How to Become a Public Safety Dispatcher:
The Definitive Guide


We’ve all seen the shows where the victim calls 911 and gets greeted with, “What’s your emergency?”

Have you ever thought about what it would be like to say those words on a daily basis?

Could you handle working in a stressful job answering people in their most dire situations?

If you feel that you can help people and stay calm during emergencies, then a job as a Public Safety Dispatcher may be right for you.


What is a Public Safety Dispatcher?

A Public Safety Dispatcher is the first person to pick up the phone when a victim calls for an emergency service like the police or fire department.

They will typically try to talk the victim through the situation, ask questions about what’s happening, and also try and find the victim’s location at the same time.

That’s not all though, a Public Safety Dispatcher alerts emergency services so that the victim can get the help that they need.

All this happens within minutes, multiple times a day.

Duties

It can be a little stressful working as a Public Safety Dispatcher, some of the duties that come with the job include:

  • Receive emergency phone calls
  • Record significant information
  • Dispatch products and services
  • Monitor the route and status of field crew vehicles
  • Provide information about traffic etc.
  • Enter data into a computer

Salary

In the United States, the average salary for a Public Safety Dispatcher is around $34,000 a year.

Those that work in the field of Public Safety as a Dispatcher will likely make around $40,000 a year.

With training, education, experience in the field, and possible certifications, it is likely that the salary can increase.

When just starting out in the business, it is likely that a Public Safety Dispatcher will make around $28,000 a year.

Once you have gained experience, it is likely that your salary will go up.

Some other factors that might affect salary include the population and size of the facility you work for.

  • Annually
  • Monthly
  • Hourly

Annually National Average Salary: $44,310

$27K
$33K
$44K
$52K
$64K
10%
25%
50%
75%
90%

Average Annual Salary by State

StateAvg. Annual Salary
Alabama$32,740
Alaska$58,980
Arizona$42,680
Arkansas$30,760
California$66,480
Colorado$50,460
Connecticut$56,530
Delaware$45,760
District of Columbia$50,360
Florida$43,040
Georgia$33,080
Hawaii$47,720
Idaho$42,110
Illinois$53,100
Indiana$37,670
Iowa$46,820
Kansas$34,910
Kentucky$35,190
Louisiana$33,530
Maine$42,820
Maryland$49,160
Massachusetts$50,150
Michigan$43,720
Minnesota$57,740
Mississippi$27,760
Missouri$37,420
Montana$40,940
Nebraska$37,710
Nevada$54,280
New Hampshire$45,960
New Jersey$47,770
New Mexico$37,100
New York$48,700
North Carolina$36,130
North Dakota$48,240
Ohio$45,820
Oklahoma$32,450
Oregon$57,470
Pennsylvania$42,530
Rhode Island$48,350
South Carolina$33,460
South Dakota$37,800
Tennessee$37,750
Texas$39,640
Utah$40,280
Vermont$46,460
Virginia$39,870
Washington$58,070
West Virginia$30,370
Wisconsin$46,440
Wyoming$42,500
Puerto Rico$19,020

Annual Average Salary: Top 5 States

The top earning state in the field is California, where the average salary is $66,480.

These are the top 5 earning states in the field:

California - $66,480
Alaska - $58,980
Washington - $58,070
Minnesota - $57,740
Oregon - $57,470
*Salary information based on the May 2019 Occupational Employment Statistics (OES) Survey.
Conducted by: Bureau of Labor Statistics, Department of Labor.
* Employment conditions in your area may vary.

How to Become a Public Safety Dispatcher

Step 1Meet Training Requirements

The first thing that you are going to have to do in order to become a Public Safety Dispatcher is to meet the training requirements.

These requirements may vary depending on the place that you apply, but typically these types of requirements include:

  • Have a high school diploma or GED
  • *Sometimes an Associates degree is required, but not always
  • CPR certification
  • Typing skills
  • No prior crimes or convictions
  • Learn conversational Spanish

Since there may be victims who call the dispatching center that does not speak English, it is important to at least learn a small number of different languages so that you can help those who may not understand you.

It is possible that an employer requires that you obtain an Associates’s degree in Criminal Justice.

If so, these programs can take around two years to complete and can be done online as well as on campus.

Some of the courses that you can expect from a Criminal Justice program include:

  • Computer Forensics
  • Corrections
  • Criminal Psychology
  • Anatomy and Physiology
  • Criminal Justice Administration

Among others.

These courses and a degree in this program can lead you to other careers in this field as well.

Some states require that dispatchers have CPR training, this doesn’t take long, a few weeks, and you can get certified almost anywhere.

Step 2Earn Certification

The next thing that you are going to want to do when becoming a Public Safety Dispatcher is to get certified.

Some states require that their Public Safety Dispatcher be certified, and some stays do not have this mandatory certification.

Qualifications for certification may vary, but typically the require class time and the passing of an exam.

It’s also possible to get voluntary certifications through the National Emergency Number Association.

These certifications include:

  • ENP Certification

The ENP Certification is a tool for professionals to show competence as a Public Safety Dispatcher.

In order to be eligible for this certification, you’ll need to:

  • Demonstrate a mastery of the knowledge for emergency number program management.
  • Help to raise industry standards.
  • Confirm commitment to the profession and pledge to stay aware of current issues in development.

Some of the things that you can expect to learn from a Certification in Public Safety Dispatch include:

  • Emergency Services Dispatching
  • Components and Responsibilities
  • Foundation for statewide Competency

Some certifications can take several weeks to earn, while others may take several months, the length of the certification program depends on the school that you attend.

You can earn certification to become a Public Safety Dispatcher online or online campus in many states.

Step 3Become a Senior Dispatcher or Administrator

After you have worked as a Public Safety Dispatcher for many years, you may want to finally go for that promotion.

When you have the experience, getting a job as a Senior Dispatcher or Administrator can be a wonderful idea.

There is even more potential within the field beyond becoming a Senior Dispatcher, it all depends on you and what you want to do with the career.

To become a dispatcher, you need at least a high school diploma.

If you are seeking higher education, an Associates or Bachelors’s degree in Criminal Justice can push you along in this career as well.


Education

In order to become a Public Safety Dispatcher, you will need to have your high school diploma or your GED at least.

Some of the requirements that you may want to think about when deciding whether to become a Public Safety Dispatcher include:

  • Must give fingerprints and DMV records
  • Have a background investigation done
  • Medical examination
  • Oral communication skills evaluation
  • Verbal, reasoning, memory, and perceptual abilities assessment

It is likely that after you are hired in as a Public Safety Dispatcher, you will go through on the job training.

It is important to make sure that the career you want is with Public Safety Dispatchers because the job can be stressful.

Think about these things as you begin your career:

  • Ride along or sit along with people in the field, such as police officers and firefighters
  • Do your research on the agency you work for
  • Get to know the area in which you work

Within a typical training program to become a Public Safety Dispatcher, there are several courses that you may encounter.

These can include, but are not limited to:

  • Professional Orientation and Ethics
  • Criminal Justice System
  • Introduction to Law
  • Interpersonal Communications
  • Telephone Technology and Procedures
  • Domestic Violence
  • Missing Persons
  • Child, Elder, and Dependent Adult Abuse

After the completion of a training program and the passing of an exam, which can vary from a couple of days to several weeks, you will become a Certified Public Safety Dispatcher.

You can expect to have classroom time within the training program, but also have some on-the-job training which means you could be answering phones as early as your first day.

It’s important to be the type of person who likes to help in order to be a success in this career.

A perfect example of a great Public Safety Dispatcher is:

  • A team player
  • Compassionate
  • Flexible
  • Honest
  • Thinks beyond right now
  • Mentor
  • Positive leader

Video About The Career


Certification

There may be several certifications that you can gain as a Public Safety Dispatcher, but this depends on your jurisdiction and the agency in which you work.

Some typical certifications include:

  • Emergency Number Professional
  • Emergency Medical Dispatcher
  • Registered Public-Safety Leader
  • Emergency Police/Fire Dispatch

The Emergency Number Professional Certification consists of taking an exam.

The exam consists of 150 questions representing the major knowledge that was outlined in your training.

The test is competency-based and typically done on the computer.

In order to be eligible for this certification, you need:

  • 3 years of employment

The exam can cost around $400 to take.

The next certification is the Emergency Medical Dispatcher certification.

In order to be eligible for this certification you must:

  • A complete training program with a certificate
  • Have 8 hours of education

You’ll need at least an 80% on this 150 question exam to pass.

Some of the topics that you can expect to cover in the exam for this certification are:

  • EMD Roles and Responsibilities
  • Resource Allocation
  • Anatomy and Physiology
  • National and State Standards
  • Stress Management
  • Quality Assurance

For this certification, you must also be CPR certified through the American Red Cross.

A Registered Public-Safety Leader is another certification available to Public Safety Dispatchers

With this certification, you become a member of the APCO Institute Registry of Public-Safety Leaders.

You’ll learn some interesting things in the training program for this certification, like:

  • Communicating with authority
  • Building and managing high-performance teams
  • Leading with confidence and integrity
  • Making a difference in your community

In order to be eligible for this certification, you must be a Public Safety Dispatcher in good standing.

One more certification that you can get your hands on is the Emergency Police or Emergency Fire Dispatch certification.

This certification is designed for dispatchers in the fire or police field and consists of a 50 question exam.

The exam is a written exam, and you must get 80% to pass.

Some agencies even require that you take a three-day course.

Certification Example:

public safety dispatcher certification

Average Training Program Duration: 0-6 Months

The time that it takes to go through training depends on the certification that you want and the place where you work.

Some employers require three-day training programs before you can take the exam to become certified.

Some let you take it right away.

Talk to your employer to see what the requirements are for you.

Popular Degree Programs


Job Outlook

It appears that the role of a Public Safety will grow around six percent in the next ten years.

This is about as average as other careers within the same field.

Population growth means that more people will need medical and emergency assistance, and this calls for more Public Safety Dispatcher jobs.

There are a few downfalls with this career, one being that it can be stressful.

This leads to many people seeking other employment experiences, but that also means more jobs are opening up.

If you can handle a demanding schedule and stress at work, then you may be a great Public Safety Dispatcher.

Employment Growth Projection: 6%

98,300
2018
103,700
2028

That's a higher than average projected growth of 5,400 jobs.

Safety Dispatcher: Interest Over Time


Should You Become a Public Safety Dispatcher?

Overall Satisfaction: Low

Overall Satisfaction

The job of a Public Safety Dispatcher is incredibly stressful, there is no doubt in that.

People call emergency numbers when they are in scary situations, and it likely will raise a Public Safety Dispatchers’ blood pressure as well.

That is why many people leave this job, however, for those who can handle stressful situations and long hours, this job may be perfect for you.

It’s important to remember that in this position, you will be sitting for long hours and taking many phone calls.

Average Salary: Medium

Average Salary

The average salary for a Public Safety Dispatcher in the United States is around $34,000 a year.

When just starting out in the career, the typical Public Safety Dispatcher can expect to make around $28,000 a year.

With more education, certifications, and experience in the field, it is possible to make around $40,000 a year as a Public Safety Dispatcher.

It is likely that when you first start out working as a Public Safety Dispatcher, you will not have as many skills as someone who has worked in the field for years.

Job Growth Outlook: Low

Job Growth Outlook

The job of a Public Safety Dispatcher will grow around 6 percent within the next ten years.

This means that there will be some new jobs available, but not any more than average in other careers within the same field.

The role of a Public Safety Dispatcher is stressful, which means many people quit and the turnover rate is outstanding.

This job is for people who can stay calm in scary situations, and don’t mind helping others through sometimes the worst day of their lives.

Education Duration: 0-6 Months

Education Duration

The only education that you need in order to become a Public Safety Dispatcher is a high school diploma or a GED.

Some experience that you may like to have is customer service and good oral communication skills.

Any training needed for this job can vary in length by the facility that you work for.

Some training may last a couple of days, while other industries may want you to train for several weeks.

Personal Skills Needed

Personal Skills Needed

As a Public Safety Dispatcher, you’ll spend a lot of time on the phone with victims and people who are having problems.

It takes a special kind of person to be a Public Safety Dispatcher.

Some of the skills you need for this career include:

  • Knowledge of computers
  • Ability to read and follow oral directions
  • Ability to prioritize
  • Maintain respectful relationships
  • Compassion
  • Creativity and ingenuity
  • Empathy
  • Strong desire to serve the community
  • Ability to multitask
  • Self-confidence
  • High degree of emotional self control

Frequently Asked Questions

Q. How much does a Public Safety Dispatcher make?

The average amount of yearly salary for a Public Safety Dispatcher is around $34,000.

For those that are just beginning their careers as Public Safety Dispatchers, the salary can be closer to $28,000 a year.

After training, experience, and often times working in larger dispatch areas, a Public Safety Dispatcher can expect to make around $40,000 a year.

Q. How long does it take to become a Public Safety Dispatcher?

It doesn’t take too long to become a Public Safety Dispatcher.

You’ll need to have a high school diploma or a GED in order to apply for this position.

Then, you will typically have on the job training which can last from a few days to several weeks.

So, it depends on who you work for and what they require, it can take from 3 days to months.

Q. What does a Public Safety Dispatcher do?

A Public Safety Dispatcher is the person that answers the phone when someone calls for emergency services.

The dispatcher will answer the call, and ask the victim questions to determine if they need to send police officers or firefighters to the location.

The Public Safety Dispatcher may also help the caller with CPR, wound care, or other emergency services.

Q. Is there a demand for Public Safety Dispatchers?

Due to the fact that there will always be crime and emergencies, there will always be a demand for Public Safety Dispatchers.

Depending on where you live, the demand can be smaller or higher.

People who live in larger populations will likely have more opportunities to find jobs as a Public Safety Dispatcher.

Many people leave this job, as well, due to the stress.

You’ll want to make sure you are a strong person before entering this career.

Q. How much does it cost to become a Public Safety Dispatcher?

It doesn’t cost much to become a Public Safety Dispatcher.

You don’t need to have any formal education, and typically training is covered by your employer.

If you do need to spend money, it may be on work attire and other necessities for the job.


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