Police dispatchers take emergency calls, instruct callers with help, and send out emergency vehicles and personnel. Requirements for this job vary, as a high school diploma and on-the-job training is needed in some states, while completion of a certificate or certification program is required in others.
Police dispatchers make up the first line of communication for police and emergency services. Dispatchers monitor emergency phone calls, send out appropriate emergency vehicles and provide accurate contact information for police officers, firefighters and paramedics. Employers often train new hires, but many employers prefer applicants who have completed a dispatcher certificate or certification program.
|Required Education||Varies; some employers will train hires with high school diplomas, while others prefer candidates who have completed public safety or secretarial postsecondary coursework|
|Other Requirements||Some states require certification through an organization such as the International Academies of Emergency Dispatch or other training|
|Projected Job Growth (2014-2024)*||-3% for police, fire and ambulance dispatchers|
|Median Salary (2015)*||$38,010 for police, fire and ambulance dispatchers|
Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
Training Programs for a Police Dispatcher
Although the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) states that police dispatchers usually receive on-the-job training from experienced dispatchers, there are other training options available (www.bls.gov). For instance, individuals may choose to enroll in an emergency services dispatcher certificate program, which usually takes one year to complete. While not required, individuals may also enroll in an associate's degree program in public safety services.
Emergency services dispatcher certificate programs teach students how to talk with emergency victims. As such, coursework generally includes suicide intervention, customer service care, crisis intervention and stress management. Since dispatchers often instruct 911 callers to perform basic lifesaving techniques until help arrives, they may receive training to help callers perform rescue techniques, such as cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR). Many certificate programs also include criminal justice courses, such as criminal and civil law, domestic violence and law enforcement strategies.
Certification Programs for a Police Dispatcher
States may require dispatchers to become certified through a nationally recognized trade organization, such as the International Academies of Emergency Dispatch, prior to employment. Police dispatcher certification programs usually involve applicants passing a test to prove knowledge in a particular field. Some certification programs also require applicants to participate in training workshops before taking final exams. Passing an emergency services dispatch certificate program may also qualify individuals to sit for certification exams.
Educational Requirements for a Police Dispatcher
The BLS indicated that employers may favor applicants who have a high school diploma or its equivalent. Some states may have additional education requirements, such as completing postsecondary coursework related to public safety or secretarial work. Other states may not have a minimum educational requirement, but they may require applicants to pass standardized tests in order to prove reading, writing, verbal and problem solving skills.
Career Outlook and Salary Information
The BLS predicts a 3% decrease in the field of police, fire, and ambulance dispatchers between 2014 and 2024. The BLS also reported that the median annual salary for dispatchers in these three disciplines was $38,010 as of May 2015.
Police dispatchers can work in some states with a high school diploma and on-the-job training, while other states may require completion of a certificate program. Certification in the field is available through trade organizations, and usually involves passing an exam. Demand for police dispatchers is low, as there is an expected 3% decline in opportunities through the year 2024.