Emergency Services Dispatcher Education Requirements

Emergency services dispatchers require some formal training. Learn about the education, job duties and certification requirements to see if this is the right career for you.

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Essential Information

Emergency service dispatchers answer emergency phone calls and direct the proper response units to the correct location. They describe pertinent details to police, fire and ambulance departments and may also give callers instructions while emergency assistance is on its way. Completion of a postsecondary education program is not required to become an emergency dispatcher, though many employers require a state-approved training program. Other requirements vary by state, though certification is common.

Required Training High school diploma, state-approved training
Other Requirements Certification
Projected Job Growth 8% between 2012 and 2022*
Median Salary (2013) $37,040*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (for all police, fire and ambulance dispatchers)

Emergency Services Dispatcher Educational Requirements

Becoming an emergency service dispatcher doesn't entail any formal education. According to a 2012 report by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, BLS, (www.bls.gov), police, fire, and ambulance dispatchers typically have a high school diploma or GED, and many must get state certified. Dispatchers typically complete training on the job within the first 3-6 months of employment; however, some employers require that dispatchers complete training through a professional instruction program.

Training Programs

Formal training or certification is required in some states and by many employers. The Association of Public-Safety Communications Officials International (APCO) offers training programs through its APCO Institute (www.apco911.org). Dispatchers who are certified in CPR by a nationally recognized health agency may pursue Emergency Medical Dispatch (EMD) certification by passing an on-campus or online training program. This certification program meets training standards set by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

Curriculum

The EMD program teaches trainees to take emergency calls, notify emergency services and instruct callers before help arrives. The curriculum covers topics such as federal and state regulations, information gathering, stress management and resource sharing. On-campus programs can be completed in four days of full-time classroom and practical instruction. Online programs take six weeks to complete and culminate in a practical demonstration conducted for the instructor via phone conference. EMDs must recertify every two years by earning 24 hours of continuing education and showing proof of CPR certification.

Other Qualifications

Employers typically prefer to hire emergency service technicians with strong technical and communication skills because the position involves computer usage and regular correspondence with clients. Since dispatchers are generally available to the public 24 hours per day and year-round, the ability to work flexible shifts is also important. Emergency service dispatchers must be able to perform under stress and may be required to withhold confidential information.

Career Outlook and Salary Information

The field of police, fire and ambulance dispatchers is expected to grow by 8% over the 2012-2022 decade, per the BLS. The BLS also reported that the median annual salary for this field of workers was $37,040 in May of 2013.

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