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911 Emergency Dispatcher: Required Skills, Duties and Responsibilities

911 emergency dispatchers require little formal education. Learn about the training, job duties and certification requirements to see if this is the right career for you.

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A 911 dispatcher responds to emergency calls and sends out the proper authorities to resolve the situation. No education beyond high school is needed, just a basic set of operating, judgment, and communication skills acquired on-the-job.

Essential Information

911 emergency dispatchers often are the first people contacted when emergency assistance is needed. They might work at call centers, police stations, fire stations or hospitals. A high school diploma is the standard requirement for this position, along with completion of emergency training or certification, depending on state mandates. Dispatchers need strong skills in communication and decision-making.

Required Education High school diploma
Other Requirements Completion of emergency training and/or certification may be required
Projected Job Growth (2014-2024)* -3% for police, fire and ambulance dispatchers
Median Salary (2015)* $38,010 for police, fire and ambulance dispatchers

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

911 Emergency Dispatcher Required Skills

Skills required to become a 911 emergency dispatcher, such as the ability to operate various computer and communication equipment, usually are learned through 3-6 months of on-the-job training. Personal characteristics that might be advantageous for 911 emergency dispatchers include good judgment skills, since they need to prioritize the calls they receive by order of importance, as well as good communication skills, since they must relay information between parties. They also must have good speaking skills and be comfortable talking to people in various emotional states. 911 emergency dispatchers should be comfortable reading maps and be familiar with their assigned territories. It's also helpful for 911 emergency dispatchers to be trained in emergency medical services so they can help callers manage emergency situations while they're waiting for help to arrive.

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911 Emergency Dispatcher Job Duties

911 emergency dispatchers receive emergency calls by telephone, radio system or computer-aided dispatch system. They question callers to obtain the information needed to determine an appropriate course of action. They also must create and maintain logs of all calls received and prepare reports as necessary. Experienced 911 emergency dispatchers might assist in training new dispatchers.

911 Emergency Dispatcher Responsibilities

911 emergency dispatchers are assigned a specific territory, and they receive calls that come from that area. They're responsible for determining the nature of the calls they receive, as well as the location of the callers. They also are responsible for monitoring the location of emergency service personnel in their assigned territory. Using this information, 911 emergency dispatchers direct the appropriate type and number of emergency service units to emergency scenes. 911 emergency dispatchers must maintain communication with the dispatched units to monitor their response, in addition to maintaining communication with callers to monitor emergency situations and give first-aid instructions if necessary.

Salary and Job Outlook

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects that employment for 911 dispatchers, which includes all police, fire and ambulance dispatchers, will decline by 3% from 2014 to 2024. This decline may occur because fewer workers will be needed as call centers continue to consolidate. Additionally, the BLS reported that this group of workers made a median annual salary of $38,010 as of May 2015.

As observed, a high school diploma and standard operator skills are required to be an emergency dispatcher, and possibly certification. 911 respondents have important duties and responsibilities that they learn through short training once they get the job.

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