How Do I Become an Emergency Dispatcher?

G. Wiesen
G. Wiesen
An emergency dispatcher may handle 911 calls.
An emergency dispatcher may handle 911 calls.

If you would like to become an emergency dispatcher, then there are a number of requirements you need to meet. In general, a high school diploma or equivalent certification is all that is required as far as education. You do need to be able to pass a background check, however, as emergency dispatchers work with police and other agencies privy to sensitive information. In addition, you should have strong communication skills, the ability to remain calm under pressure, and be prepared for several months of training once you are hired.

Many dispatchers take calls from people who need emergency medical assistance.
Many dispatchers take calls from people who need emergency medical assistance.

You should have a high school diploma, or equivalency through a general education development (GED) program, to become an emergency dispatcher. No college education is required for this position, though you might want to become certified in cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) if you want to become an emergency dispatcher for medical calls. In the US, for example, you typically need CPR certification to qualify for further testing to become certified in emergency medical dispatch (EMD). EMD certification involves training and tests to prepare you for handling medical calls in which you may need to assess a situation and provide instructions on CPR and other emergency procedures.

Once you have any required certification, then you can apply to become an emergency dispatcher in your area. This is typically a government position, so you need to apply with the regional or federal agency in your area that handles these jobs. You should expect the entire application process to take several weeks or more, since the application itself is quite lengthy and a background check is likely to be performed on you. As you move through the process to become an emergency dispatcher, you may also need to undergo a psychological examination to ensure you can handle the stress involved with this job.

You should be sure that you are someone who can deal with the realities of the work once you become an emergency dispatcher. This can be a very stressful job, and the psychological strain of what dispatchers hear on calls can be quite intense. You should expect several months of on-the-job training once you are hired, and ongoing training or certification may be required every few years as well. It may also be easier for you to become an emergency dispatcher if you have an open schedule, as many counties and cities prefer dispatchers who can work overnight and weekends when necessary.

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    • An emergency dispatcher may handle 911 calls.
      An emergency dispatcher may handle 911 calls.
    • Many dispatchers take calls from people who need emergency medical assistance.
      Many dispatchers take calls from people who need emergency medical assistance.