How to Become a Fire and Police Dispatcher – In 5 Steps

Emergencies are unexpected but unfortunately, they happen quite often, and when accidents occur, callers need someone they can rely on to help.

Fire and Police Dispatchers have the important job of answering civilian calls to get the right medical and emergency team out to the scene.

Fire and Police Dispatcher

With the correct education, patience, and good judgment, a Fire and Police Dispatcher can be the first one to calm down nervous victims of crimes, collisions, and disasters.

In order to be the best Fire and Police Dispatcher, it’s important to complete the optimum education, train with those who have experience in the field, and work hard to help vulnerable people.

Job Description

A Fire and Police Dispatcher is a skilled and trained person who answers phone calls when people dial 911 for an accident or other mishap.

After taking the call, the Fire and Police Dispatcher will connect the correct emergency service team, such as a fire department, police department, ambulance, or sometimes all teams at once, to the correct location to get the victims the help that they need.

Within the call, a dispatcher has quite a lot of information that they need to obtain, and they will have to relay this information in a timely manner to help people as quickly as possible.

Some of the duties that you will need to do on a daily basis with your career as a Fire and Police Dispatcher are:

  • Receive calls from individuals who have had an accident or emergency
  • Interview callers to gain the most information possible
  • Determine the priority of the call
  • Inform police, fire, or ambulance for the deployment
  • Maintain radio communication with emergency services as well as the caller
  • Search important or necessary records
  • Monitor call logs
  • Provide courtroom testimony if needed
  • Answer questions for non-emergency or low-level emergency calls


In the United States, a Fire and Police Dispatcher can make about $64,459 annually.

That comes out to about $25 per hour or $1,013 each week.

Fire and Police Dispatchers who have the top certification and experience in the field can make up to $88,464 per year.

This is about $42 per hour or $1,701 per week when broken down.

Average salary may vary depending on the size of the city you work in as well as the number of dispatchers in your unit.

Fire and Police Dispatchers who work in larger cities, such as Detroit, will likely have more working hours than someone who lives in a smaller town and works part-time.

Salary Information by State

State Employed Avg. Annual Salary Avg. Hourly Pay Top 10% Annual Salary Bottom 10% Annual Salary
District of Columbia**$46,730$22.47$56,320$32,070
New Hampshire610$49,270$23.69$60,830$39,370
New Jersey4,990$55,600$26.73$76,320$38,310
New Mexico700$40,750$19.59$50,220$30,160
New York5,610$57,860$27.82$78,410$38,980
North Carolina3,630$39,780$19.13$49,680$31,320
North Dakota220$52,050$25.03$60,190$43,780
Rhode Island410$49,860$23.97$60,960$36,460
South Carolina1,160$37,350$17.96$48,890$29,120
South Dakota390$40,160$19.31$49,240$29,910
West Virginia940$35,930$17.28$43,800$26,720
Puerto Rico200$23,440$11.27$30,390$17,680

Annual Average Salary: Top 10 States

The top earning state in the field is California, where the average salary is $73,430.

These are the top 10 earning states in the field:

  • California - $73,430
  • Washington - $64,310
  • Alaska - $63,150
  • Oregon - $62,030
  • Minnesota - $60,640
  • Nevada - $59,290
  • Connecticut - $59,000
  • Illinois - $58,280
  • New York - $57,860
  • New Jersey - $55,600
* Salary information based on the May 2022 Occupational Employment Statistics (OES) Survey for Public Safety Telecommunicators, OCC Code 43-5031, BLS.
* Employment conditions in your area may vary.

Step by Step on How to Become a Fire and Police Dispatcher

1. Earn a High School Diploma

When you are in your teen years, it is important to complete all of your education and earn a high school diploma.

This will set you up for success in the future when you start to apply for entry-level careers in various positions.

You will want to maintain good grades and finish all of your school work so that you can graduate and head out to new experiences.

While in school, you can research important information about Fire and Police Dispatchers so that you understand all that the career entails even before you begin the hiring process.

Consider taking classes that will help you with public speaking, leadership skills, and conflict resolution to ensure a well-rounded knowledge base for when you are ready for your career as a Fire and Police Dispatcher.

2. Have a Clear Background

It is important to have no criminal record if you want to become a Fire and Police Dispatcher.

A background check is important to ensure all dispatchers have no prior misdemeanors, felonies, or convictions to keep everyone safe.

This includes callers, co-workers, and people on the police, fire, and ambulance squad.

You may also need to complete a physical exam and psychological exam before you are able to commit to the career.

Those who have issues physically or psychologically may not be able to perform the job at the most optimum level, which is important when you are dealing with other people’s livelihoods.

3. Apply for a Position

Now that you have completed the background check, you will want to submit your application to any open positions in the area.

You may be able to find something interesting online or you could call the local police or fire department in order to see if they have any openings.

When applying, make sure that you are brushing up on your typing skills and phone usage skills so that you can ace your interview.

An interview will take about thirty minutes to complete, and in that time you will discuss what the job entails as well as any skills or certifications that you will need to have in order to become hired.

4. Take Exam

You’ve got the job, now it is time to take the exam.

This exam is important to showcase how much you know about the career and prepare you for all types of situations that may occur while answering phone calls.

Some employers offer a study guide that you can peruse beforehand, or you can even go online and look up information about what may be on the test.

Tests vary from state to state and even county to county, so check with your local departments to see what you need to know.

When you are ready, take the test at your local police department, which will be in written format or on the computer.

You will have about 85 minutes to answer anywhere between 83 to 113 questions.

On the test, you will be quizzed on:

  • Typing
  • Multitasking
  • Memory recall
  • Data entry
  • Map reading
  • Reasoning
  • Listening

In order to pass the exam, you will need to have a score of at least 60 points.

5. Complete On-the-Job Training

Once your exam has been passed, you’ll be ready to complete your on-the-job training.

This will consist of paid classroom and in-person learning with a mentor or other skilled worker.

You will have about forty hours of training before you will be able to take calls by yourself.

After you have trained and are ready to begin your career alone, you can also earn certification that will help you learn everything possible to succeed in your career as a Fire and Police Dispatcher.

This can be done through the National Emergency Number Association, the Association of Public-Safety Communication Officials, or even the Academy of Emergency Dispatch.

Some states do require some sort of certification before you are able to work as a Fire and Police Dispatcher.

Education Process

When you are ready to consider employment as a Fire and Police Dispatcher, keep in mind that you will need a high school diploma.

You can earn this by attending a four-year high school in a public school setting, private school, or even through a homeschooling program.

A high school diploma is given to people who meet state requirements for education as a teenager.

If you are over the age of 18 and do not have a high school diploma, you can apply for a GED.

A GED is a high school equivalency diploma that you can receive by taking an exam.

After you have already gained employment, you will be introduced to on-the-job training which is paid and will last about forty hours.

This training will teach you the essentials of working as a Fire and Police Dispatcher and will require that you take an exam in order to be fully initiated into the position.

The Fire and Police Dispatcher exam is an 85-minute test that is necessary to take and pass before you can be a dispatcher.

The exam is given at the police or fire department, and you can even find study guides through these departments or online, in order to get the necessary education to pass.

Passing the exam is next on your list, and you can do so by answering all the questions in a timely manner.

In order to pass, you will need at least 60 right answers, and then you will be ready to have full access to the dispatcher station at your local office.

Continued on-the-job future training is necessary and should be done throughout the year to ensure that everything you know about the career is up to date and essential for helping people in their most vulnerable moments.

Licensing and Certification

There are some licensing and certification requirements for certain dispatching units in the United States.

Some areas do not require certification or licensing, but if yours does, you can ask which ones are necessary.

The more popular licenses and certifications for Fire and Police Dispatchers are:

  • Emergency Medical Dispatcher
  • Emergency Medical Technician
  • CPR Certification

The Emergency Medical Dispatcher certification requires in-person or online courses that will explore how to prioritize a call, how to calm down a caller, and much more.

This certification will take about forty hours to complete.

After that, you will need to have 24 hours of continued education every two years to stay certified.

With the Emergency Medical Technician certification, you will gain more extensive knowledge in the area of illness and accidents such as:

  • Emergency Management
  • Pharmacology
  • Paramedic Procedures

In order to complete this certification, you will need to obtain an Associate’s degree at a local community college or public university, which will take about two years of your time.

CPR Certification is not always necessary, as you will have many phone calls and not a lot of in-person or face-to-face interaction with callers, but knowing how to administer CPR can be the difference between life or death in an emergency.

You can become CPR certified in a day if you choose an online course, or you can take them at your local hospital, college, police department, or community center.

CPR certification needs to be renewed every year, and the more that you understand the process of CPR, the better equipped you will be to help people when they or someone they know is choking or not breathing.

These certifications won’t be necessary in every state, so take a look or ask about your local certification procedures to get the right certification or licensing for your area.

Job Outlook

If you are looking to become a Fire and Police Dispatcher, you will likely have an easy time finding a position.

Within the next ten years, this career is expected to grow by about three percent, which is faster than many other careers in the same field.

More than 10,000 career opportunities are open within the United States each year, which is likely due to people retiring, leaving their careers, and gaining promotions within their occupations.

This rise in the need for Fire and Police Dispatchers means that you will likely have a secure career over the next decade.

Some things to consider with this career, are the county that you’ll be dispatching for and the size of the metropolitan areas surrounding.

Even if you live in a small area, accidents and emergencies happen every day, which means you will have an important and impactful career.

Should You Become a Fire and Police Dispatcher?

Overall Satisfaction

Working as a Fire and Police Dispatcher can be quite a rewarding career.

Those who have the right mindset can do wonders in helping people in their most vulnerable situations.

While the stress of the job can be difficult for some to handle, being there for others in their time of need can make up for it.

This will be a job for people who have a strong mindset and have the ability to perform well in stressful situations.

All in all, this is a highly satisfying career with paid training, on-the-job benefits, and possibilities for raises and promotions.

Average Salary

Salary is an important part of any career, and a Fire and Police Dispatcher can make a good living off of their yearly salary.

Typically, a Fire and Police Dispatcher will make around $25 an hour.

This comes out to over $65,000 for full-time employees annually.

Those who work part-time or in smaller cities where they will get paid by call can make less than that in a year.

Fire and Police Dispatchers in larger cities can make upwards of $80,000 a year.

Job Growth Outlook

Issues happen every day that we do not anticipate, and luckily there is someone we can call to help us in our time of need.

That person is a Fire and Police Dispatcher, who helps those unfortunate people with their problems, and since it is likely not going to slow down any time soon, the outlook for this career is great.

Expected to advance about three percent over the next ten years, if you are looking for a career as a Fire and Police Dispatcher, now is the right time to start training.

Education Duration

You won’t need any extra education in order to work as a Fire and Police Dispatcher besides studying for an exam and on-the-job training.

You will need to be a high school graduate or have a GED in order to be considered for this position.

Those who want more certification can take classes and other exams in order to fulfill their desires.

It should take anywhere from four weeks to three months to prepare for the Police and Fire Dispatcher exam.

Personal Skills Needed

Dispatching may seem easy if you think that this career consists of just answering phones, but there are plenty of other important aspects to being a Fire and Police Dispatcher.

Before applying to this position, consider having the following skills:

  • Exceptional communication
  • Compassion for others
  • Ability to multitask
  • Ability to leave work at work
  • Teamwork
  • Control of emotions
  • Computer knowledge
  • Public speaking
  • Ability to understand maps and directions
  • Decision making
  • Listening

If this sounds like you, consider applying for a career as a Fire and Police Dispatcher in your local community.

Frequently Asked Questions

How long do you have to go to school to become a Fire and Police Dispatcher?

You will need to have at least a high school diploma or a GED in order to have this career.

A high school diploma will take four years to complete.

Then, you can apply to the position, take an exam, and complete on-the-job training which can take anywhere from one month to three months.

Certification can take anywhere from a few weeks to six months to obtain different levels of understanding of this career.

You don’t have to do any extensive higher education, but it is important to learn on your own time to understand every aspect of this career.

How much money does a Fire and Police Dispatcher make a year?

Per year, you can expect to make anywhere from $25-$45 dollars per hour working in this field.

The more training and experience you have, the higher your yearly salary.

Other factors that may vary the amount of money you make are the size of the city that you live in as well as if you work full-time or part-time, on-call or volunteer.

What kind of education do you need to be a Fire and Police Dispatcher?

This does depend on where you work, as some areas require certification or extra training, however, you will need to have at least a high school diploma in order to apply to most jurisdictions.

A high school diploma will take about four years to complete, and if you don’t have one, you can obtain a GED, which is as easy as taking an exam to obtain the equivalent of a high school diploma.

Other training may take anywhere from 40 hours to 6 months to complete.

Those who want to become an Emergency Medical Technician will need to have at least two years of education.

Are Fire and Police Dispatchers in high demand?

Yes, accidents happen every day, and there is always a need for people to answer the phone when tragedy strikes.

This can help speed up the police, fire department, or even ambulances to get to the emergency safely and as quickly as possible.

Plus, with many dispatchers retiring or finding other positions, there will be plenty of opportunities in the next ten years to find a great career as a Fire and Police Dispatcher.

What skills do you need to have to be a Fire and Police Dispatcher?

As a Fire and Police Dispatcher, you will be answering phones, so having good communication and listening skills are a must.

You will also need to be calm in highly stressful situations and be able to talk to people in an orderly fashion to get the necessary information to dispatch the correct emergency service team.

Computer, typing, and direction skills are also a must when you are looking to find a career as a Fire and Police Dispatcher.

Chelsea Wilson

About Chelsea Wilson

Chelsea Wilson is the Community Relations Manager for Washington University School of Law’s distance learning LLM degree program, which provides foreign trained attorneys with the opportunity to earn a Master of Laws degree from a top-tier American university from anywhere in the world.

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