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Schools for Aspiring Public Safety Dispatchers: How to Choose

Public safety dispatchers intercept calls from the general public and send out police, emergency medical personnel and firefighters when necessary. While there are generally no formal degree requirements in this field of study, earning a degree from a vocational school, community college or university may offer better program benefits.

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Entering the workforce as a public safety dispatcher generally requires at least a high school diploma and three to six months of on-the-job training. Police officers, detectives, firefighters and other public service employees sometimes work as dispatchers while completing formal training for advanced positions, which often require the minimum of a bachelor's degree in criminal justice.

Top 10 Schools with Criminology, Public Safety Communications or Criminal Justice Programs

Programs for aspiring public safety dispatchers are offered at a number of institutions, including those listed here.

College/University Location Institution Type Degrees Offered Tuition (2015-2016)*
University of Maryland - College Park College Park 4-year, Public Bachelor's, Master's, Doctoral Undergraduate In-state $9,996; Graduate In-state $11,376
University at Albany - SUNY Albany, NY 4-year, Public Bachelor's, Master's, Doctoral Undergraduate In-state $8,996; Graduate In-state $10,870
University of Cincinnati Cincinnati, OH 4-year, Public Bachelor's, Master's, Doctoral Undergraduate In-state $11,000; Graduate In-state $12,790
University of Missouri- St. Louis St Louis, MO 4-year, Public Bachelor's, Master's, Doctoral Undergraduate In-state $9,394; Graduate In-state $10,459
Pennsylvania State University - University Park University Park, PA 4-year, Public Bachelor's, Master's, Doctoral Undergraduate In-state $17,514; Graduate In-state $19,328
University of California- Irvine Irvine, CA 4-year, Public Bachelor's, Master's, Doctoral Undergraduate In-state $13,252; Graduate In-state $11,220
Florida State University Tallahassee, FL 4-year, Public Bachelor's, Master's, Doctoral Undergraduate In-state $6,507; Graduate In-state $9,684
Michigan State University East Lansing, MI 4-year, Public Bachelor's, Master's, Doctoral Undergraduate In-state $13,560; Graduate In-state $16,122
Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey - Newark Newark, NJ 4-year, Public Bachelor's, Master's, Doctoral Undergraduate: In-state $13,597; Graduate In-state $16,272
CUNY - John Jay College New York, NY 4-year, Public Associate's, Bachelor's, Master's Undergraduate In-state: $6,810; Graduate In-state $10,130

Source: *National Center for Education Statistics (NCES)

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School Selection Criteria

There are several considerations to keep in mind when searching for a program in this field.

  • Look for programs that offer training and certification for aspiring dispatchers.
  • Search for schools that offer degree programs in criminal justice, business communication or liberal arts.
  • Those already employed in the field might want to consider earning a degree from a vocational school or college, as there are more likely to have versatile study options, like night classes or courses offered online.
  • For those interested in eventually advancing to a leadership position, look for programs that include coursework relevant for supervisory roles.

Vocational Program in Public Safety Communications

Earning a degree from a vocational school generally takes students about a year to complete. A vocational school may be a good option for aspiring dispatchers who want to work while completing formal training, because some programs offer web training and seminars for working professionals.

Associate's Degree in Criminal Justice

Many associate degree programs provide aspiring public safety dispatchers with the necessary skills to enter the workforce. With additional experience, these programs may help dispatchers advance into management positions.

Bachelor's Degree in Criminal Justice

Professionals who work in the field of criminal justice often start out as dispatchers before moving into advanced positions. Many programs offer online courses and some programs provide students the opportunity to learn in different settings, such as jails and corrections facilities. In bachelor's degree in criminal justice programs, students can take courses that prepare them for careers in law enforcement or a related field.

Aspiring public safety dispatchers can choose between undergraduate and graduate programs at a number of traditional and vocational schools. Students can opt to focus their studies in public safety communications, or, if they'd eventually like to advance to a career as a policeman, they can choose a degree program in criminal justice or criminology.

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