Police, Fire, and Ambulance Dispatchers: Salary, career path, job outlook, education and more

Education Required
Most dispatchers are required to have a high school diploma.
Training Required
Training requirements vary by state. The Association of Public-Safety Communications Officials (APCO International) provides a list of states requiring training and certification.
Job Outlook
The projected percent change in employment from 2016 to 2026: 8% (As fast as average)
(The average growth rate for all occupations is 7 percent.)
Advancement
Training and additional certifications can help dispatchers become senior dispatchers or supervisors. Additional education and related work experience may be helpful in advancing to management-level positions.
Licenses/Certifications
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.
Median pay: How much do Police, Fire, and Ambulance Dispatchers make?
$38,870 Annual Salary
$18.69 per hour

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

What do Police, Fire, and Ambulance Dispatchers do?

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
  • 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.

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 provide first aid at the scene until emergency medical services arrive. At other times they may advise callers on how to remain safe while waiting for assistance.

Careers for Police, Fire, and Ambulance Dispatchers

  • 911 dispatchers
  • 911 operators
  • Ambulance dispatchers
  • Emergency communications dispatchers
  • Emergency communications operators
  • Emergency medical dispatchers
  • Emergency operators
  • Emergency telecommunications dispatchers
  • Fire dispatchers
  • Police dispatchers
  • Police radio dispatchers
  • Public safety communications officers
  • Public safety dispatchers
  • Public safety telecommunicators

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