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How To Become a Police Dispatcher?

how to become a police dispatcher

Have you ever thought about a career in emergency services but don’t necessarily want to be physically on the scene in the thick of it all?

If so, then maybe you should consider becoming a police dispatcher.

It’s a great way of serving your community without putting yourself in personal danger. It’s also a vital part of providing an effective policing service.

In this article, I’m going to look at the steps needed to become a police dispatcher. There are a number of pre-requisite requirements and skills you’ll need to have and specific training you’ll need to complete before being hired.

So, let’s find out exactly what the job involves and How To Become a Police Dispatcher.

how to become police dispatchers

Police Dispatcher Responsibilities

As a police dispatcher, your main role will be to answer 911 calls and coordinate the relevant emergency service to assist in whatever the problem may be. You’ll need to be able to quickly gather the most important details of the emergency at hand.

This includes the nature of the incident, location details, and any other relevant information that will help coordinate the best response. The dispatcher will then pass these details on to the correct service as quickly and efficiently as possible.

Other duties of a dispatcher’s job include

  • Assigning case numbers.
  • Assessing the level of emergency of a call and prioritizing the response accordingly.
  • Interacting appropriately with law enforcement and emergency services personnel.
  • Knowledge of basic first aid, including CPR, to aid callers who need immediate help.
  • Learning how to operate the various communication technologies and consoles used.
  • Helping callers in stressful situations remain calm until first responders can get to the scene.

Minimum Requirements For The Job

You must meet these basic requirements to become a police dispatcher in the United States.

  • Be a US citizen or permanent resident.
  • Be a minimum of 18 years old.
  • Possess the mental capacity to carry out the basic requirements of the job.
  • Have a clean criminal record.
  • Be able to pass a standard background check and attain a security clearance.
  • Be a trustworthy person of good moral character.
  • Have completed high school – You must have a high school diploma or a GED as a minimum educational achievement. You do not need to have a college or university degree to seek work as a police dispatcher.

Gaining The Relevant Experience

Although you can be as young as 18 years old, it will aid you tremendously if you have work experience in similar fields. These include any other kind of call-center work and customer service-related positions. Administrative experience is also invaluable.

Those without related experience will almost certainly be placed at the bottom of any list of applicants. If this describes you, seek out jobs where you can gain experience interacting with members of the public whilst also advancing your computer-based skills.

Start in customer services…

Customer service departments are a great place to learn how to deal with stressed members of the public. It’s not quite the same situation as handling emergency calls, but it’s a good stepping stone all the same.

Having an extensive knowledge of the geographic area, you plan to work in will also work in your favor. If you’re intimately familiar with street names, shop locations, and the landmarks of your town or city, this will aid immensely when fielding calls and passing information on.

Beneficial Character Traits And Skills

There are a range of characteristics and skills you should aim to develop if you want to become an effective police dispatcher. These include:


You must have the ability to stay composed in stressful situations. If you are unable to control your emotional reactions in demanding circumstances, you won’t make a good police dispatcher.

Communication skills

The ability to clearly and effectively communicate with both callers and first responders is vital.

Organizational skills

Being a police dispatcher requires competent logistical skills and the ability to juggle several tasks at the same time.

Decision-making ability

You’ll need to make quick judgments on the severity of the emergency and be able to prioritize which calls require the fastest reaction.

Computer literacy

Fast typing skills are important to develop before you apply. You’ll need to be able to type a minimum of 35 words per minute with 90% accuracy. A basic understanding of programs like Excel spreadsheets will also help.

Have a degree of compassion and empathy

As you’ll be talking to people in a range of stressful situations, your ability to empathize will help to calm things down.

The Background Check

As previously mentioned, when applying for a job as a police dispatcher, you’ll have to pass the same background check that all candidates for law enforcement and emergency response positions have to undergo. This is because you’ll have access to people’s private information and sensitive police information.

This will include the following

  • Criminal history – Any arrests or convictions will be looked at. A felony conviction will typically likely disqualify you from a position as a police dispatcher. Minor infractions will be looked at on a case-to-case basis by the hiring manager.
  • Family history – Your family background may also be looked at to determine any immediate criminal history. Child support history will also be looked at.
  • You may have to undergo a polygraph test to ascertain whether the information you’ve provided is honest. This will vary depending on which police force you’re applying to.

how to become police dispatcher guide

Getting Certified

It varies from state to state, but most will require you to pass an official 911 dispatcher certification exam. This will cover subjects including the legal and liability aspects of the job, CPR training, and how to guide people through it over the phone, information retrieval, and stress management.

Find out what certification your state requires and ask for any study guides for the exam that your local police department may have. Groups like The National Emergency Numbers Association also provide unofficial voluntary certifications that will help you pass the exam and also look good on your application.

Get hired And Complete Training

If you meet all the basic requirements and pass the exam, you shouldn’t have any problems getting hired as a police dispatcher. From here, you’ll receive the extra training required to do the job properly. You’ll practice fielding a range of calls from a variety of scenarios, learn how to use the technology properly, and become familiar with all the rules and regulations that oversee your particular dispatch center.

Once this is complete, you’ll be ready to handle the stresses of work as a fully qualified police dispatcher.

Police dispatch call centers are manned around the clock, and the minimum shift you’ll be putting in will be eight hours. Be prepared to work at any time of the day. Rotating shifts are the norm, and there’s always a lot of overtime available if you want it.

Pass Your Exam And Get To Work!

We found these great study guides and handbooks such as Master the Public Safety Dispatcher/911 Operator Exam and the Police Dispatcher (C-2256): Passbooks Study Guide for your studies, or how about Everything on the Line: Calming & De-escalation of Aggressive & Mentally Ill Individuals on the Phone: A Comprehensive Guidebook for Emergency Dispatch.

Furthermore, we also recommend Tell Me Exactly What Happened: Dispatches from 911, and The Resilient 911 Professional – A Comprehensive Guide to Surviving & Thriving Together in the 9-1-1 Center, or how about Got Warrants?: Dispatches from the Dooryard, and In-Depth Police Dispatching all available online in 2023.

Although, if you’re interested in alternative law enforcement positions, then check out my Police Officer Job Description and Police Officer Interview Questions, as well as my Crime Scene Investigator Job Description, or my guides on How To Become A Detective and How To Become A CIA Agent, which could be a very exciting career path!

Final Thoughts

So now you’re familiar with what’s required to become a police dispatcher and what the job entails. Do you think you have what it takes?

This work certainly isn’t for everyone. But with the right temperament and training, you could become a valued cog in the wheel of your local emergency response team. And there aren’t too many better ways to give back to your community than that.

Good luck, and remember to stay calm!

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About Carmen Smith

Carmen grew up in San Diago but now lives in Boston. She loves traveling, experiencing other cultures, and basically exploring the world, be country at a time.

Her other passion is helping people find the perfect career. We spend 33% of our working lives at work, so it's ridiculous that many people do jobs that they do not enjoy. Carmen wants to change this and thinks that anyone who isn't happy in their employment should keep looking until they find something that they really enjoy. 

She firmly believes that "Everyone's perfect job is out there; it's just a case of continually looking until you find it."

Carmen lives with her husband Johnny, a keen birder who also loves to travel. He finds birds while Carmen makes plans for where they will be eating next...

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