Police, Fire, and Ambulance Dispatchers

Every second counts in an emergency. When someone calls 911, they depend on the 911 operators to quickly send the correct help their way for whatever type of emergency has occurred. If you want to help other people get lifesaving help, you may want to consider becoming a police, fire, and ambulance dispatcher.

Police, fire, and ambulance dispatchers (also called 911 operators) send out the correct type of emergency service to the location of the emergency. As an emergency dispatcher, you may be the first human voice that comes into contact with the people issuing the emergency call.

What education and training will I need? Police, fire, and ambulance dispatchers need to have at least a high school diploma. Depending on the state in which you live, you may also need special training or certification from a professional association. You should contact your jurisdiction or state government for more details.
In addition to a high school education and possible certification, you will also need up to six months of on-the-job training once you are hired. This training will give you the knowledge you need to handle incoming 911 calls and to dispatch the appropriate emergency services. It may also be helpful to have a job or educational background in security, customer service, law enforcement, medical services, or safety and rescue protocol.

How much can I earn? On average, police, fire, and ambulance dispatchers earn about $33,000 a year. However, this amount varies widely by state and your experience level. Entry-level dispatchers may earn much less, while very experienced dispatchers in certain areas of the country may earn up to $50,000. Because 911 services operate every day of the week, 24 hours a day and all year long, you may have the opportunity to work nights, evenings, weekends, holidays, or just part time depending on the needs of your jurisdiction—and each of these shifts has a different earning potential.


What is the job outlook? There will always be a need for police, fire, and ambulance dispatchers. In fact, employment in this field is projected to increase by about 18 percent over the next decade, which is faster than the average. This is partly because the massive baby-boomer population will need more emergency medical services as they grow older.

How can I effectively find a dispatcher job? Most cities and jurisdictions post their job openings in the local newspaper, the large nearby metropolitan newspaper, and with online job-search engines. You should regularly check all these sources for new dispatcher openings. And don’t give up—if there aren’t any openings today, there may be some tomorrow as people leave their dispatching jobs for other fields or retirement. The key is to check every day for new listings and not let yourself become discouraged.

How can I increase my hiring potential? To stay relevant in the increasingly automated workplace, you will need to stay on top of new technology and commit to learning new skills. Emergency dispatchers often need to use complex equipment, and familiarity with electronics is a plus. Another way to increase your hiring potential is to make sure you have all the right certifications and training—there may be an optional certification course you can take that will boost your knowledge and look great on your resume.