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Medical Dispatcher Training Programs and Requirements

Students in an emergency medical dispatcher (EMD) certificate program learn how to receive, process and prioritize emergency medical calls using multi-line phone systems and fixed or portable radio systems.

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Essential Information

Medical dispatchers are also known as emergency medical dispatchers or 911 operators. Medical dispatcher training generally consists of a certificate program coupled with on-the-job training. These certificate programs are often offered through community colleges and can take as long as a year to complete.

In most states, dispatchers must be certified after completing an approved training program and passing a competency exam. Students should make sure any training program they are considering meets the standards of the National Academies of Emergency Dispatch. To be considered for admission, students should have their high school diplomas or equivalent. It also may be helpful to be certified in CPR, be bilingual, and have basic computer and typing abilities.


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Certificate Program in EMD

The curriculum in EMD certification programs consists of lecture and lab components. Many programs feature a call-center simulation lab, where students practice the dispatching skills they learn in the classroom. These programs often require students to spend time in a functioning emergency medical call center, observing the job firsthand. Common course included in the curriculum are:

  • Basic medical terminology
  • Public safety coordination
  • Crisis intervention skills.

Employment Outlook and Salary Information

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), job opportunities for police, ambulance and fire dispatchers will decrease by 3% for the years 2014 through 2024 (www.bls.gov). The BLS reported that the annual median salary for these workers was $38,010 as of May 2015. The District of Columbia and Nevada are the two top-paying states for this occupation.

Continuing Education and Certification

Many states require medical dispatchers to be certified. This certification process varies between states but generally consists of completing a medical dispatcher training program and passing an exam that tests basic competency skills. The National Academies of Emergency Dispatch (www.emergencydispatch.org) offers several levels of certification for medical and emergency dispatchers and call center supervisors.

Seeking a certificate can be helpful for students who want to become medical dispatchers. The nature of the program provides students the necessary on-the-job training and decision-making skills to be successful in this fast-paced and life-saving career.

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