Working as a Police Dispatcher

What Does a Police 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.

How To Become a Police 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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Average Salary$39,989
Job Growth Rate6%

Police Dispatcher Jobs

Police Dispatcher Career Paths

Top Careers Before Police Dispatcher
Cashier9.6 %
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Top Careers After Police Dispatcher
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What is the right job for my career path?

Tell us your goals and we'll match you with the rights job to get there.

Average Salary for a Police Dispatcher

Police Dispatchers in America make an average salary of $39,989 per year or $19 per hour. The top 10 percent makes over $54,000 per year, while the bottom 10 percent under $29,000 per year.
Average Salary
$39,989

Best Paying Cities

City
Average Salary

Recently Added Salaries

Job TitleCompanyCompanyStart DateSalary
Police Dispatcher Trainee
Police Dispatcher Trainee
University of Colorado Boulder
University of Colorado Boulder
07/24/2020
07/24/2020
$47,50707/24/2020
$47,507
Police Dispatcher Trainee
Police Dispatcher Trainee
University of Colorado
University of Colorado
07/24/2020
07/24/2020
$47,50707/24/2020
$47,507
Police Dispatcher-Lateral Entry
Police Dispatcher-Lateral Entry
City of Ontario
City of Ontario
07/08/2020
07/08/2020
$89,46107/08/2020
$89,461
Temp/Hourly-Police Dispatcher SY)
Temp/Hourly-Police Dispatcher SY)
Austin Independent School District
Austin Independent School District
06/24/2020
06/24/2020
$37,56606/24/2020
$37,566
Police Dispatcher I/II
Police Dispatcher I/II
University of Colorado
University of Colorado
06/18/2020
06/18/2020
$36,03606/18/2020
$36,036
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Police Dispatcher Demographics

Gender

Female

61.5 %

Male

35.0 %

Unknown

3.5 %
Ethnicity

White

62.5 %

Hispanic or Latino

16.5 %

Black or African American

12.2 %
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Foreign Languages Spoken

Spanish

73.9 %

Arabic

4.5 %

French

2.7 %
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Police Dispatcher Education

Schools

Cuyahoga Community College

9.7 %

Liberty University

8.0 %

Miami Dade College

7.1 %

Kaplan University

6.2 %
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Majors

Criminal Justice

37.0 %

Business

13.3 %

General Studies

5.4 %

Psychology

5.4 %
Show More
Degrees

Bachelors

31.2 %

High School Diploma

25.7 %

Associate

23.2 %

Certificate

10.6 %
Show More

Entry Level Jobs For Becoming A Police Dispatcher

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Part Time
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Top Skills For a Police Dispatcher

The skills section on your resume can be almost as important as the experience section, so you want it to be an accurate portrayal of what you can do. Luckily, we've found all of the skills you'll need so even if you don't have these skills yet, you know what you need to work on. Out of all the resumes we looked through, 10.2% of police dispatchers listed police department on their resume, but soft skills such as empathy and typing skills are important as well.

Best States For a Police Dispatcher

Some places are better than others when it comes to starting a career as a police dispatcher. The best states for people in this position are Delaware, Maryland, Connecticut, and Rhode Island. Police dispatchers make the most in Delaware with an average salary of $58,635. Whereas in Maryland and Connecticut, they would average $58,031 and $57,950, respectively. While police dispatchers would only make an average of $57,397 in Rhode Island, you would still make more there than in the rest of the country. We determined these as the best states based on job availability and pay. By finding the median salary, cost of living, and using the Bureau of Labor Statistics' Location Quotient, we narrowed down our list of states to these four.

1. Rhode Island

Total Police Dispatcher Jobs:
8
Highest 10% Earn:
$90,000
Location Quotient:
0.99
Location Quotient is a measure used by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) to determine how concentrated a certain industry is in a single state compared to the nation as a whole. You can read more about how BLS calculates location quotients here

2. Maryland

Total Police Dispatcher Jobs:
52
Highest 10% Earn:
$91,000
Location Quotient:
0.97
Location Quotient is a measure used by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) to determine how concentrated a certain industry is in a single state compared to the nation as a whole. You can read more about how BLS calculates location quotients here

3. Nevada

Total Police Dispatcher Jobs:
28
Highest 10% Earn:
$84,000
Location Quotient:
1.72
Location Quotient is a measure used by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) to determine how concentrated a certain industry is in a single state compared to the nation as a whole. You can read more about how BLS calculates location quotients here
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Police Dispatcher Resumes

Designing and figuring out what to include on your resume can be tough, not to mention time-consuming. That's why we put together a guide that is designed to help you craft the perfect resume for becoming a police dispatcher. If you're needing extra inspiration, take a look through our selection of templates that are specific to your job.

At Zippia, we went through countless police dispatcher resumes and compiled some information about how best to optimize them. Here are some suggestions based on what we found, divided by the individual sections of the resume itself.

Learn How To Write a Police Dispatcher Resume

At Zippia, we went through countless police dispatcher resumes and compiled some information about how best to optimize them. Here are some suggestions based on what we found, divided by the individual sections of the resume itself.

View Detailed Information

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Top Police Dispatcher Employers

1. City of Cleveland
4.1
Avg. Salary: 
$46,515
Police Dispatchers Hired: 
14+
2. Baltimore County Golf
3.8
Avg. Salary: 
$33,514
Police Dispatchers Hired: 
10+
3. City of Roseville
4.2
Avg. Salary: 
$45,460
Police Dispatchers Hired: 
8+
4. The Philadelphia Housing Authority
4.5
Avg. Salary: 
$43,007
Police Dispatchers Hired: 
7+
5. Valley Emergency Communication
3.9
Avg. Salary: 
$42,212
Police Dispatchers Hired: 
6+
6. City of Cincinnati
4.4
Avg. Salary: 
$45,947
Police Dispatchers Hired: 
6+

Police Dispatcher Videos

Recently Added Police Dispatcher Jobs

Updated October 2, 2020