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How Do I Become an EMS Dispatcher?

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  • Written By: Synthia L. Rose
  • Edited By: Lauren Fritsky
  • Last Modified Date: 15 November 2016
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Become an Emergency Medical Services (EMS) dispatcher by earning local certification through the completion of a legitimate Emergency Medical Dispatcher (EMD) training program consisting of a slate of telecommunications courses and exams offered by accredited training facilities serving your community. Trade schools, universities, and occasionally professional career associations offer these preparatory courses. Depending on the training entity, academic coursework for local certification can be done through online courses, on-site classroom training or a mixture of both.

After successfully completing the required coursework for local certification, which typically can be finished in one semester, a person aspiring to become an EMS dispatcher can also earn a national license by taking a national licensing exam and proving course credits have been properly earned. Such licenses are typically valid for roughly two years. Once the license expires, more education and an application for license renewal are required. Local certification is also renewed every few years. In lieu of formal training, a few EMS employers will accept field experience, such as thousands of hours in public safety call-taking.

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While not all employers require those hired for EMS dispatcher jobs to hold national licenses, getting certified by a nationally-recognized licensing body can increase a candidate’s competitiveness in the job market. Employers typically require that a person aspiring to become an EMS dispatcher hold a high school diploma; generally, no college degree is required. Valid cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) training is also required by most EMS employers. In addition, emergency agencies also expect EMS dispatchers to regularly complete continuing education classes to remain proficient in the EMS communication technology and best practices.

EMS dispatcher training courses are available in three specialized areas, depending on the desired branch of service: emergency police dispatching, emergency fire dispatching, and emergency medical dispatching. In lieu of choosing just one of the specialty routes, a person who aspires to become an EMS dispatcher can seek combined credentials in two or three areas by taking a double or triple course load. Also, most training organizations offer training for an emergency telecommunications certificate, which is an umbrella offering that includes a few police, fire, and medical courses, preparing students to work in central call centers.

These training courses frequently include emergency role-playing, videos, lectures and class discussion. Aspiring EMS dispatchers learn protocol for communicating with various emergency agencies, how to properly use radio operations technology, and how to intervene during a crisis. Most courses include fieldwork where a person wanting to become an EMS dispatcher shadows a real EMS dispatcher on the job.

After earning the proper credentials and optional national licensure, a person can become an EMS dispatcher by seeking open positions at emergency call centers or fire and police departments in various municipalities. Once on the job, the EMS dispatcher will be the first person someone in need interacts with when calling an emergency line for help. EMS dispatchers answer life-saving calls from people in distress and guide those people in proper emergency response by phone until paramedics and authorities arrive.

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