Dispatcher Job Description, Qualifications, and Career Outlook
With responsibilities varying depending on the industry in which the job takes place, the dispatcher job description can be hugely different from one employer to another. We’re mostly going to focus on the 911 dispatcher job description, although we will also talk a bit about others, such as the truck dispatcher job description and the other dispatcher roles and responsibilities.
Also called public safety telecommunicators, the men and women who work as dispatchers for emergency services are easily some of the most focused individuals out there. The same quality applies to all types of dispatchers, be they in logistics, in an airport, in a tow truck company, in security, or otherwise employed. But more specifically, what is a dispatcher’s job description?
Dispatcher Job Description Overview
Before moving any further, we must issue a short disclaimer. This article will not be long enough to afford us the opportunity to write about all types of dispatchers, so we will mostly focus on the emergency dispatcher job description. If it is relevant, we will occasionally mention where other dispatcher job descriptions vary.
Regardless of whether they work in EMS – be it police or ambulance –, as a courier, as an airline clerk, in a warehouse, or even on an aircraft or HVAC, dispatchers must be available to work at all times. Because of the extra-long work days and highly stressful work environment, all dispatchers are required to have nerves of steel, quick reflexes, and very quick wit.
While most emergency dispatch workers are only required to have a high school degree, in many states it’s common for the average operator to have to become certified. With an average median salary of $38,010 reported in 2015, the dispatcher job description is one that is learned in days and mastered in a lifetime.
Dispatcher Job Description Responsibilities
Whether we’re talking about the police dispatcher job description or the transportation dispatcher job description, they both have a lot of responsibilities in common. While EMS workers do have more responsibilities and a much more stressful job, most other types of dispatchers also have similar responsibilities.
Whether one is applying for the flight dispatcher, towing company dispatcher, trucking service dispatcher, train safety supervising dispatcher, but especially for a position as an EMS dispatcher, the personal and technical skill sets they must meet are the following:
- operating a multi-line console telephone system
- operating an alert system
- operating a TDD system for the hearing impaired
- determining the priority level of a code
- assigning a priority level to a code
- translating information to the appropriate codes
- entering the data into the computer system
- performing emergency medical dispatch services
- performing crisis intervention services
- asking vital questions
- providing instructions before the arrival of the emergency response team
- operating computer equipment and a radio console
- handling the reception and responding to a wide array of emergency and non-emergency complaints and services
- asking questions
- determining the caller situation via interpretation, analyses, and anticipation
- helping with solving problems
- providing information
- dispatching emergency services
- referring the call to other agencies
- coordinating the response of various public safety agencies
- identifying the type of equipment, apparatus, or number to use under different circumstances
- entering and changing information in national, state, and local computer databases
- monitoring and responding to a number of alarms and technical systems
As for the requirements of the job, other than a high school diploma and a certification in a number of states there are also a number of personal and technical requirements that must be met for the candidate to be considered for the position.
Of course, these vary from job to job and from type of dispatch to type of dispatch, but the usual qualities necessary for the dispatcher job descriptions are as follows:
- good interpersonal skills
- the ability to keep and develop professional and cooperative relations with colleagues, supervisors, and representatives from other departments
- good logic skills
- using reason and logic to approach problems and reach conclusions
- critical thinking
- high wits
- great decision-making skills
- quickly evaluating situations
- quickly establishing priorities
- quickly resolving issues
- a very high-stress tolerance
- skillful at active listening
- clear speech
- great hearing
- impeccable communication skills
- great writing and spelling skills
- being able to follow complex instructions
- confidence in one’s decision-making skills
- the ability to quickly and rationally establish priorities
Dispatcher Qualifications and Training
Most companies in need of dispatchers, be they for an alarm system company, for a cab dispatch, or even for coordinating bus drivers offer training on the job. Even if the potential employee has experience as a dispatcher, some procedures can be totally different from one company to another.
Of course, one of the most important training programs in any dispatcher job description takes place for future 911 dispatchers. Particularly for those wishing to get a certification, the training programs usually take place either through a national association, through the state, or both.
Some of the most sought-after certification programs in the United States include:
- Emergency Medical Dispatcher Certification (EMD)
- Registered Public-Safety Leader Certification (RPL)
- Emergency Number Professional (ENP)
- Emergency Telecommunicator Certification (ETC)
- Emergency Fire Dispatcher Certification (EFD)
- Emergency Police Dispatch Certification (EPD)
- Emergency Dispatch Quality Assurance Certification for Medical, Fire and Police Dispatchers (ED-Q)
Dispatcher Working Hours
Most police, ambulance, and fire dispatchers tend to work in highly stressful environments. This isn’t owed to just the calls they receive, but also to their constant chaotic schedules. The long, tiring hours, combined with the constant need for emergency services makes the dispatcher job description a very exhausting one.
Emergency dispatchers often have to work overtime, weekend, nights, and holidays. Plus, twelve-hour shifts tend to be very common. As for the other types of dispatchers, it all depends on the company of employment. Plus, experience is also a factor. A dispatch manager will always have priority for a reduced work day over an assistant.
This is one those types of jobs where experience isn’t at all mandatory, but where it can make all the difference. Of course, particularly when talking about EMS dispatch, most employers tend to hire people who can work under pressure and who know what they’re doing. So, while it isn’t mandatory to have experience in order to get the job, it’s certainly an advantage to have some.
Other types of dispatcher positions tend to focus less on experience and more on the personal skills of each candidate. If lives aren’t on the line, an employer would much rather have someone qualified to get the job done rather than someone who is simply effective and straight-to-the-point.
There is both good news and bad news when talking about the job outlook of your average dispatcher. First of all, the employment levels of people with the EMS dispatcher job description is reported to decline 3% by 2024. This decline is owed to multiple factors, such as the establishment of emergency communication centers and to the continuous advancement of technology.
However, because of the extremely stressful nature of the job, the low pay, and the highly competitive environment, a great number of workers is constantly leaving the occupation, leaving room for new hires. So, despite the fact that the job outlook doesn’t look good, there always are open positions as an emergency dispatcher.
Perhaps one of the most stressful jobs in the world, being a dispatcher can take a lot out of anyone. The dispatcher job description is no easy task, as any aspiring candidate is required to possess a number of personal qualities to succeed in the field. For those interested, you can find a sample dispatcher resume by clicking this link.