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Schools for Aspiring 911 Dispatchers: How to Choose

Jan 02, 2019

Most 911 dispatchers obtain a certificate through an emergency telecommunications or emergency dispatch program at a community college or technical school. Programs cover topics in communication technology and crisis intervention. Professional organizations and law enforcement agencies may also have certificate programs, though less commonly.

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911 emergency dispatchers field emergency calls and gather the information needed to determine an appropriate response. A certificate program is the most common first step in acquiring the necessary skills.

Schools Offering 911 Dispatcher Certificates

Below are several schools that offer dispatcher certification programs. Most are specifically in emergency dispatching while others are in broader fields of study.

College/University Location Institution Type Degrees Offered Tuition (2015-2016)
Arapahoe Community College Littleton, CO 2-year, Public Certificate, Associate's In-state: $3,334; Out-of-state: $13,052
Nash Community College Rocky Mount, NC 2-year, Public Certificate In-state: $2,504; Out-of-state: $8,648
Coastal Carolina Community College Jacksonville, NC 2-year, Public Certificate In-state: $2,334; Out-of-state: $8,478
Oakland Community College Bloomfield Hills, MI 2-year, Public Certificate In-district: $2,745; In-state: $5,235; Out-of-state: $7,305
Golden West College Huntington Beach, CA 2-year, Public Certificate, Associate's In-state: $1,176; Out-of-state: $5,616
Harper College Palatine, IL 2-year, Public Certificate In-district: $3,228; In-state: $9,396; Out-of-state: $11,208
Northeast Wisconsin Technical College Green Bay, WI 2-year, Public Certificate In-state: $4,280; Out-of-state: $6,206
Rio Hondo College Whittier, CA 2-year, Public Certificate $352 (program cost)

Source: NCES College Navigator, school website

School Selection Criteria

Two-year community colleges and technical schools, as well as professional organizations, offer dispatcher programs. Students might otherwise pursue a bachelor's in fields such as criminal justice or public safety as a starting point to a career in emergency dispatch. A program might also incorporate interpersonal communication studies or else focus just on telecommunication and operator skills.

Here are some important things to consider when selecting a school:

  • Program length ranges from six weeks to a year, so make sure that the time commitment is appropriate.
  • Make sure a chosen program meets the criteria for a nationally recognized agency such as the National Academies of Emergency Dispatch (NAED).
  • Programs should include hands-on training with switchboards and other telecommunications devices.
  • Find a program geared toward your educational needs, whether it be supplemental to already gained emergency skills or for starting from scratch.

911 Dispatcher Certificate Programs

Dispatcher certificate programs prepare students to earn certification, such as the Emergency Medical Dispatcher or the Emergency Telecommunicators Certification (ETC), through the NAED. Depending on the school, these programs take up to a year, though accelerated programs take less time.

When considering a school for becoming a 911 dispatcher, potential students must consider location, certification specifics, and program length. Most programs include a hands-on element important to learning all aspects of the job.

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