radio stations
  • volunteering to DJ at events like weddings, parties and charity shows
  • volunteering to work as a roadie for an experienced DJ
  • posting mixes to online video and music streaming sites to get noticed

You could also:

  • do a course in DJ skills or in sound and music technology
  • get work experience through the BBC Work Experience Scheme, RadioCentre (for commercial radio), or by contacting broadcasters to ask for opportunities
The Community Media Association and Hospital Broadcasting Association have more information on volunteering opportunities and how to become a DJ.

Creative & Cultural Skills also has more information on DJing.

2. Skills required

You’ll need:

  • a confident and outgoing personality
  • a good sense of timing and coordination
  • calmness under pressure
  • the ability to do several tasks at the same time
  • the skills to manage your own business and promote yourself

3. What you'll do

You’ll use various formats like vinyl, CD or MP3. You'll also usually use a range of equipment like laptops and special software, turntables, mixers, microphones and amplifiers.

As a club DJ you might:

  • play and mix records in clubs or bars, to create atmosphere or keep people dancing
  • choose music to suit your audience’s taste and the venue’s music policy
  • operate lighting and visual effects in time to the beat
  • create your own sounds by manipulating beats, using samples, adding extra music and sound effects
  • work with an MC who raps or sings over the music

As a radio DJ or presenter, you’ll present a radio programme in your own style. 

You could:

  • choose the music to be played
  • keep up an entertaining and natural flow of chat
  • interact with the audience through phone-ins, emails, texts and social media
  • keep to a very tight timing schedule
  • interview studio guests
  • operate studio equipment to play music, pre-recorded news, jingles and advertisements (known as ‘driving the desk’)
  • discuss ideas with the producer, write scripts and prepare playlists for future shows
Many music radio DJs also perform live as club DJs.

As a mobile DJ, you’ll provide music and atmosphere at social events like weddings and parties, using your own equipment.

4. Salary

Most DJs are self-employed and work on a freelance basis, so salaries will vary widely.

Club and mobile DJs just starting out will usually earn around £50 per session.

Well-known DJs can earn around £150 to £400 per session.

High-profile DJs, who’ve built up experience and a good reputation, could earn £1,000 a session or more.

These figures are a guide.

5. Working hours, patterns and environment

Your hours may be varied and unsocial. As a mobile or club DJ you’ll mainly work in the evenings and at weekends, often until the early hours of the morning.

In radio, hours depend on when your programme is on-air, whether it’s live or pre-recorded, and the amount of off-air preparation you do.

As a mobile DJ you’ll mainly work in pubs, hotels and other venues. As a club DJ you’ll work in bars and nightclubs, which can be hot and noisy. 

Radio work is mainly in small air-conditioned studios.

6. Career path and progression

As a successful club DJ, you could move into music producing and recording, club promoting, working for a record label or starting your own label.

As an established radio DJ, you could get involved in other types of media work, like TV presenting.

Last updated: 07 December 2016