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Become A Call Taker

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Working As A Call Taker

  • Getting Information
  • Interacting With Computers
  • Documenting/Recording Information
  • Communicating with Supervisors, Peers, or Subordinates
  • Performing for or Working Directly with the Public
  • Deal with People

  • Unpleasant/Angry People

  • Mostly Sitting

  • Repetitive

  • Stressful

  • Make Decisions

  • $30,000

    Average Salary

What Does A Call Taker Do

Police, fire, and ambulance dispatchers, also called public safety telecommunicators, answer emergency and nonemergency calls.

Duties

Police, fire, and ambulance dispatchers typically do the following:

  • Answer 9-1-1 emergency telephone and alarm system calls
  • Determine the type of emergency and its location and decide the appropriate response on the basis of agency procedures
  • Relay information to the appropriate first-responder agency
  • Coordinate the dispatch of emergency response personnel to accident scenes
  • Give basic over-the-phone medical instructions before emergency personnel arrive
  • Provide advice to callers about how they may best stay safe while waiting for assistance
  • Monitor and track the status of police, fire, and ambulance units
  • Synchronize responses with other area communication centers
  • Keep detailed records of calls

Dispatchers answer calls from people who need help from police, firefighters, emergency services, or a combination of the three. They take emergency, nonemergency, and alarm system calls.

Dispatchers must stay calm while collecting vital information from callers to determine the severity of a situation and the location of those who need help. They then communicate this information to the appropriate first-responder agencies.

Dispatchers keep detailed records of the calls that they answer. They use computers to log important facts, such as the nature of the incident and the caller’s name and location. Most computer systems detect the location of cell phones and landline phones automatically.

Some dispatchers also use crime databases, maps, and weather reports to best prepare first responders for the situations they will encounter. Other dispatchers monitor alarm systems, alerting law enforcement or fire personnel when a crime or fire occurs. In some situations, dispatchers must work with people in other jurisdictions to share information and transfer calls.

Dispatchers often must instruct callers on what to do before responders arrive. Many dispatchers are trained to offer medical help over the phone. For example, they might help the caller to provide first aid at the scene until emergency medical services arrive.

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How To Become A Call Taker

Most police, fire, and ambulance dispatchers have a high school diploma. Many states require dispatchers to have training and certification.

In addition, candidates must pass a written exam and a typing test. In some instances, applicants may need to pass a background check, lie detector and drug tests, and tests for hearing and vision.

Most states require dispatchers to be U.S. citizens, and some jobs require a driver’s license. Experience using computers and in customer service can be helpful. The ability to speak Spanish is also desirable in this occupation.

Education

Most dispatchers are required to have a high school diploma.

Training

Training requirements vary by state. The Association of Public-Safety Communications Officials (APCO International) provides a list of states requiring training and certification.

Some states require 40 or more hours of initial training, and some require continuing education every 2 to 3 years. Other states do not mandate any specific training, leaving individual localities and agencies to structure their own requirements and conduct their own courses.

Some agencies have their own programs for certifying dispatchers; others use training from a professional association. The Association of Public-Safety Communications Officials (APCO International), the National Emergency Number Association (NENA), and the International Academies of Emergency Dispatch (IAED) have established a number of recommended standards and best practices that agencies often use as a guideline for their own training programs. 

Training is usually conducted in a classroom and on the job, and is often followed by a probationary period of about 1 year. However, the period may vary by agency, as there is no national standard governing training or probation.

Training covers a wide variety of topics, such as local geography, agency protocols, and standard procedures. Dispatchers are also taught how to use specialized equipment, such as two-way radios and computer-aided dispatch software. Computer systems that dispatchers use consist of several monitors that display call information, maps, relevant criminal history, and video, depending on the location of the incident. Dispatchers often receive specialized training to prepare for high-risk incidents, such as child abductions and suicidal callers.

Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations

Many states require dispatchers to be certified. The Association of Public-Safety Communications Officials (APCO) provides a list of states requiring training and certification. One certification is the Emergency Medical Dispatcher (EMD) certification, which enables dispatchers to give medical assistance over the phone. 

Dispatchers may choose to pursue additional certifications, such as the National Emergency Number Association’s Emergency Number Professional (ENP) certification or APCO’s Registered Public-Safety Leader (RPL) certification, which demonstrate their leadership skills and knowledge of the profession.

Advancement

Dispatchers can become senior dispatchers or supervisors before advancing to administrative positions, in which they may focus on a specific area, such as training, or on policy and procedures.

Training and certifications, such as emergency medical technician (EMT) training, can aide those looking to advance. Additional education and related work experience may be helpful in advancing to management-level positions.

Important Qualities

Ability to multitask. Dispatchers must stay calm in order to simultaneously answer calls, collect vital information, coordinate responders, use mapping software and camera feeds, and assist callers.

Communication skills. Dispatchers work with law enforcement, emergency response teams, and civilians. They must be able to communicate the nature of an emergency effectively and coordinate the appropriate response.

Decisionmaking skills. Dispatchers must be able to choose between tasks that are competing for their attention. They must be able to quickly determine the appropriate action when people call for help.

Empathy. Dispatchers must be willing and able to help callers who have a wide range of needs. They must be calm, polite, and sympathetic, while also collecting relevant information quickly.

Listening skills. Dispatchers must listen carefully to collect relevant details, even though some callers might have trouble speaking because of anxiety or stress.

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Call Taker Career Paths

Call Taker
Dispatcher Medical Assistant Patient Care Coordinator
Office Manager
5 Yearsyrs
Dispatcher Coordinator Team Leader
Account Manager
5 Yearsyrs
Dispatcher Coordinator Executive Assistant
Senior Administrative Assistant
7 Yearsyrs
Emergency Medical Technician Technician Field Service Technician
Service Manager
6 Yearsyrs
Emergency Medical Technician Team Leader Owner
Co-Owner
6 Yearsyrs
Emergency Medical Technician Team Leader Office Manager
Business Office Manager
7 Yearsyrs
Security Officer Officer Manager
Business Owner
6 Yearsyrs
Security Officer Officer Assistant Manager
Center Manager
6 Yearsyrs
Security Officer Officer Office Manager
Billing Manager
7 Yearsyrs
Medical Assistant Patient Care Coordinator Assistant Manager
Support Manager
5 Yearsyrs
Medical Assistant Specialist Customer Service Supervisor
Call Center Manager
6 Yearsyrs
Certified Nursing Assistant Specialist Operation Supervisor
Dispatcher Supervisor
5 Yearsyrs
Certified Nursing Assistant Technician Operation Supervisor
Fleet Manager
7 Yearsyrs
Certified Nursing Assistant Legal Assistant Investigator
Security Manager
6 Yearsyrs
Home Health Aid Technician Shop Foreman
Assistant Service Manager
5 Yearsyrs
Home Health Aid Specialist Operations Specialist
Solution Specialist
5 Yearsyrs
Home Health Aid Licensed Practical Nurse Registered Nurse Supervisor
Administrative Supervisor
5 Yearsyrs
Teacher Adjunct Professor Board Member
Commissioner
5 Yearsyrs
Representative Sales Consultant Internet Sales Consultant
Customer Relations Manager
5 Yearsyrs
Cab Driver Customer Account Executive Lead Customer Service Representative
Lead Dispatch
5 Yearsyrs
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Average Length of Employment
Radio Dispatcher 4.3 years
Fire Dispatcher 4.2 years
Police Dispatcher 3.9 years
911 Operator 3.2 years
Telecommunicator 2.8 years
Dispatcher 2.7 years
Call Taker 2.0 years
Top Careers Before Call Taker
Cashier 19.5%
Dispatcher 6.2%
Server 3.0%
Internship 2.8%
Waitress 2.0%
Volunteer 1.9%
Clerk 1.8%
Top Careers After Call Taker
Dispatcher 12.7%
Cashier 12.0%
Server 3.2%
Driver 2.4%
Manager 2.3%
Volunteer 2.1%

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Top Skills for A Call Taker

  1. Customer Service
  2. Taxi Cab
  3. Taker
You can check out examples of real life uses of top skills on resumes here:
  • Provided Excellent Customer Service to Houston metropolitan Hispanic population and Hispanic cab drivers in English and Spanish.
  • Provided customer service to customers who were in need of a taxi cabs.
  • Enter data of all actions taken, take phone calls and interacts with cal takers.
  • Answer and responded to incoming emergency and non-emergency calls, providing the appropriate actions and/or information.
  • Fill out incident information through CAD System/Automatic Computerized System.

Call Taker Demographics

Gender

Female

62.6%

Male

21.5%

Unknown

15.8%
Ethnicity

White

59.8%

Hispanic or Latino

18.4%

Black or African American

11.4%

Asian

7.1%

Unknown

3.3%
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Foreign Languages Spoken

Spanish

95.8%

Mandarin

2.1%

Cantonese

2.1%

Call Taker Education

Schools

University of Phoenix

25.3%

Strayer University

6.8%

Salt Lake Community College

4.8%

Kaplan University

4.8%

Ashford University

4.1%

Houston Community College

4.1%

University of Texas at Austin

4.1%

Austin Community College

4.1%

Central Texas College

4.1%

Capella University

4.1%

Grand Canyon University

4.1%

Hinds Community College

3.4%

Mesa Community College - Boswell

3.4%

El Centro College

3.4%

College of DuPage

3.4%

The Academy

3.4%

Liberty University

3.4%

Hillsborough Community College

3.4%

University of San Francisco

2.7%

Prince George's Community College

2.7%
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Majors

Criminal Justice

17.6%

Business

16.4%

General Studies

6.7%

Psychology

6.5%

Medical Assisting Services

6.3%

Medical Technician

6.1%

Nursing

5.8%

Health Care Administration

5.8%

Communication

4.1%

Accounting

4.1%

Liberal Arts

3.3%

Education

2.5%

Cosmetology

2.0%

Legal Support Services

2.0%

Graphic Design

2.0%

Human Services

1.9%

Computer Science

1.7%

Nursing Assistants

1.7%

Biology

1.7%

Information Technology

1.6%
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Degrees

Other

41.5%

Bachelors

24.6%

Associate

15.3%

Certificate

8.0%

Masters

5.5%

Diploma

3.3%

License

1.2%

Doctorate

0.6%
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