Police Dispatcher Careers: Salary Information & Job Description

About this article
A police dispatcher's median salary is about $37,000. Is it worth the challenges of the job? See real job descriptions and get the truth about the career outlook to find out if becoming a police dispatcher is right for you.
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Pros and Cons of Being a Police Dispatcher

Police dispatchers play an important role in fighting crime by fielding calls and helping to coordinate an emergency response. Before entering this profession, it's important to consider the pros and cons.

Pros of a Police Dispatcher Career
Satisfaction of helping to save lives*
Paid on-the-job training (about 3-6 months)*
Job growth is expected (8% growth from 2012-2022)*
Professional certification available***

Cons of a Police Dispatcher Career
Needing to perform in highly stressful situations**
Managing emotionally charged communication**
Working irregular shifts and holidays**
Sitting for long periods of time***

Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, **Idaho State Police, ***Association of Public-Safety Communications Officials (APCO)

Job Description

Police dispatchers, sometimes called 911 operators, receive emergency calls and respond to diverse incidents by reporting them to law enforcement and other emergency services as required. As a dispatcher, you're required to question callers to determine the required response, prioritize situations, create detailed records of communications and relay information accurately. Clerical duties, such as filing or maintaining records, are entrusted to many police dispatchers between emergency communications. You may also process information, including arrest records, court documents and National Criminal Database queries.

Job Outlook and Salary Information

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) predicted demand for police dispatchers to increase by 8% between 2012 and 2022 (www.bls.gov). Openings will be created by the need to replace workers who leave the occupation or retire. A factor mitigating growth is that increasingly police dispatchers are consolidated into the same call center to share resources. In May 2014, the BLS estimated that the median salary for fire, ambulance and police dispatchers was around $37,000.

What Are the Requirements?

The minimum educational requirement to become a police dispatcher is earning a high school diploma. Though formal training programs are available that may increase your chances of getting a job, typically, in-service training programs are provided in which you work under the supervision of experienced dispatchers. During this training, you learn the necessary technical, procedural, communication and stress-management skills. Additionally, the following skills may be helpful:

  • Strong communication and interpersonal skills
  • Ability to multitask
  • Comfortable using computers
  • Ability to think clearly and respond appropriately under stress

Job Postings from Actual Employers

In addition to having a clean personal history, employers may require you to have earned professional certifications to demonstrate that you're prepared to assume the required duties. The following police dispatcher job ads from February 2012 illustrate some of the qualifications employers are looking for:

  • A sheriff's office in Kansas is looking for an entry-level candidate who can pass an extensive background check and all pre-service tests and interviews. Applicants must also be U.S. citizens.
  • A Texas department is seeking a police dispatcher who has completed the Basic Telecommunications Operator certification course. Additional preferred qualifications include the completion of certification courses for using the FBI's National Crime Information Center/Texas Crime Information Center (NCIC/TCIC) and the Texas Law Enforcement Telecommunication System (TLETS).
  • A Michigan department is advertising for a police dispatcher with two years of experience who can operate the Law Enforcement Information Network (LEIN) and radio. The dispatcher is required to be available for 12-hour shifts.

How to Get a Competitive Edge

Develop Related Skills

Whether you're entering the field or seeking to advance as a police dispatcher into positions of greater responsibility, this is a profession in which having preferred skills helps you stand out. Though a high school education is the minimum requirement, some police departments seek candidates with some college or bachelor's degrees. According to the BLS, computer skills are a key to more employment opportunities in a profession that, like many others, is growing more technologically complex.

Learn a Second Language

Though solid English skills are essential, being bilingual can help, especially in areas with diverse populations. While being able to speak Spanish can be beneficial in most of the U.S., other areas have large populations with different languages, so it depends on the area you wish to work in. The ability to read and write in that language may also be helpful.

Pursue Continuing Education and Certification

You may also choose to pursue training and certification through a professional organization, such as the Association of Public-Safety Communications Officials-International (APCO). Computer-based courses in topics like crisis negotiations, customer service and stress management are available. You can also take a series of courses to train other police dispatchers and become certified as a Registered Public-Safety Leader through the APCO Institute (www.apco911.org).

Other Career Paths

If you thrive in a high-stress environment and want to earn a higher income, you may consider a career as an air traffic controller. Like police dispatchers, air traffic controllers must have strong memories and possess the ability to concentrate in high pressure situations. In May 2011, the BLS estimated that air traffic controllers earned a median salary of more than $113,000. Competition for these positions is expected to be keen due to budgetary cuts that will limit the amount of new openings.

If you like a dynamic environment where you can multitask but with less stress, you may consider becoming a customer service representative. These individuals work in a variety of industries and assists customers with problems or inquiries into products and services. In May 2011, the BLS indicated that the median annual salary for these professionals was around $31,000. The BLS anticipates that employment opportunities for customer service representatives were expected to increase 15% from 2010-2020.

Popular Schools

  • Online Programs Available
    1. Kaplan University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • Master: Criminal Justice
      • MS in Homeland Security and Emergency Management
    Bachelor's
      • BSCJ: Law Enforcement
      • BS in Corrections
      • Bachelor: Criminal Justice
      • BSCJ: Homeland Security
      • BSCJ: Juvenile Justice
      • BSCJ: Crime Scene Investigation
    Associate's
      • Associate: Criminal Justice
      • AAS in Public Safety and Security
      • AAS in Criminal Justice and Criminology
  • Online Programs Available
    2. Colorado Technical University

    Program Options

    Doctorate
      • Doctor - Management - Criminal Justice
      • Doctorate: Management - Homeland Security
    Master's
      • M.S. - Criminal Justice
      • Master: Management - Homeland Security
      • Master of Science in Homeland Security - Emergency Management and Public Health
      • Master of Science in Homeland Security
      • Master of Science in Criminal Justice - Homeland Security
    Bachelor's
      • BS - Criminal Justice
      • Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice - Cybercrime and Security
  • Online Programs Available
    3. Post University

    Program Options

    Bachelor's
      • B.S. in Criminal Justice
    Associate's
      • A.S. in Criminal Justice
  • Online Programs Available
    4. Regent University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • Master of Arts in Law - Criminal Justice
      • Master of Arts in Law - National Security
      • Master of Public Administration - Emergency Management and Homeland Security
      • Master of Arts in Law - Mediation
    Bachelor's
      • Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice - Law Enforcement
      • Bachelor of Arts in Leadership Studies - Criminal Justice
      • Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice
      • Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice - Corrections
      • Bachelor of Science in Professional Studies - Criminal Justice
      • Bachelor of Science in Paralegal Studies
  • Online Programs Available
    5. Saint Joseph's University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • MS in Criminal Justice Federal Law Enforcement
      • MS in Criminal Justice
      • MS in Criminal Justice Homeland Security
      • MS in Criminal Justice Intelligence & Crime Analysis
      • MS in Criminal Justice Behavior Analysis
      • MS in Criminal Justice Behavior Management
  • Online Programs Available
    6. American InterContinental University

    Program Options

    Bachelor's
      • Bachelor or Science - Criminal Justice: Law Enforcement
      • Bachelor or Science - Criminal Justice: Forensic Science
      • Bachelor or Science - Criminal Justice: Corrections and Case Management
      • Bachelor or Science - Criminal Justice: Generalist
      • Bachelor or Science - Criminal Justice: Homeland Security and Crisis Management
    Associate's
      • Associate of Science in Criminal Justice
  • Online Programs Available
    7. University of the Southwest

    Program Options

    Master's
      • MBA - Law Enforcement & Corrections
  • Online Programs Available
    8. Saint Leo University

    Program Options

    Bachelor's
      • BA: Criminal Justice
      • BA: Criminal Justice - Criminalistics
      • BA: Criminal Justice - Homeland Security
    Associate's
      • AA: Criminal Justice
  • Online Programs Available
    9. Northcentral University

    Program Options

    Doctorate
      • Doctor of Business Admin - Homeland Security: Leadership & Policy
      • Doctor of Business Admin - Criminal Justice
      • PhD in Business Admin - Homeland Security: Leadership & Policy
      • PhD in Business Admin - Criminal Justice
    Master's
      • MBA - Homeland Security
      • MS - Organizational Leadership: Criminal Justice
      • MBA - Criminal Justice
  • Online Programs Available
    10. Utica College

    Program Options

    Master's
      • Master of Professional Studies in Cyber Policy and Risk Analysis
      • MS in Data Science: Financial Crime
    Bachelor's
      • BS in Cybersecurity - Cybercrime and Fraud Investigation
      • Bachelor of Science in Fraud and Financial Crime Investigation
      • BS in Fraud and Financial Crime Investigation - Financial Investigation
      • BS in Fraud and Financial Crime Investigation - Fraud Prevention and Detection

Featured Schools

Kaplan University

  • Master: Criminal Justice
  • BSCJ: Law Enforcement
  • Associate: Criminal Justice

Which subject are you interested in?

Colorado Technical University

  • Doctor - Management - Criminal Justice
  • M.S. - Criminal Justice
  • BS - Criminal Justice

Are you a US citizen?

Post University

  • B.S. in Criminal Justice
  • A.S. in Criminal Justice

Education Level:

Regent University

  • Master of Arts in Law - Criminal Justice
  • Master of Arts in Law - National Security
  • Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice - Law Enforcement
  • Bachelor of Arts in Leadership Studies - Criminal Justice

What is your highest level of education completed?

Saint Joseph's University

  • MS in Criminal Justice Federal Law Enforcement
  • MS in Criminal Justice
  • MS in Criminal Justice Homeland Security

What is your highest level of education completed?

American InterContinental University

  • Bachelor or Science - Criminal Justice: Law Enforcement
  • Bachelor or Science - Criminal Justice: Forensic Science
  • Associate of Science in Criminal Justice

Are you a US citizen?

University of the Southwest

  • MBA - Law Enforcement & Corrections

What is your highest level of education?

Saint Leo University

  • BA: Criminal Justice
  • BA: Criminal Justice - Criminalistics
  • AA: Criminal Justice

What is your highest level of education completed?