Online Dispatcher School: How to Choose
Dispatchers are communication specialists who accept requests from clients, schedule the arrival and departure of workers, equipment and vehicles, and monitor operations during transit. They keep accurate records of all work and services performed. Dispatchers work in many industries, including transportation and emergency services. Online dispatcher training is very rare, but some options can be found.
How to Choose an Online Dispatcher School
- Type of dispatcher training
- Program structure
- Technical requirements
- Career outlook
Type of Dispatcher Training
Emergency dispatcher and aircraft dispatcher certificate programs are among the very few online dispatcher programs available. Although aircraft dispatcher training programs are not accredited, they are approved by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). There are also a limited number of continuing education courses available for emergency medical, fire and police dispatching. Standalone Spanish language courses for emergency dispatchers is also available.
Online programs in both emergency and aircraft dispatchers are available in a hybrid format. Online learning takes place first, followed by on-site lab simulations to practice actual dispatching techniques. Prospective students should be aware that although online work can be done at a student's convenience, on-site classes have set schedules and attendance requirements.
Basic technical needs are a computer with high-speed Internet and e-mail access. Standard media software, such as Media Player or Adobe, may be needed. Some schools use a learning management system such as Desire2Learn, with technical support offered 24-7.
Emergency dispatchers made a median annual wage of $33,670 in May 2008, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Overall employment opportunities in the field are expected to grow by 18% between the years of 2008 and 2018 (www.bls.gov).
In May 2008, the BLS reported that aircraft dispatchers earned a median annual wage of $33,850. Job growth is expected to decline slightly, since worker productivity is increasing due to advancing technology. Still, the need to replace workers who leave the industry may result in favorable employment opportunities. Those who are proficient with computers will have an edge in obtaining jobs (www.bls.gov).
List of Online Dispatcher Programs
Emergency Dispatch Certificate
Emergency dispatchers respond to 911 calls for medical, fire and police help. They quickly and accurately assess situations and respond with the appropriate assistance. Emergency dispatchers need to think clearly under pressure and to have good relationship and communication skills.
An emergency dispatch program combines online learning, which can be completed at the student's convenience, with evening lab simulation classes offered on campus. The entire program takes about six months to complete, and graduates are eligible to sit for a national test to become a Certified Emergency Telecommunicator. The program culminates with hands-on practice in a simulated 911 command center. There, students learn to evaluate and handle emergency calls, using state-of-the-art communications technology. Online classes begin with an overview of the criminal justice system and the roles of the police, courts, corrections and lawmakers. Other topics include:
- The function of law enforcement in the U.S.
- How the justice system deals with victims
- Stress management for dispatch workers
Aircraft Dispatch Certificate
Aircraft dispatchers, also known as flight dispatchers, work from a command center on the ground, working with airplane captains to ensure safe takeoffs and landings. They coordinate many flights simultaneously by creating flight plans, releasing planes to fly and monitoring flights in progress. They are authorized to cancel or delay flights when safety is at risk.
Flight dispatchers receive rigorous training commensurate with the importance of their job. Available options include online hybrid programs leading to FAA certification. Students are encouraged to pass the FAA Aircraft Dispatcher computer knowledge exam prior to program enrollment.
Upon completion of online coursework, students spend several weeks onsite using simulators to practice flight dispatching. They must incorporate weather interpretation, flight plans, aircraft balance and ground-to-air communications. FAA certification exams are given at the end of the program, and those who pass are eligible for employment as aircraft dispatchers. Online classes take about four months to complete, and include training in:
- Weather and its associated hazards
- Aircraft systems and operations
- Aeronautical chart-reading
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