What Are an Emergency Dispatcher's Training Requirements?

Do you thrive in a stressful environment and remain calm in a crisis? Do you want to help save lives? If so, you might want to pursue a career as an emergency dispatcher. Read on to learn more about the qualifications and training required to become an emergency dispatcher. Schools offering Fire & Emergency Services degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

Career Qualifications

To begin training as an emergency dispatcher, you must first earn a high school diploma or pass the General Educational Development (GED) examination. In addition, because most emergency dispatchers work with police and fire departments, background checks are typically completed on every applicant before training commences. Since emergency dispatch centers are open year-round, 24 hours a day, you must also be willing to work nights, weekends, and irregular hours.

As an emergency dispatcher, you must have excellent communication and listening skills. You must be able to stay calm and work well in high-pressure situations. Computer and telecommunication skills are also necessary because emergency response systems are becoming increasingly computerized.

Important Facts About Emergency Dispatchers

Work Environment Communication center
Similar Occupations Air traffic controller, customer service representative, paramedic
Job Outlook (2016-2026) 8% (for police, fire, and ambulance dispatchers)
Median Salary (2018) $40,660 (for police, fire, and ambulance dispatchers)

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Training Requirements

There are no strict training requirements for becoming an emergency dispatcher. Many enter the career with only a high school diploma or the equivalent and complete three to six months of on-the-job training. In some states, emergency dispatchers are required to complete formal training.

Formal Education

Formal emergency dispatcher training programs are available at police academies, community colleges, and state-recognized training centers. These programs vary in duration and can last from several weeks to up to a year. You can expect to learn through both classroom instruction and hands-on training in call centers. You might also participate in ride-alongs with emergency personnel and shadow experienced emergency dispatchers. Coursework may include:

  • Emergency call processing
  • Computerized dispatch equipment
  • Urgency situation prioritizing
  • Family counseling
  • Criminal law
  • Suicide counseling
  • Hostage situations


Depending on the state in which you want to work, you might need to earn certification. You can usually gain certification through national professional organizations, such as by the National Academies of Emergency Dispatch (NAED), or by completing additional state training programs. In fact, many formal training programs prepare you for or result in emergency dispatcher certification. You are usually also required to become certified in Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (CPR).

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