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Become A Communications Dispatcher

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Working As A Communications Dispatcher

  • 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 Communications Dispatcher 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 Communications Dispatcher

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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Communications Dispatcher Career Paths

Communications Dispatcher
Dispatcher Medical Assistant Patient Care Coordinator
Office Manager
5 Yearsyrs
Dispatcher Police Officer Officer
Operations Officer
5 Yearsyrs
Dispatcher Coordinator Team Leader
Account Manager
5 Yearsyrs
Emergency Medical Technician Technician Consultant
Information Technology Manager
7 Yearsyrs
Emergency Medical Technician Instructor Executive Assistant
Senior Administrative Assistant
7 Yearsyrs
Emergency Medical Technician Team Leader Owner
Co-Owner
6 Yearsyrs
Police Officer Officer Assistant Manager
Center Manager
6 Yearsyrs
Police Officer Officer Office Manager
Business Office Manager
7 Yearsyrs
Office Assistant Executive Assistant Assistant Manager
Support Manager
5 Yearsyrs
Office Assistant Executive Assistant Office Manager
Administrative Director
8 Yearsyrs
Office Assistant Administrator Customer Service Manager
Call Center Manager
6 Yearsyrs
Correction Officer Loss Prevention Officer Security Supervisor
Security Manager
6 Yearsyrs
Correction Officer Specialist Operation Supervisor
Dispatcher Supervisor
5 Yearsyrs
Correction Officer Technician Operation Supervisor
Fleet Manager
7 Yearsyrs
Certified Nursing Assistant Team Leader President
Commissioner
5 Yearsyrs
Certified Nursing Assistant Instructor Platoon Sergeant
Chief Of Operations
7 Yearsyrs
Certified Nursing Assistant Technician Shop Foreman
Assistant Service Manager
5 Yearsyrs
Medical Assistant Specialist Operations Specialist
Solution Specialist
5 Yearsyrs
Medical Assistant Patient Care Coordinator Patient Care Manager
Account Manager Supervisor
5 Yearsyrs
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Do you work as a Communications Dispatcher?

Help others decide if this is a good career for them

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
Top Careers Before Communications Dispatcher
Cashier 8.3%
Dispatcher 6.9%
Internship 4.5%
Clerk 3.3%
Teller 2.9%
Secretary 2.9%
Supervisor 2.4%
Top Careers After Communications Dispatcher
Dispatcher 11.1%
Cashier 5.2%
Internship 3.3%
Volunteer 2.8%

Do you work as a Communications Dispatcher?

Average Yearly Salary
$30,000
View Detailed Salary Report
$26,000
Min 10%
$30,000
Median 50%
$30,000
Median 50%
$30,000
Median 50%
$30,000
Median 50%
$30,000
Median 50%
$30,000
Median 50%
$30,000
Median 50%
$33,000
Max 90%
Best Paying Company
Kalispell Regional Healthcare
Highest Paying City
Tampa, FL
Highest Paying State
Florida
Avg Experience Level
3.7 years
How much does a Communications Dispatcher make at top companies?
The national average salary for a Communications Dispatcher in the United States is $30,104 per year or $14 per hour. Those in the bottom 10 percent make under $26,000 a year, and the top 10 percent make over $33,000.

How Would You Rate The Salary Of a Communications Dispatcher?

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Top Skills for A Communications Dispatcher

  1. Law Enforcement
  2. Officer Safety
  3. CAD
You can check out examples of real life uses of top skills on resumes here:
  • Obtained essential emergency information and dispatched the needed emergency and/or law enforcement professional to assist caller.
  • Maintain Officer Safety at all times.
  • Verified information received and enters information into the Computer-Aided Dispatch (CAD) system for police and fire dispatch.
  • Provided community and inter agency communications for the police department through various methods.
  • Dispatched emergency response personnel using digital and/or analog voice communications equipment, and/or an emergency computer dispatch systems.

Communications Dispatcher Demographics

Gender

Female

64.0%

Male

27.1%

Unknown

8.9%
Ethnicity

White

61.9%

Hispanic or Latino

15.7%

Black or African American

12.8%

Asian

6.3%

Unknown

3.2%
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Foreign Languages Spoken

Spanish

88.2%

Russian

5.9%

Arabic

5.9%

Communications Dispatcher Education

Schools

University of Phoenix

20.5%

Liberty University

8.0%

The Academy

7.1%

University of South Florida

6.3%

Arizona State University

6.3%

Troy University

5.4%

Hillsborough Community College

5.4%

Valencia College

3.6%

Delgado Community College

3.6%

University of Memphis

3.6%

Colorado Technical University

3.6%

Long Beach City College

3.6%

Fayetteville State University

3.6%

Jackson State University

3.6%

Rockland Community College

2.7%

Fresno City College

2.7%

Hinds Community College

2.7%

American River College

2.7%

Prairie View A & M University

2.7%

California State University - East Bay

2.7%
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Majors

Criminal Justice

21.9%

Business

20.4%

Communication

6.3%

Psychology

6.3%

Nursing

5.0%

Health Care Administration

4.8%

General Studies

4.1%

Accounting

3.8%

Legal Support Services

3.2%

Medical Technician

3.2%

Liberal Arts

2.9%

Human Resources Management

2.7%

Management

2.5%

Medical Assisting Services

2.3%

Sociology

2.0%

Computer Science

1.8%

Education

1.8%

Human Services

1.8%

Cosmetology

1.6%

Fire Science And Protection

1.6%
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Degrees

Other

33.7%

Bachelors

29.8%

Associate

17.1%

Masters

8.6%

Certificate

8.0%

Diploma

1.9%

License

0.4%

Doctorate

0.3%
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Top Communications Dispatcher Employers

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