(Please note: this article does not include information about police, fire, or ambulance dispatchers.)
Without dispatchers, the transportation, construction, and cargo industries would descend into chaos. Dispatchers keep things flowing smoothly by scheduling and dispatching passengers, workers, service vehicles, materials, and equipment from one place to another. They are the organizational backbone of many industries. They decide who and what to send to a particular place, and when to do it.
If you are considering a dispatching job, here’s what you need to know:
- You should have a high school education. For most dispatching jobs, a high school education is sufficient. If you don’t have a high school diploma, you may want to consider earning your GED, which will open up your job options. In addition to being a requirement for employment, a high school education shows that you’ve learned important organizational and time-management skills necessary for being a dispatcher. On average, dispatchers make about $33,000 a year, give or take a little depending on education and experience.
- On-the-job training will be provided. Dispatching jobs vary widely in their descriptions. If you work in the transportation industry, for example, you will monitor and control certain vehicles and keep a record of that activity. If you work in the service industry, you will have a different set of tasks, such as handling calls from customers experiencing problems with their utilities, phone service, television signals, or whatever the service may be. Because dispatching tasks vary across industries and companies, you should plan to spend the first several weeks or more in training. Some companies may even have a dispatcher training course that you will need to complete before you begin working.
- Computer skills are a plus. Dispatchers often use computer programs to do their jobs. Computers help dispatchers organize complicated schedules and input data, as well as coordinate dispatch work across different departments. Knowing your way around a computer will help you immensely during the training process.
- Gain experience to boost your resume. Employment growth in the dispatching industry is expected to decline slightly over the next decade due to increasing worker productivity (and therefore a reduced need for dispatching worker-hours). If you want to stay relevant in today’s workforce, you will need to gain experience in a variety of dispatching settings. You should also keep updated on computer programs and trends in your industry—the better jobs will go to those who have more experience and better technical skills.
- Schedules may be flexible. Because some dispatching departments operate on a 24-hour basis, you may have the opportunity to work weekends, evenings, or nights. Depending on your other activities and lifestyle, this flexibility may be a benefit. If dispatching is going to be your second job, for example, you may benefit from working evenings or weekends after your primary job.
- You need a good eye for detail. In many ways, dispatching is like solving a puzzle. Dispatchers use their computers to analyze scheduling information and delivery needs to come up with a travel plan that maximizes time and resources. For example, if you are dispatching cargo vehicles to pick up materials from trains, then you will need to understand and analyze both train schedules and cargo truck schedules in order to match up the right trucks with the correct trains.
- You should have good communication skills. Or at least you should have the desire to work on your communication skills. Dispatchers often need to work with several departments and individuals to come up with an effective dispatch plan for each task and day. In addition to good interpersonal communication skills, you may also benefit from knowing the region well enough to effectively plan and explain travel routes for other drivers and other dispatchers.