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)
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.