Do you want to help save lives every day? If you learn how to become a 911 operator, you’ll be able to do just that. This type of job is very important. You want to make sure you understand the process you will need to become a 911 operator.
As a 911 operator or dispatcher, you will need to get the right information. In addition, it’s important to have the right attitude for this career. Let’s look at the steps to becoming a 911 operator and what this type of career entails.
Steps to Becoming a 911 Operator
Step #1 – Meet the Basic Qualifications
Every state is a bit different. However, the basic qualifications to become a 911 operator typically include:
- A high school diploma or equivalent
- Be at least 18 years of age
- Have basic computer literacy skills
- Pass a polygraph test (in some states)
- Submit to a drug test and pass
- Clear a background check
- Pass a psychological exam (in some states)
- Meet or exceed department requirements for a hearing test
If you can meet these basic requirements, you can work your way through the following steps to become a 911 operator.
Step #2- Complete the Application
The application process is the first thing you will have to complete once you have met the basic requirements. This will also include submitting your resume.
States vary a bit in their application process. However, most will include a self-assessment questionnaire and typing tests. It’s also common that the application process will include a background check. This check will look into your criminal charges and any use of illegal drugs.
You will make it to the final interview as long as you pass the background check and the entire formal application process. This interview will be with a panel of professionals.
Step #3 – Complete 911 Operator Training
There are several online training options if you want to become a 911 operator. This is not a requirement in every state, but it can be very helpful. Some states will require you to complete around 40 hours of training. Along with the initial 40 hours of training, you will likely need to complete on-the-job training in most states.
Some states will require you to complete a much more extensive type of training. For example, you may need to complete 600 to 1,200 hours of training in some states. This training will take three to six months. It will be split between the basics of being a 911 operator, hands-on training, and attending the dispatch academy in your local area.
A quick note about continuing education
It’s also common for states to require continuing education every few years. So if you want to become a 911 operator, the right online dispatcher training courses are a great choice. Some are offered through the International Academies of Emergency Dispatch. In addition, you can become certified through emergency, police, fire, and medical telecommunicator courses.
Step #4 – Pass a Licensing Exam
Depending on your state, you will likely need to pass a licensing exam. Many states will require you to be licensed to work as a 911 operator. Make sure you prepare properly to take the state licensing exam. With the right prep course, you can ensure you will pass this exam on the first try.
Step #5 – Obtain the Necessary Certifications
Again, each state is different, but you may need some certifications to become a 911 operator. Some states require certification in the Telecommunications Device for the Deaf. You may also need to become certified in Law Enforcement Telecommunications systems. Some other certifications with specific equipment may be necessary.
Skills Necessary to Become a 911 Operator
If you want to become a 911 operator, you will need to have the right skills. Some skills will be developed during training. However, you will likely already have other skills before entering into the steps to become a 911 operator.
Some of the skills you should have include:
- Customer Service – If you’re good at customer service, you will likely make a good 911 operator. Serving your community means you will need to work well with people. Any customer service experience you can gain will help you build a better resume.
- Typing Abilities – A skill you can develop, you will need to have great typing accuracy to become a 911 operator. Most 911 dispatchers need to be able to type between 30 to 45 words per minute without error. You don’t have to be the fastest typist, but you need to type without any errors.
- Ability to Multitask – You will need to work in multiple types of positions. You may be a call taker, a dispatcher, or you may have both responsibilities. It’s necessary to be able to multi-task for this job.
- Communication Skills – Most of your job will include communicating with other people. You will be communicating with people in distress often. With good communication skills, you can fit into this type of job well.
- Empathy – As a 911 operator, you need to have some form of empathy. While it’s not a good thing to spend much time empathizing with a caller, you need to have a calming voice and provide an empathetic ear ready to help.
- Resiliency – This isn’t an easy job. It can be mentally grueling to take calls all day for emergencies. Likely, the calls you take will include trauma or crimes in the process of being committed. You will be the light for these callers in the darkness.
Many other skills are necessary to become a 911 operator. However, these are the main skills most employers will look for.
Duties of a 911 Operator
As a 911 operator, you will likely perform the following duties:
- Receive incoming emergency phone calls
- Determine the best way to respond to each call as it comes in
- Prioritize the incoming calls based on the type of emergency and the details provided
- Ask the correct questions to gather the necessary information from callers
- Inputting the information into an automated data system and teletype network
- Provide callers with instructions to handle the emergency, which may include life-saving emergency medical interventions
- Dispatch the correct emergency personnel for the caller in an effective and timely manner
- Recording all the necessary details for calls, messages, and dispatches
Frequently Asked Questions About Becoming a 911 Operator
How much can I make as a 911 operator?
If you decide to go into this career, the annual average salary will be about $43K. Your actual salary will depend on your experience and your location. Some locations pay more due to the higher cost of living and the higher volume of emergency calls.
As a 911 operator, you will earn an average of $15.89 per hour, according to payscale.com. With 5 to 9 years of experience, the average goes up to about $17.18 per hour. If you gain even more experience, you can make an average of about $21.25 per hour.
Where do I find available 911 operator jobs?
It’s common to find these types of jobs posted on online job boards. However, they are also found through private medevac and ambulance companies. The National Emergency Number Association Job Board will commonly list 911 operator jobs, too.
Are there any advancement opportunities for this type of career?
Yes. To become a dispatch center manager, you may take certification programs and courses through the IAED (International Academies of Emergency Dispatch). With the right certifications, you can advance to a senior dispatcher position or become a supervisor.
Many 911 operators will also become a paramedic. This can open up new opportunities but may require you to get a degree.
Who hires 911 Operators?
The most common employers are the police departments, public safety departments, fire stations, and call centers. These employers are all known as PSAPs (Public Safety Answering Points).
What type of subjects will my 911 operator training cover?
Most 911 operator training programs will cover the following:
- Critical incident stress
- Suicide intervention
- Emergency medical dispatch
- Advanced First Aid/CPR/AED
- Hazardous materials
- Domestic violence
How long does it take to become a 911 operator?
The length of time it takes for you to become a 911 operator will depend on your state. The training process can last from 3 to 6 months. Most states require a minimum of 40 hours of basic training courses before you will complete on-the-job training.
Do I need a college degree to become a 911 operator?
No. You will need to complete high school or get your GED, however. It’s also common to complete training specific to becoming a 911 operator.
Is this career growing?
Yes. The projected growth for 911 operators over the next ten years is about 6%.
Is Becoming a 911 Operator Right for You?
There are many good reasons to follow this career path. If you want to know how to become a 911 operator, use the steps above. With this type of career, you can help save lives daily.
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