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Dispatch Officer Jobs: Career Options and Requirements

Sep 18, 2019

Learn about the education and preparation needed to become a dispatch officer. 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.

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You can become a dispatch officer with a high school diploma. Dispatch officers typically learn through on-the-job training, although some states or municipalities may require certification. Dispatch officers need good communication skills and the ability to work with computers and radio equipment.

Essential Information

Dispatchers, or 911 operators, are often the caller's only link to emergency services during a crisis until help arrives on scene. Most dispatch officer jobs require a high school diploma and on-the-job training. National certification can benefit job seekers.

Required Education High school diploma
Other Requirements Certification
Projected Job Growth (2018-2028)* 6% for police, fire, and ambulance dispatchers
Median Salary (2018)* $40,660 for police, fire, and ambulance dispatchers

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Career Options

Dispatch officers work in call centers operated by municipalities, private police, security firms or other public safety agencies. They must be able to quickly asses the nature of an emergency call by asking the caller a series of specific questions before determining what emergency services should be sent. Dispatchers must be proficient with computers and radio equipment and have the ability to use these tools simultaneously when responding to a call. The job often requires dispatchers to work weekends and holidays, and work shifts can vary because call centers provide 24-hour coverage.

Jobs in this field were predicted to increase at a rate of 6% from 2018-2028, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). In May 2018, the BLS the median annual salary for police, ambulance and fire dispatchers was $40,660.

Job advancement is likely to arise as veteran dispatchers retire or leave the profession. As the technology used by dispatchers continues to evolve, job seekers who have extensive computer skills will stand out among other candidates.

Requirements

Generally, dispatch officers are required to have a high school diploma. Most positions offer on-the-job training programs that can last anywhere from 3-6 months. Typically, dispatchers are taught specific agency procedures and how to use the equipment and classify and respond to various calls. Strong communication skills are a must. Most new dispatchers are closely monitored by a supervisor for several weeks and may receive an evaluation on their performance before being allowed to work independently.

Depending on the state or municipality where a dispatcher is employed, jobs may require certification. The National Academies of Emergency Dispatch (NAED) offers Emergency Telecommunicator Certification to candidates who have completed the NAED's 40-hour emergency telecommunicator course and scored at least 80% on the certification exam. Certification is good for two years.

Some community or junior colleges offer courses leading to certification. These programs typically require students to have a high school diploma or GED and include courses on topics like basic dispatching, call center operations and crisis management. Many of these courses are aligned with NAED standards and prepare students to take the certification exam.

Dispatch officers answer 911 calls and assess the situation by asking the caller questions. They determine what emergency services are needed and dispatch those services to the scene of the crisis. They work varied hours, including weekends and evenings, and may also be required to work holidays.

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