911 Police Dispatcher Job Description, Salary & Qualifications

Whenever we see a police officer whiz by with their lights on we often speculate where they are headed. Is it a robbery? Is it an assault? Regardless of what the call is for, we don’t often consider what steps took place previously to get the officer to the that point.

The first point of contact for any call is the police dispatcher. This, often forgotten, job is extremely important and an essential cog in the law enforcement machine. 

For anyone passionate about criminology or providing value to their communities, working as a police dispatcher is a great gateway to the rest of the law enforcement industry.

Alternatively, many choose to be a police dispatcher for the entirety of their careers. As you don’t need a college degree to become a dispatcher it is a perfect steppingstone position. But also takes a level-headed individual with amazing people skills to thrive in this job.

If you’re looking to progress through the ranks of law enforcement or not, being a police dispatcher allows you to contribute to your community and help many people throughout your career. 

What Does a Dispatcher Do?

We know that dispatchers play an important role, but what exactly do they do? You may picture someone in a call center answering phones for hours on end.

While this is part of the job, there is so much more to it than that. There is a lot of pressure involved with the job and many times the dispatcher will also be receiving 911 calls at the same time. This means they must be good multi-taskers as not only are they answering the service calls, but they are also assigning those calls to specific police officers. 

Police dispatchers have a number of daily responsibilities including:

– Carry out queries for wanted-persons and driver’s licenses for the officers

– Answering the initial call from the citizen in need. Many of these calls will be emergencies and likely the caller will be frantic and desperate. 

– Figure out what the problem or emergency is by calmly speaking with the caller

– Ensuring that the appropriate services are provided and sent out to the caller 

– Keep track of all the officers that are on-duty and record their positions 

– Answer any service calls, including 911 and those that are made to the general non-emergency line

– Record all case notes and assign case numbers to each one 

– Using dispatch which is computer-aided and other computer related tasks

– Keep track of traffic on police radio

– Use radios themselves

– Dispatch calls to officers

– Assist officers with sourcing additional services when necessary 

Salary: How Much Does a Dispatcher Make?

The amount that a dispatcher earns is variable and will be dependent on couple different factors. If they have any experience, certifications or relevant education than they may be considered for a higher pay bracket. 

The standard pay for a police dispatcher is around $19.55 per hour. Though they can earn as little as $12.78 per hour or as much as $30.74 per hour depending on some of the above factors. 

What Are the Qualifications to Become a Dispatcher?

Though the educational requirements needed to become a dispatcher are limited, there are a few credentials and skills that will definitely help you get hired and help you in the job as well. 

In regards to educational requirements, you really only need to have your high school diploma in order to be considered for the job. Some jurisdictions may require you to take a civil service exam. 

The experience that will be beneficial to you in a dispatch position will be anything related to customer service. Since you will be speaking with many different types of people, in a variety of different situations, experience dealing with people is a huge asset. Also, being a strong communicator and having a clear speaking voice is essential to success in the position. 

As more industries turn to technical programs and solutions it is important that anyone working as a police dispatcher is computer savvy. Experience with computers or technical-know-how will be a huge asset to you as a dispatcher. The programs used for dispatching are all computerized and with new programs introduced each day you will be required to learn some pretty complicated stuff.  

Skills That Will Benefit You as A Dispatcher

Though not required, there are a few skills and personality traits that will benefit you when pursuing a career as a police dispatcher. 

Compassionate: Dispatchers deal with many people in traumatic situations and sympathy and compassion play a huge role in this job. A passion for helping people is a great asset.

Good Communication: Knowing how to communicate with all types of people is essential to working as a dispatcher. You will talk to people who want to commit suicide, instruct people how to do CPR and handle those who have just witnessed traumatic events. 

Level Head: It will be your job as a dispatcher to help those you speak to remain calm in times of extreme distress. Even in a dire situation it is important that as a dispatcher you keep a level-head to deal properly with the matter. 

Organized: There is a lot of multi-tasking in the job so you will need to keep well organized. 

The Future for Dispatchers 

With the constant advancements in technology people are concerned about their jobs becoming redundant. As a dispatcher, job opportunities are predicted to grow up to 8% within the next 7 years, so it’s got a great outlook. While technologies will replace some duties, the high turnover rate in dispatcher means there will be no shortage of jobs available. 

Environment and Hours

Dispatchers are usually based at a communication center. Here, dispatchers will answer their designated calls, whether that be police or fire or in some cases, all emergency calls. 

While you can find dispatch jobs that offer 8-hour shifts, typically the hours are longer. 12-hour shifts are common, as is overtime. Since law-enforcement never sleeps dispatchers will be required to work nights, weekends and holidays as well. 

How to Get Hired as A Dispatcher 

There are three simple steps to getting hired as a dispatcher. Get experience, take relevant tests and apply. If you already have experience than you can head to our Law Enforcement Job board and start browsing for positions in your area. If not, it’s a good idea to get some experience working in customer service so you will be properly prepped to deal with the pressures of working as a police dispatcher.