Emergency Medical Dispatcher: Career Profile, Job Outlook and Education Requirements

Research what it takes to become an emergency medical dispatcher. Learn about training requirements, certification, job duties and employment outlook to find out if this is the career for you. Schools offering Fire & Emergency Services degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

Career Information at a Glance

Emergency medical dispatchers (EMDs) alert police departments, fire departments and hospitals when emergency situations occur. Dispatchers answer 911 calls and relay messages to the proper authorities to resolve the situation. They must also know how to effectively communicate with callers. It is also up to them to determine the severity of an emergency and keep record of calls. Learn about the requirements for this career field by taking a look at the following table:

Training/Education Required On-the-job training or an approved telecommunications program
Key Responsibilities Prioritize emergency phone calls, dispatch emergency personnel, instruct callers on emergency medical procedures
Licensure/Certification Licensure or certification required by many states
Job Growth (2014-2024)* -3% for all police, fire and ambulance dispatchers
Median Annual Salary (2015)* $38,010 for all police, fire and ambulance dispatchers

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

What Does an Emergency Medical Dispatcher Do?

The duties of an emergency medical dispatcher include taking emergency calls from the public and alerting the appropriate response agency. They determine the number and type of responders to send to an emergency. They may also provide emergency instructions to callers while they wait for the ambulance and medical technicians to arrive. Additionally, EMDs must determine the severity of the call and prioritize low-ranking calls from high-ranking ones. EMDs generally are a part of a larger force that includes coordination with EMTs (emergency medical technicians), police and firefighters.

What is the Job Outlook?

Police, fire and ambulance dispatchers were expected to experience an average job decline of 3% over the 2014-2024 decade, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Increasing cell phone use and an aging population are expected to result in more emergency phone calls, which may spur a need for dispatchers in the future. However, consolidation of call centers is leading to fewer jobs and more stressed workers. EMDs with good communication skills and a familiarity with computer software could have an edge in the job field.

What Are the Educational Requirements?

Those interested in becoming an emergency medical dispatcher usually have on-the-job training that can last a few days to a few months. An example training program usually ends in a certificate, degree or post-program license. Due to the nature of job, many programs have prerequisites. For example, some programs require individuals to pass certain exams or have certain experience in an area.

Additionally, EMDs may be required to be certified or licensed for work. The type of certification or licensing needed varies state-to-state and may not be as stringent in one location as in another. The Association of Public-Safety Communications Officials (APCO) offers a certification course for prospective emergency medical dispatchers. The course requires fulfilling CPR training, completing an accredited telecommunications program and following a seminar.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

Since this occupation deals heavily with answering phones and talking to people, one may also look at careers in customer service. Customer service representatives talk with customers about numerous issues and inquiries, though their job is typically not as stressful as emergency dispatching. Customer service reps only need a high school education. Air traffic controllers communicate with pilots and monitor aircraft movement. Since their job has more room for error, they need higher training via an associate degree.

To continue researching, browse degree options below for course curriculum, prerequisites and financial aid information. Or, learn more about the subject by reading the related articles below:

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