Public Safety Telecommunicators
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Operate telephone, radio, or other communication systems to receive and communicate requests for emergency assistance at 9-1-1 public safety answering points and emergency operations centers. Take information from the public and other sources regarding crimes, threats, disturbances, acts of terrorism, fires, medical emergencies, and other public safety matters. May coordinate and provide information to law enforcement and emergency response personnel. May access sensitive databases and other information sources as needed. May provide additional instructions to callers based on knowledge of and certification in law enforcement, fire, or emergency medical procedures.
Titles for this career often contain these words
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Responsibilities and activities

Police, fire, and ambulance dispatchers typically do the following:

  • Answer 9-1-1 emergency telephone and alarm system calls
  • Determine the type of emergency and its location and decide the appropriate response on the basis of agency procedures
  • Relay information to the appropriate first-responder agency
  • Coordinate the dispatch of emergency response personnel to accident scenes
  • Give basic over-the-phone medical instructions before emergency personnel arrive
  • Monitor and track the status of police, fire, and ambulance units
  • Synchronize responses with other area communication centers
  • Keep detailed records of calls

Dispatchers answer calls from people who need help from police, firefighters, emergency services, or a combination of the three. They take emergency, nonemergency, and alarm system calls.

Dispatchers must stay calm while collecting vital information from callers to determine the severity of a situation and the location of those who need help. They then communicate this information to the appropriate first-responder agencies.

Dispatchers keep detailed records of the calls that they answer. They use computers to log important facts, such as the nature of the incident and the caller’s name and location. Most computer systems detect the location of cell phones and landline phones automatically.

Dispatchers often must instruct callers on what to do before responders arrive. Many dispatchers are trained to offer medical help over the phone. For example, they might help the caller provide first aid at the scene until emergency medical services arrive. At other times they may advise callers on how to remain safe while waiting for assistance.

Median salary: $43,290 annually
Half of those employed in this career earn between $34,630 and $54,370.
Context: Median Salary
How do salaries for this career compare to other jobs' salaries?
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Salary growth for public safety telecommunicators
Is this job likely to reward you for sticking with it through pay raises and promotions? The higher a job’s “experience quotient,” the more you are likely to get as you stay there.
Experience quotient percentile
Take a minute to look at how much you might expect your salary to increase with each five years' experience, as well as how the numbers working at each age change. Does this seem to be a job for the young or the old, or could it be a career offering steady salary growth for many years?
Salary distribution
Number employed
About Public Safety Telecommunicators
How do benefits for this career compare to other jobs? The availability of health care, especially employer provided health care, and pension plans can add significantly to the value of compensation you receive in a career. These charts compare how this career compares to other careers with regard to health care and pension plans.
Employee has health insurance
Employer is providing health insurance
Employer-provided pension plan is available
Worker concerns
Some jobs are more stressful than others, and some are just plain dangerous. The following list gives the percentages of public safety telecommunicators who report hazardous or difficult situations typically occurring at least once a week.
  • Unpleasant or Angry People (100%)
  • High Conflict Frequency (78%)
  • Consequence of Error (62%)
  • Time Pressure (56%)
  • Physically Aggressive People (41%)
  • Responsible for Others' Health (35%)
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Personality and skills
Can you see yourself in the ranks of Public Safety Telecommunicators? Here are the skills and traits that could lead to success.
Ability to multitask
Dispatchers must stay calm in order to simultaneously answer calls, collect vital information, coordinate responders, use mapping software and camera feeds, and assist callers.
Communication skills
Dispatchers work with law enforcement, emergency response teams, and civilians. They must be able to communicate the nature of an emergency effectively and coordinate the appropriate response.
Decisionmaking skills
When people call for help, dispatchers must be able to quickly determine the response dictated by procedures.
Dispatchers must be willing and able to help callers who have a wide range of needs. They must be calm, polite, and sympathetic, while also collecting relevant information quickly.
Listening skills
Dispatchers must listen carefully to collect relevant details, even though some callers might have trouble speaking because of anxiety or stress.
Typing skills
Dispatchers type the details of calls into computers, and speed and accuracy is of the essence when responding to emergencies.
Education pathways to this career
Education attained by public safety telecommunicators
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), public safety telecommunicators typically hold a high school diploma or equivalent.
Sometimes the typical education identified by the BLS differs a bit from the reality of the how much education current workers actually have. The donut shows the education level held by people currently working as public safety telecommunicators as reported in responses to the American Community Survey.
Details: Education and training recommended for public safety telecommunicators

Most dispatchers are required to have a high school diploma.

Details: Licensing and certification recommended for public safety telecommunicators

Many states require dispatchers to be certified. The Association of Public-Safety Communications Officials (APCO) provides a list of states requiring training and certification. One certification is the Emergency Medical Dispatcher (EMD) certification, which enables dispatchers to give medical assistance over the phone.

Dispatchers may choose to pursue additional certifications, such as the National Emergency Number Association’s Emergency Number Professional (ENP) certification or APCO’s Registered Public-Safety Leader (RPL) certification, which demonstrate their leadership skills and knowledge of the profession.

Education level of Public Safety Telecommunicators
Only 19% of public safety telecommunicators have a bachelor's degree or higher.
Education attained by public safety telecommunicators
High School
Some College
Associate's Degree
Bachelor's Degree
Master's Degree
Professional Degree
Where are the jobs
State-by-state employment numbers
Some careers tend to be centered in specific parts of the country. For example, most jobs in fashion are in New York or California. Let's see if your dream job is easy to find in your dream location! We have a few choices for viewing the data that can help you get a full employment picture.
Select a state to see local area details
Number of Public Safety Telecommunicators per 1,000 workers (ACS)
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Job density versus job count
Which states hire the most public safety telecommunicators? We wonder if that's a fair question since states come in all sizes, so instead let's start with the question of which states have the highest density of people working as public safety telecommunicators. You can choose to view the number of jobs per state if you prefer.
Salaries by state
Let's get a feel for where public safety telecommunicators earn the highest salaries. There are several choices for which data we consider and how we view that data, and each can lead to different conclusions, so please read on...
Median salary versus state ratio
We use two methods to compare salaries across states:
  • In-state comparisons: the ratio of median (middle) salaries for public safety telecommunicators compared to the median salary for all people working in each state, or
  • Median salary: the unaltered median salaries for public safety telecommunicators.
We hope the ratio allows perspective about how salaries may compare to the regional cost-of-living.
The darkest shading corresponds to states in which public safety telecommunicators earn the highest salary when compared to other jobs in the state. We think this figure might be a better indicator than the actual salary for your buying power as a state resident.
Select a state to see local area details
Location-adjusted median salary for Public Safety Telecommunicators (ACS)
9% of Public safety telecommunicators are working part time.
We’ve found that some jobs have a huge number of part-time workers, and typically that is because they are unable to find full-time work or the job itself can’t provide full-time hours. With 9% part-time workers, this occupation has a lower percentage of part-time workers than 58% of careers.
Employer types
This donut shares the break-down of workers by employer type, giving us a picture of what employers most typically hire for this career.
Employers of undefined (ACS)
Private for-profit
Private not-for-profit
Local government
State government
Federal government
Self-employed incorporated
Self-employed not incorporated
Working without pay
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Distribution: Salaries of public safety telecommunicators by type of employer
Here are the salary distributions based on employer type.
$40K$39K$41K$39K$38K$42K$0$20,000$40,000$60,000$80,000Federal governmentState governmentLocal governmentPrivate not-for-profitPrivate for-profitAll
Public safety telecommunicators and gender
With 67% women, this occupation has a higher percentage of women than 79% of careers.
Gender of Public safety telecommunicators
Men (33%)
Women (67%)
Distribution: salaries by gender
Does gender greatly influence your salary in this career? The closer the bars are, the less discrepancy there is.
We only include salary data when the survey error is less than 20%, so you may see only partial information for some categories.
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Context: Women in the workforce
How does this career compare to other careers with regard to the percentage of women in the career.
Context: Salary inequity
The median salary for all full-time male workers in the US exceeds the full-time median salary for women by 19%. The situation is a little better for public safety telecommunicators, with the median salary for men 18% higher than the median salary for women.
Race and origin of Public safety telecommunicators
This donut shows the distribution of race and origin among those employed as Public safety telecommunicators.
Race/origin of public safety telecommunicators
White (75% )
Black (14% )
Other (3% )
Multiracial (3% )
Asian (2% )
American Indian (1% )
Hispanic (1% )
Pacific Islander (0% )
Distribution: salaries by race/origin
Some careers might have a pay disparity based on race or origin, the closer the below bars are the less of a discrepancy is present.
$32K$36K$37K$37K$38K$40K$43K$0$20K$40K$60K$80K$100KHispanicMultiracialBlackAmerican IndianOtherWhiteAsian
We only include salary data when the survey error is less than 20%, so you may see only partial information for some categories.