DJs play music for audiences at live venues, or entertain radio audiences.

What does a disc jockey (DJ) do?

DJs use various formats including vinyl, CD or MP3, and a range of equipment such as turntables, mixers, microphones and amplifiers.

As a club DJ you might:

  • play and mix records in clubs or bars
  • 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 would 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 would provide music and atmosphere at social events such as weddings and parties, taking your own equipment and music to each venue .

What do I need to do to become a disc jockey (DJ)?

There's no set entry route to become a DJ. As well as a love of music you’ll need to build up knowledge of music technology and current music trends. You’ll also need to start building your collection of music and equipment and develop your own style.

To get club DJ work you need to keep developing your technique by getting practical experience of using decks, mixers and sampling equipment. You may wish to complete a course and learn new skills. Local colleges and community recording projects offer short courses in DJ skills and there are also full-time or part-time courses in sound and music technology.

Getting experience will you help develop your skills and start to make contacts in the industry. It also shows employers you have enthusiasm and commitment. Building your contacts in the industry can also be a way of meeting people that may help you get work. Ways of getting experience include:

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

For radio work, it may be helpful to take a course in radio or media production. This is not essential, but the most useful courses develop your practical skills and may include work placements. Courses are full-time and part-time at local colleges, and community radio stations may also offer training and qualifications. 

Related skills

  • Communication
  • Interpersonal skills
  • Organisation
  • Time management

Vocational route

  • Courses in DJ skills, sound and music technology, radio or media production

Related subjects

  • Drama, music, and performing arts
  • Media studies

Where to find out more

Where could I be working?

As a mobile DJ you would mainly work in pubs, hotels and halls, and as a club DJ you would work in bars and nightclubs. Radio work is mainly in small studios.

Contains public sector information licensed under the Open Government Licence v3.0

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