Emergency 911 dispatchers answer distress calls and dispatch the necessary fire, police or emergency rescue personnel. Such programs are designed to provide students with the exact technical and procedural training necessary to gain an entry-level position in the field of emergency communications. A high school diploma, basic placement exam, keyboarding placement exam, and successful passage of a background check are all necessary for admission. A ride-along in an ambulance or sit-along in a dispatch center is also often necessary.
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Emergency Dispatch Certificate Programs
Students enrolled in an emergency dispatcher certificate program must learn the basics of stress management, emergency communication, computer-aided dispatching, 2-way radio communications, crisis intervention and emergency procedures. Certificate programs for aspiring emergency dispatchers often contain some component of practical experience, in which students are required to ride along in ambulances or perform supervised training with an emergency dispatch center. The most commonly recognized program is offered through the National Academies of Emergency Dispatch (NAED), and most community colleges with 911 dispatcher certificate programs model their courses after those available in NAED. Those who complete such a program are eligible to sit for a certification test administered by NAED. Some courses that lead up to practical experience include:
- Introduction to emergency telecommunications
- Transcription for emergency telecommunications
- Advanced keyboarding
- Dispatch center procedures and operations
- Emergency communications practices
- Emergency police dispatcher
Employment Outlook and Salary Info
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported that in 2015, there were about 95,630 police, fire and ambulance dispatchers employed across the country (www.bls.gov). These emergency communicators were employed primarily by local government agencies and ambulatory health care services. They made a median annual wage of $38,010 in May 2015, reported the BLS. According to the the BLS, between 2014 and 2024 the field of dispatchers is projected to decline by 3%.
The NAED offers both certification courses and certification examinations for aspiring police dispatchers, fire dispatchers, medical dispatchers and emergency communicators (www.emergencydispatch.org). The organization also offers an examination and fee for individuals in the field who wish to recertify as dispatchers.
Certificate programs help those interested in becoming emergency dispatchers best prepare for the career. The programs also provide opportunities for practical hands-on training.