Most ambulance dispatchers have a high school diploma or GED. Additional requirements vary. Many jurisdictions require dispatchers to become certified. However, some employers may not specify any educational requirements. Others prefer to hire dispatchers who have a related two- or four-year degree in a subject such as criminal justice, computer science, or communications.
Most dispatcher jobs require an applicant to complete an interview as well as to pass a written exam and a typing test. In addition, applicants may need to pass a background check, lie detector and/or drug tests, as well as tests for hearing and vision. Training is usually conducted in both a classroom setting and on the job, and is often followed by a probationary period of about one year. However, this may vary by agency, as there is no national standard of how training is conducted or the length of probation.
Training covers a wide variety of topics, such as local geography, agency protocols, and standard procedures. Dispatchers are also taught how to use specialized equipment, such as a two-way radio and computer-aided dispatch (CAD) software. They receive training to prepare for specific types of incidents, such as a child abduction or a suicidal caller. Some dispatchers receive emergency medical dispatcher (EMD) training, which enables them to give medical assistance over the phone.
Dispatchers can become senior dispatchers or supervisors before going on to administrative positions, in which they may focus on a specific area, such as training or policy and procedures. Additional education and related work experience may be helpful in advancing to management level positions. Technology skills also may be helpful in becoming a supervisor.