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Emergency Medical Services Dispatcher: Education & Career Summary

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

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Emergency medical services dispatchers do not usually require formal education, but there is on the job training involved in preparation for a career in this field. Get more information about what this training involves, and what to expect from a career as an EMS dispatcher.

Essential Information

Emergency medical services (EMS) dispatchers respond to crisis calls and may give medical instructions over the airwaves or phone. Their work is fast-paced, as they dispatch emergency medical technicians (EMTs) and provide direction on a call-by-call basis. Dispatchers usually receive on-the-job training and continuing education through their employer. Those interested in formal education may opt to earn a certificate at a 2-year institution. Other common state requirements for EMS dispatchers include CPR certification and Emergency Medical Dispatcher (EMD) certification.

Required Education High school diploma with on-the-job training; optional completion of a certificate program
Other Requirements EMD certification and CPR certification
Projected Job Growth (2014-2024)* 3% decline
Median Salary (2015)* $38,010 annually

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

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Educational Overview for Emergency Medical Services Dispatchers

Prerequisites

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), aspiring EMS dispatchers are often trained through on-the-job programs. Aspiring EMS dispatchers may look to police offices and emergency call centers for these programs. They may also complete their training through certificate programs offered by community colleges. Prerequisites may include a criminal background check and CPR certification.

Training

Training requirements for EMS dispatchers are generally set by their respective states. While duration may vary by state, the BLS notes that most programs can be completed in 3-6 months. Additionally, emergency medical services dispatch programs may require students to complete a set number of training hours. For example, California mandates aspiring EMS dispatchers to finish at least 24 hours of EMD (emergency medical dispatch) training.

EMS training curricula usually combines classroom education with either on-the-job or simulated lab training. Classwork may cover topics in terminology and functions, message center layouts, emergency medical dispatch techniques and agreements with other agencies. Students may also receive instruction on legal issues, protocol and how to provide emergency information to callers. Additional coursework on fire equipment, disaster response and crisis intervention may be included.

Career Summary for an Emergency Medical Services Dispatcher

Employment and Occupational Outlook

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) predicted that employment for police, fire and ambulance dispatchers will decrease 3% during the period 2014-2024. The BLS notes that more efficient telephone systems and governmental budget constraints account for the decline in employment growth for these professionals.

Salary Outlook

As of May 2015, the BLS reported that median annual wage for police, fire and ambulance dispatchers was $38,010. Possible employment opportunities may be located with the sheriff offices, police departments and ambulance services.

EMS dispatchers are usually trained once hired, through a combination of classroom and on the job training. They may also be required to complete emergency medical certifications. They typically work in the public sector, assisting with emergency medical response.

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