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Career profile Emergency Services Dispatcher

Also known as 911 Dispatcher, Communications Officer, Communications Operator, Communications Specialist, Dispatcher, Emergency Communications Operator (ECO), Police Dispatcher, Public Safety Dispatcher, Telecommunicator

Emergency Services Dispatcher

Also known as 911 Dispatcher, Communications Officer, Communications Operator

Interests Profile
  • Conventional
  • Realistic
  • Enterprising
Pay Range
$28,040 - $67,150 (annual)
Required Skills
  • Active Listening
  • Speaking
  • Social Perceptiveness
Knowledge Areas
  • Customer and Personal Service
  • Public Safety and Security
  • Telecommunications
Core tasks
  • Question callers to determine their locations and the nature of their problems to determine type of response needed.
  • Determine response requirements and relative priorities of situations, and dispatch units in accordance with established procedures.
  • Record details of calls, dispatches, and messages.
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What does an Emergency Services Dispatcher do?

Emergency Services Dispatchers operate telephone, radio, or other communication systems to receive and communicate requests for emergency assistance at 9-1-1 public safety answering points and emergency operations centers.

In addition, Emergency Services Dispatchers

  • take information from the public and other sources regarding crimes, threats, disturbances, acts of terrorism, fires, medical emergencies, and other public safety matters,
  • may coordinate and provide information to law enforcement and emergency response personnel,
  • may access sensitive databases and other information sources as needed,
  • may provide additional instructions to callers based on knowledge of and certification in law enforcement, fire, or emergency medical procedures.

What kind of tasks does an Emergency Services Dispatcher perform regularly?

Emergency Services Dispatchers are often responsible for overseeing or executing some or all of the following tasks:

  • Question callers to determine their locations and the nature of their problems to determine type of response needed.
  • Determine response requirements and relative priorities of situations, and dispatch units in accordance with established procedures.
  • Record details of calls, dispatches, and messages.
  • Receive incoming telephone or alarm system calls regarding emergency and non-emergency police and fire service, emergency ambulance service, information, and after-hours calls for departments within a city.
  • Scan status charts and computer screens, and contact emergency response field units to determine emergency units available for dispatch.
  • Enter, update, and retrieve information from teletype networks and computerized data systems regarding such things as wanted persons, stolen property, vehicle registration, and stolen vehicles.
  • Relay information and messages to and from emergency sites, to law enforcement agencies, and to all other individuals or groups requiring notification.
  • Observe alarm registers and scan maps to determine whether a specific emergency is in the dispatch service area.
  • Maintain access to, and security of, highly sensitive materials.
  • Monitor various radio frequencies, such as those used by public works departments, school security, and civil defense, to stay apprised of developing situations.
  • Read and effectively interpret small-scale maps and information from a computer screen to determine locations and provide directions.
  • Maintain files of information relating to emergency calls, such as personnel rosters and emergency call-out and pager files.
  • Learn material and pass required tests for certification.
  • Answer routine inquiries, and refer calls not requiring dispatches to appropriate departments and agencies.

The above responsibilities are specific to Emergency Services Dispatchers. More generally, Emergency Services Dispatchers are involved in several broader types of activities:

Working with Computers
Using computers and computer systems (including hardware and software) to program, write software, set up functions, enter data, or process information.
Communicating with People Outside the Organization
Communicating with people outside the organization, representing the organization to customers, the public, government, and other external sources. This information can be exchanged in person, in writing, or by telephone or e-mail.
Getting Information
Observing, receiving, and otherwise obtaining information from all relevant sources.
Documenting/Recording Information
Entering, transcribing, recording, storing, or maintaining information in written or electronic/magnetic form.
Communicating with Supervisors, Peers, or Subordinates
Providing information to supervisors, co-workers, and subordinates by telephone, in written form, e-mail, or in person.

What is an Emergency Services Dispatcher salary?

The median salary for an Emergency Services Dispatcher is $43,290, and the average salary is $45,800. Both the median and average roughly describe the middle of the Emergency Services Dispatcher salary range, but the average is more easily affected by extremely high or low salaries.

Many Emergency Services Dispatchers earn significantly more or less than the average, due to several factors. About 10% of Emergency Services Dispatchers earn less than $28,040 per year, 25% earn less than $34,630, 75% earn less than $54,370, and 90% earn less than $67,150.

Between the years of 2020 and 2030, the number of Emergency Services Dispatchers is expected to change by 8.2%, and there should be roughly 9,800 open positions for Emergency Services Dispatchers every year.

Median annual salary
Typical salary range
$28,040 - $67,150
Projected growth (2020 - 2030)

What personality traits are common among Emergency Services Dispatchers?


Career interests describe a person's preferences for different types of working environments and activities. When a person's interest match the demands of an occupation, people are usually more engaged and satisfied in that role.

Compared to most occupations, those who work as an Emergency Services Dispatcher are usually higher in their Conventional, Realistic, and Enterprising interests.

Emergency Services Dispatchers typically have very strong Conventional interests. Conventional occupations frequently involve following set procedures and routines. These occupations can include working with data and details more than with ideas. Usually there is a clear line of authority to follow.

Also, Emergency Services Dispatchers typically have moderate Realistic interests. Realistic occupations frequently involve work activities that include practical, hands-on problems and solutions. They often deal with plants, animals, and real-world materials like wood, tools, and machinery. Many of the occupations require working outside, and do not involve a lot of paperwork or working closely with others.

Lastly, Emergency Services Dispatchers typically have moderate Enterprising interests. Enterprising occupations frequently involve starting up and carrying out projects. These occupations can involve leading people and making many decisions. Sometimes they require risk taking and often deal with business.


People differ in their values, or what is most important to them for building job satisfaction and fulfillment.

Compared to most people, those working as an Emergency Services Dispatcher tend to value Relationships, Support, and Achievement.

Most importantly, Emergency Services Dispatchers very strongly value Relationships. Occupations that satisfy this work value allow employees to provide service to others and work with co-workers in a friendly non-competitive environment.

Second, Emergency Services Dispatchers very strongly value Support. Occupations that satisfy this work value offer supportive management that stands behind employees.

Lastly, Emergency Services Dispatchers moderately value Achievement. Occupations that satisfy this work value are results oriented and allow employees to use their strongest abilities, giving them a feeling of accomplishment.

Psychological Demands

Each occupation brings its own set of psychological demands, which describe the characteristics necessary to perform the job well.

In order to perform their job successfully, people who work as Emergency Services Dispatchers must consistently demonstrate qualities such as stress tolerance, dependability, and attention to detail.

Below, you'll find a list of qualities typically required of Emergency Services Dispatchers, ranked by importance:

Stress Tolerance
Job requires accepting criticism and dealing calmly and effectively with high-stress situations.
Job requires being reliable, responsible, and dependable, and fulfilling obligations.
Attention to Detail
Job requires being careful about detail and thorough in completing work tasks.
Job requires maintaining composure, keeping emotions in check, controlling anger, and avoiding aggressive behavior, even in very difficult situations.
Job requires being honest and ethical.

What education and training do Emergency Services Dispatchers need?

Working as an Emergency Services Dispatcher usually requires a high school diploma.

Emergency Services Dispatchers need anywhere from a few months to one year of working with experienced employees. A recognized apprenticeship program may be associated with this occupation.

Educational degrees among Emergency Services Dispatchers

  • 0.9% did not complete high school or secondary school
  • 22.4% completed high school or secondary school
  • 38.8% completed some college coursework
  • 16.1% earned a Associate's degree
  • 18.7% earned a Bachelor's degree
  • 2.8% earned a Master's degree
  • 0.3% earned a doctorate or professional degree

Knowledge and expertise required by Emergency Services Dispatchers

Emergency Services Dispatchers may benefit from understanding of specialized subject areas, such as customer and personal service, public safety and security, or telecommunications knowledge.

The list below shows several areas in which most Emergency Services Dispatchers might want to build proficiency, ranked by importance.

Customer and Personal Service
Knowledge of principles and processes for providing customer and personal services. This includes customer needs assessment, meeting quality standards for services, and evaluation of customer satisfaction.
Public Safety and Security
Knowledge of relevant equipment, policies, procedures, and strategies to promote effective local, state, or national security operations for the protection of people, data, property, and institutions.
Knowledge of transmission, broadcasting, switching, control, and operation of telecommunications systems.
Knowledge of administrative and office procedures and systems such as word processing, managing files and records, stenography and transcription, designing forms, and workplace terminology.
Law and Government
Knowledge of laws, legal codes, court procedures, precedents, government regulations, executive orders, agency rules, and the democratic political process.

Important Abilities needed by Emergency Services Dispatchers

Emergency Services Dispatchers must develop a particular set of abilities to perform their job well. Abilities are individual capacities that influence a person's information processing, sensory perception, motor coordination, and physical strength or endurance. Individuals may naturally have certain abilities without explicit training, but most abilities can be sharpened somewhat through practice.

For example, Emergency Services Dispatchers need abilities such as oral expression, oral comprehension, and speech recognition in order to perform their job at a high level. The list below shows several important abilities for Emergency Services Dispatchers, ranked by their relative importance.

Oral Expression
The ability to communicate information and ideas in speaking so others will understand.
Oral Comprehension
The ability to listen to and understand information and ideas presented through spoken words and sentences.
Speech Recognition
The ability to identify and understand the speech of another person.
Problem Sensitivity
The ability to tell when something is wrong or is likely to go wrong. It does not involve solving the problem, only recognizing that there is a problem.
Selective Attention
The ability to concentrate on a task over a period of time without being distracted.

Critical Skills needed by Emergency Services Dispatchers

Skills are developed capacities that enable people to function effectively in real-world settings. Unlike abilities, skills are typically easier to build through practice and experience. Skills influence effectiveness in areas such as learning, working with others, design, troubleshooting, and more.

Emergency Services Dispatchers frequently use skills like active listening, speaking, and social perceptiveness to perform their job effectively. The list below shows several critical skills for Emergency Services Dispatchers, ranked by their relative importance.

Active Listening
Giving full attention to what other people are saying, taking time to understand the points being made, asking questions as appropriate, and not interrupting at inappropriate times.
Talking to others to convey information effectively.
Social Perceptiveness
Being aware of others' reactions and understanding why they react as they do.
Critical Thinking
Using logic and reasoning to identify the strengths and weaknesses of alternative solutions, conclusions, or approaches to problems.
Reading Comprehension
Understanding written sentences and paragraphs in work-related documents.

What is the source of this information?

The information provided on this page is adapted from data and descriptions published by the U.S. Department of Labor, Employment and Training Administration under the CC BY 4.0 license. TraitLab has modified some information for ease of use and reading, and the U.S. Department of Labor, Employment, and Training Administration has not approved, endorsed, or tested these modifications.

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