Emergency Medical Dispatcher Education Requirements and Career Info

Learn about the education and preparation needed to become an emergency medical dispatcher. Get a quick view of the requirements as well as details about training, job duties and certification to find out if this is the career for you.

Essential Information

Emergency medical dispatchers (EMDs) answer emergency calls from the public and are trained to assess the situation, instruct the caller in basic lifesaving procedures and prioritize medical response personnel. Certification and education requirements for EMDs vary by state and employer, but completion of an approved postsecondary training is usually required. These programs are found at public and private schools and typically combine classroom and on-the-job training. Many jurisdictions call for continuing education courses to keep skills updated.

Required Education High school diploma; approved training program
Other Requirements Many states call for certification
Projected Job Growth8% for all police, fire and ambulance dispatchers from 2012-22*
Median Salary$37,040 for all police, fire and ambulance dispatchers (2013)*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Emergency Medical Dispatcher Education Requirements

To work as an emergency medical dispatcher (EMD) or a 911 operator, a student must complete training that meets the standards of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). Students can find such programs at community colleges, vocational schools and private training academies. Graduates of an EMD training program are eligible to sit for the National Academies of Emergency Dispatch (NAED) certification exam.


An EMD training program typically takes two or three semesters to complete. EMD courses teach students how to obtain information from agitated callers, give the caller medical instructions before the units arrive, read guide cards, prioritize response personnel and manage stress. Students also learn about national and state regulations for EMDs, anatomy, physiology and ethical and legal issues for EMDs.

They learn how to send the correct number and type of units to an emergency and how to use a system of priority dispatch, which may consist of computers, telephone system (multi-line) and two-way radios. Many EMD programs either include CPR training or require it as a prerequisite.

Continuing Education

To maintain certification, the NAED requires EMDs to complete 24 hours of continuing education training every two years. In addition, NAED offers advanced EMD training through local 3-day seminars

Career Info

EMDs work irregular hours in call center-type settings. They may work for the highway patrol in their state, ambulance services or emergency medical services.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics found that the median wage for police, fire and ambulance dispatchers was $37,040 annually in 2013. PayScale.com states that median salary for a certified police, fire and ambulance dispatcher was about $35,785 per year (as of October 2014), but is dependent on location, experience and employer. EMDs find career advancement through extended training to become EMD managers, instructors and systems analysts.

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