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How Can I Become a Freight Dispatcher?

Explore the career requirements for freight dispatchers. Get the facts about education requirements, salary, and potential job growth to determine if this is the right career for you.

What Is a Freight Dispatcher?

Freight dispatchers organize schedules and routes for freight cars and trucks that carry goods to various destinations. They also dispatch freight vehicles on schedule, but in some cases, they may need to dispatch them on short notice in response to emergencies. They must remain in close contact with freight operators, as well as the organizations to which the freight is being dispatched, which usually involves communicating over the radio or sending assignments using computer technology. After dispatching freight vehicles, dispatchers must log the event in order to keep an accurate record of all operations.

The following chart provides an overview for entering this field.

Degree Required High school diploma
Training Required On-the-job training or vocational program
Key Skills Mathematics, communication, computer software, electronics
Job Growth (2018-28) 0% Little to no change (for all dispatchers except police, fire, and ambulance)*
Average Salary for Dispatchers (2018) $42,940 (for all dispatchers except police, fire, and ambulance)*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

To Become a Freight Dispatcher, What Education Do I Need?

A freight dispatcher needs to have a high school diploma or its equivalent. Other preparation typically comes in the form of on-the-job training. Though a few positions mandate little to no preliminary training, most employers give you anywhere from a few days to a few months to learn to operate new technologies and manipulate data at sufficient speeds and accuracy.

For example, Michigan offers a public safety and protective services vocational program that provides the general skills and background knowledge for prospective dispatcher employees. That's followed by about two months of classroom education. In this case, your training culminates in advanced courses or honing job expertise in an entry-level role.

What Skills Should I Develop?

An understanding of basic mathematics, communication, computer software and electronics can help you prepare to become a freight dispatcher. You can start studying these subject areas as early as high school. These fundamentals, combined with a strong ability to manage data sets, can help you cope with pressure and solve problems as they're quickly thrown at you on the job. When applying for a specific position, it may help to know the street layout and traffic patterns of the areas covered by your prospective dispatch.

What Are My Daily Duties?

Technology and computer programs you may work with include the Rail Traffic Track Warrant Control System, the just-in-time system, radio-frequency identification or software that implements auto-routing. You maintain constant contact with supervisors while overseeing freights en route and monitoring subordinates, schedules and freight orders.

Generally, you make these decisions in an office; this may entail spending long hours in front of computer monitors. As a freight dispatcher, you may work weekends, holidays, overtime and occasionally during extreme weather conditions. Some dispatchers belong to local or national unions.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

You could also become a police, fire or ambulance dispatcher. These professionals send out emergency vehicles and personnel in response to emergency calls and alarms. The minimum educational requirement for this job is a high school diploma. You might also be interested in working as an air traffic controller. Air traffic controllers work at air traffic centers, coordinating movements of planes in the air, or at airports, where they coordinate airplane takeoffs and landings, as well as ground movements like baggage vehicles and personnel transportation. You need to have an associate's degree for this job.