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Communications dispatchers usually work for police and fire departments, as well as hospitals that handle emergency ambulance services. In some cases, dispatch services are routed through third-party vendors that specialize in call center management. For those looking to become a communications dispatcher, seeking out opportunities with these organizations is the most efficient way to gain employment in the field.
Education and training requirements to become a communications dispatcher may vary by local area. Some positions that involve direct employment with police or fire departments might require a civil service examination or CPR training. These exams and certifications are usually given during select times of the year. Some emergency training may be available through community colleges or third-party education vendors, but the civil service examination is typically given through a government agency.
Besides specific instruction and certification, a high school education will usually suffice for those who wish to become a communications dispatcher. Any job specific training is typically given to employees while they are performing their dispatch duties. New employees may work with trainers or mentors and observe best practices related to the job. As they gain experience, knowledge and comfort levels typically increase.
Additional knowledge and skills required of an emergency dispatcher include profiency in computer use, and verbal and written communication. Taking computer, speech and writing courses may help candidates gain an advantage over other applicants. It may also help improve job performance once a dispatch position is secured.
Anyone wishing to become a communications dispatcher needs to actively look for opportunities. Communities and organizations that hire emergency dispatchers will usually advertise their openings in newspapers or on Internet job boards. Depending on the location, government agencies may list openings on separate job boards that are dedicated to government job opportunities.
Besides applying for open positions, another effective job search method is to call agencies and companies that routinely hire communications dispatchers. Some opportunities may never become publicly listed and may be filled from a list of interested candidates. While this may not be true for government agencies, private vendors may accept inquiries and resumes and hold them for call backs when positions become available.
To become a communications dispatcher with government agencies that require a civil service examination, a minimum passing score is required. Once candidates have obtained a passing score, their name goes on a list of eligible applicants. When openings are listed, government agencies may notify those that are on the list and then conduct a regular selection process that includes an interview. Interested individuals may stay on these eligibility lists for years before a suitable opening becomes available.