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Summary

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Video transcript available at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mFB5YEzQUfI.
Quick Facts: Public Safety Telecommunicators
2020 Median Pay $43,290 per year
$20.82 per hour
Typical Entry-Level Education High school diploma or equivalent
Work Experience in a Related Occupation None
On-the-job Training Moderate-term on-the-job training
Number of Jobs, 2020 95,400
Job Outlook, 2020-30 8% (As fast as average)
Employment Change, 2020-30 7,800

What Public Safety Telecommunicators Do

Public safety telecommunicators, including 911 operators and fire dispatchers, answer emergency and nonemergency calls and provide resources to assist those in need.

Work Environment

Public safety telecommunicators work in emergency communication centers called public safety answering points (PSAPs). These workers usually have shifts that include evenings, weekends, and holidays to provide round-the-clock coverage. The pressure to respond quickly and calmly in alarming situations may be stressful.

How to Become a Public Safety Telecommunicator

Public safety telecommunicators typically need a high school diploma to enter the occupation and then are trained on the job. Many states and localities require these workers to become certified.

Pay

The median annual wage for police, fire, and ambulance dispatchers was $43,290 in May 2020.

Job Outlook

Employment of public safety telecommunicators is projected to grow 8 percent from 2020 to 2030, about as fast as the average for all occupations.

About 9,800 openings for public safety telecommunicators are projected each year, on average, over the decade. Many of those openings are expected to result from the need to replace workers who transfer to different occupations or exit the labor force, such as to retire.

State & Area Data

Explore resources for employment and wages by state and area for public safety telecommunicators.

Similar Occupations

Compare the job duties, education, job growth, and pay of public safety telecommunicators with similar occupations.

More Information, Including Links to O*NET

Learn more about public safety telecommunicators by visiting additional resources, including O*NET, a source on key characteristics of workers and occupations.

What Public Safety Telecommunicators Do About this section

Public safety telecommunicators
Public safety telecommunicators monitor and track the status of police, fire, and ambulance units.

Public safety telecommunicators, including 911 operators and fire dispatchers, answer emergency and nonemergency calls and provide resources to assist those in need.

Duties

Public safety telecommunicators typically do the following:

  • Answer 9-1-1 emergency and nonemergency requests from different sources, such as phone calls, text messages, social media, and alarm systems
  • Determine the type of emergency and its location and decide the appropriate response based on agency procedures
  • Relay information to the appropriate first-responder agency
  • Coordinate the dispatch of emergency response personnel
  • Give instructions to the person in need before emergency services arrive
  • Monitor and track the status of police, fire, and ambulance units
  • Synchronize responses with other area communication centers
  • Keep detailed records of calls

Public safety telecommunicators answer requests from people who need help. Depending on the situation, these workers may contact police, firefighters, emergency services, or a combination of the three. Telecommunicators take both emergency and nonemergency requests.

Public safety telecommunicators must stay calm while collecting vital information from callers to determine the severity and location of a situation. They also must select and clear a radio channel to establish a stable connection with the appropriate first-responder agency, such as the police or fire department. Telecommunicators then monitor that channel to ensure that resources are provided safely and efficiently.

Public safety telecommunicators use computers to log important facts, such as the nature of the incident and the caller’s name. These computer systems screen calls to identify the delivery method, such as phone, text, or video. Telecommunicators then gather information about the location of the person in need.

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

Work Environment About this section

Public safety telecommunicators
Public safety telecommunicators typically work in communication centers, often called public safety answering points (PSAPs).

Police, fire, and ambulance dispatchers held about 95,400 jobs in 2020. The largest employers of police, fire, and ambulance dispatchers were as follows:

Local government, excluding education and hospitals 79%
State government, excluding education and hospitals 6
Ambulance services 6
Colleges, universities, and professional schools; state, local, and private 3
Hospitals; state, local, and private 2

Public safety telecommunicators typically work in communication centers, often called public safety answering points (PSAPs). Some work for unified communication centers, where they answer calls for all types of emergency services, while others work specifically for police or fire departments.

Work as a public safety telecommunicator may be stressful. These workers often have long shifts, take many calls, and deal with troubling situations. Some calls require them to assist people who are in life-threatening situations, and the pressure to respond quickly and calmly may be demanding.

Work Schedules

Most public safety telecommunicators work full time, often in 8- to 12-hour shifts.

Because emergencies happen at any time, public safety telecommunicators are needed to staff PSAPs around the clock. They may be required to work shifts that are outside standard business hours, such as evenings, weekends, and holidays.

How to Become a Public Safety Telecommunicator About this section

Public safety telecommunicators
Public safety telecommunicators usually must pass a typing test.

Public safety telecommunicators typically need a high school diploma to enter the occupation and then are trained on the job. Many states and localities require these workers to become certified.

In addition, candidates usually must pass an exam and a typing test. In some instances, candidates may need to pass a background check, lie detector and drug tests, and tests for hearing and vision.

The ability to communicate in another language, such as Spanish or American Sign Language, may be helpful.

Education

Public safety telecommunicators typically need a high school diploma to enter the occupation.

Training

Public safety telecommunicators typically receive training on the job. Training requirements and length of training vary by state and locality.

For example, some states require 40 or more hours of training, and others require continuing education every 2 to 3 years. Still other states do not mandate any specific training, leaving individual localities and agencies to structure their own requirements and conduct their own courses.

Training programs typically involve an instructional course and may include on-the-job demonstrations. Training may be followed by a probationary period of about 1 year. However, the period may vary by agency, as there is no national standard governing training or probation.

Training covers a variety of topics, such as local geography, agency protocols, and standard procedures. Public safety telecommunicators learn how to use equipment such as computer-aided dispatch systems, which consist of several monitors that may display call information, maps, and video. They also may receive training to prepare for high-risk incidents, such as child abductions and suicidal callers.

Some agencies have their own training programs for public safety telecommunicators; others use training from separate associations. Agencies often use standards from the Association of Public-Safety Communications Officials (APCO International), the National Emergency Number Association (NENA), and the International Academies of Emergency Dispatch (IAED) as a guideline for their own training programs.

Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations

Many states and localities require public safety telecommunicators 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.

Public safety telecommunicators 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.

Advancement

Training and additional certifications may help public safety telecommunicators become senior dispatchers or supervisors. Additional education and related work experience may be helpful in advancing to management-level positions.

Important Qualities

Ability to multitask. Public safety telecommunicators must stay calm in order to simultaneously answer calls, collect vital information, coordinate responders, monitor multiple displays, and use a variety of equipment.

Communication skills. Public safety telecommunicators work with law enforcement, emergency response teams, and civilians. They must be able to communicate the nature of an emergency effectively and to coordinate the appropriate response.

Decision-making skills. When people call for help, public safety telecommunicators must be able to determine the response dictated by procedures and to work efficiently with the assisting emergency departments.

Empathy. Public safety telecommunicators must be willing to help a range of callers with varying needs. They must be calm, polite, and sympathetic, while also collecting relevant information quickly.

Listening skills. Public safety telecommunicators must listen carefully to collect relevant details, even though some callers might have trouble speaking because of anxiety or stress.

Typing skills. Public safety telecommunicators enter the details of calls into computers; typing speed and accuracy are essential when responding to emergencies.

Pay About this section

Public Safety Telecommunicators

Median annual wages, May 2020

Public safety telecommunicators

$43,290

Total, all occupations

$41,950

Material recording, scheduling, dispatching, and distributing workers

$41,160

 

The median annual wage for public safety telecommunicators was $43,290 in May 2020. The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $28,040, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $67,150.

In May 2020, the median annual wages for police, fire, and ambulance dispatchers in the top industries in which they worked were as follows:

State government, excluding education and hospitals $50,520
Local government, excluding education and hospitals 43,510
Colleges, universities, and professional schools; state, local, and private 40,600
Hospitals; state, local, and private 39,570
Ambulance services 38,450

Most public safety telecommunicators work full time, often in 8- to 12-hour shifts.

Because emergencies happen at any time, public safety telecommunicators are needed to staff PSAPs around the clock. They may be required to work shifts that are outside standard business hours, such as evenings, weekends, and holidays.

Job Outlook About this section

Public Safety Telecommunicators

Percent change in employment, projected 2020-30

Public safety telecommunicators

8%

Total, all occupations

8%

Material recording, scheduling, dispatching, and distributing workers

-2%

 

Employment of public safety telecommunicators is projected to grow 8 percent from 2020 to 2030, about as fast as the average for all occupations.

About 9,800 openings for public safety telecommunicators are projected each year, on average, over the decade. Many of those openings are expected to result from the need to replace workers who transfer to different occupations or exit the labor force, such as to retire.

Employment

Although state and local government budget constraints may limit the number of dispatchers hired in the coming decade, population growth and the commensurate increase in 9-1-1 call volume is expected to increase the employment of dispatchers.

Employment projections data for public safety telecommunicators, 2020-30
Occupational Title SOC Code Employment, 2020 Projected Employment, 2030 Change, 2020-30 Employment by Industry
Percent Numeric

SOURCE: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Employment Projections program

Public safety telecommunicators

43-5031 95,400 103,200 8 7,800 Get data

State & Area Data About this section

Occupational Employment and Wage Statistics (OEWS)

The Occupational Employment and Wage Statistics (OEWS) program produces employment and wage estimates annually for over 800 occupations. These estimates are available for the nation as a whole, for individual states, and for metropolitan and nonmetropolitan areas. The link(s) below go to OEWS data maps for employment and wages by state and area.

Projections Central

Occupational employment projections are developed for all states by Labor Market Information (LMI) or individual state Employment Projections offices. All state projections data are available at www.projectionscentral.com. Information on this site allows projected employment growth for an occupation to be compared among states or to be compared within one state. In addition, states may produce projections for areas; there are links to each state’s websites where these data may be retrieved.

CareerOneStop

CareerOneStop includes hundreds of occupational profiles with data available by state and metro area. There are links in the left-hand side menu to compare occupational employment by state and occupational wages by local area or metro area. There is also a salary info tool to search for wages by zip code.

Similar Occupations About this section

This table shows a list of occupations with job duties that are similar to those of public safety telecommunicators.

Occupation Job Duties ENTRY-LEVEL EDUCATION Help on Entry-Level Education 2020 MEDIAN PAY Help on Median Pay
Air traffic controllers Air Traffic Controllers

Air traffic controllers coordinate the movement of aircraft to maintain safe distances between them.

Associate's degree $130,420
Customer service representatives Customer Service Representatives

Customer service representatives interact with customers to handle complaints, process orders, and answer questions.

High school diploma or equivalent $35,830
EMTs and paramedics EMTs and Paramedics

Emergency medical technicians (EMTs) and paramedics respond to emergency calls, performing medical services and transporting patients to medical facilities.

Postsecondary nondegree award $36,650
Power plant operators, distributors, and dispatchers Power Plant Operators, Distributors, and Dispatchers

Power plant operators, distributors, and dispatchers control the systems that generate and distribute electric power.

High school diploma or equivalent $89,090
Security guards and gaming surveillance officers Security Guards and Gambling Surveillance Officers

Security guards and gambling surveillance officers protect property from illegal activity.

High school diploma or equivalent $31,080
Suggested citation:

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Public Safety Telecommunicators,
at https://www.bls.gov/ooh/office-and-administrative-support/police-fire-and-ambulance-dispatchers.htm (visited November 29, 2021).

Last Modified Date: Tuesday, September 28, 2021

What They Do

The What They Do tab describes the typical duties and responsibilities of workers in the occupation, including what tools and equipment they use and how closely they are supervised. This tab also covers different types of occupational specialties.

Work Environment

The Work Environment tab includes the number of jobs held in the occupation and describes the workplace, the level of physical activity expected, and typical hours worked. It may also discuss the major industries that employed the occupation. This tab may also describe opportunities for part-time work, the amount and type of travel required, any safety equipment that is used, and the risk of injury that workers may face.

How to Become One

The How to Become One tab describes how to prepare for a job in the occupation. This tab can include information on education, training, work experience, licensing and certification, and important qualities that are required or helpful for entering or working in the occupation.

Pay

The Pay tab describes typical earnings and how workers in the occupation are compensated—annual salaries, hourly wages, commissions, tips, or bonuses. Within every occupation, earnings vary by experience, responsibility, performance, tenure, and geographic area. For most profiles, this tab has a table with wages in the major industries employing the occupation. It does not include pay for self-employed workers, agriculture workers, or workers in private households because these data are not collected by the Occupational Employment and Wage Statistics (OEWS) survey, the source of BLS wage data in the OOH.

State & Area Data

The State and Area Data tab provides links to state and area occupational data from the Occupational Employment and Wage Statistics (OEWS) program, state projections data from Projections Central, and occupational information from the Department of Labor's CareerOneStop.

Job Outlook

The Job Outlook tab describes the factors that affect employment growth or decline in the occupation, and in some instances, describes the relationship between the number of job seekers and the number of job openings.

Similar Occupations

The Similar Occupations tab describes occupations that share similar duties, skills, interests, education, or training with the occupation covered in the profile.

Contacts for More Information

The More Information tab provides the Internet addresses of associations, government agencies, unions, and other organizations that can provide additional information on the occupation. This tab also includes links to relevant occupational information from the Occupational Information Network (O*NET).

2020 Median Pay

The wage at which half of the workers in the occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. Median wage data are from the BLS Occupational Employment and Wage Statistics survey. In May 2020, the median annual wage for all workers was $41,950.

On-the-job Training

Additional training needed (postemployment) to attain competency in the skills needed in this occupation.

Entry-level Education

Typical level of education that most workers need to enter this occupation.

Work experience in a related occupation

Work experience that is commonly considered necessary by employers, or is a commonly accepted substitute for more formal types of training or education.

Number of Jobs, 2020

The employment, or size, of this occupation in 2020, which is the base year of the 2020-30 employment projections.

Job Outlook, 2020-30

The projected percent change in employment from 2020 to 2030. The average growth rate for all occupations is 8 percent.

Employment Change, 2020-30

The projected numeric change in employment from 2020 to 2030.

Entry-level Education

Typical level of education that most workers need to enter this occupation.

On-the-job Training

Additional training needed (postemployment) to attain competency in the skills needed in this occupation.

Employment Change, projected 2020-30

The projected numeric change in employment from 2020 to 2030.

Growth Rate (Projected)

The percent change of employment for each occupation from 2020 to 2030.

Projected Number of New Jobs

The projected numeric change in employment from 2020 to 2030.

Projected Growth Rate

The projected percent change in employment from 2020 to 2030.

2020 Median Pay

The wage at which half of the workers in the occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. Median wage data are from the BLS Occupational Employment and Wage Statistics survey. In May 2020, the median annual wage for all workers was $41,950.