According to recent statistics published by the National Emergency Number Association, there are more than 6,100 emergency call centers in the United States that handle more than 200 million 911 calls each year. There are currently about 100,000 dispatchers working throughout the country, with estimates that agencies across the U.S. are hiring about 10,000 dispatchers every year.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that, as of May 2012, 911 dispatchers (including police, fire and ambulance dispatchers) earned a median annual salary of $36,300 a year, with the top 10 percent earning more than $56,580.
However, like with many other professions, the salaries of 911 dispatchers often vary significantly, based on two, major factors
911 Dispatcher Salaries By State
- District of Columbia
- New Hampshire
- New Jersey
- New Mexico
- New York
- North Carolina
- North Dakota
- Rhode Island
- South Carolina
- South Dakota
- West Virginia
911 Dispatcher Salaries Across the United States
The state in which 911 operators work impacts their annual salaries, often reflecting the cost of living in different parts of the country. For example, 911 operators in California earned a mean annual salary of $55,720 in May 2012, nearly $20,000 above the national average. Following closely behind California was Nevada, where 911 dispatchers earned an annual mean salary of $52,980, and Washington state where the median salary was $50,990. Other states that came in among the top-paying states included Oregon, at $50,070 and Minnesota, at $47,190.
Employment levels and salaries are not parallel, however, as noted by the BLS, which reported that the state with the highest concentration of 911 dispatcher jobs was West Virginia, where dispatchers earned just $25,270. Other top states in terms of employment of 911 dispatchers were Mississippi, which reported an annual mean salary of $24,370 and Alabama, which reported an annual mean salary of $29,230.
There were two states among those with the highest employment level that reported annual median salaries above the national average: Alaska, which reported a median annual salary of $44,970 and Wyoming, which reported a median annual salary of $37,560.
The BLS also broke down the top-paying states for 911 dispatcher by metropolitan and non-metropolitan area, which included:
Top-Paying States for 911 Dispatchers (metropolitan areas)
- San Francisco-San Mateo-Redwood City, CA: $72,940
- San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, CA: $70,910
- Santa Barbara-Santa Maria-Goleta, CA: $66,970
- Oakland-Fremont-Hayward, CA: $64,700
- Stockton, CA: $64,090
Top-Paying States for 911 Dispatchers (non-metropolitan areas)
- Mother Lode Region of California nonmetropolitan area: $50,580
- North Coast Region of California nonmetropolitan area: $47,850
- Central Washington nonmetropolitan area: $47,240
- Western Central Nevada nonmetropolitan area: $45,240
Because the top-paying metropolitan and non-metropolitan areas for 911 dispatchers in May 2012 were located in California, it is likely that the cost of living is indicative of the salary statistics.
Similar to state salaries for 911 dispatchers, the non-metropolitan areas with the highest concentration of jobs during the same time were not in areas with the highest salaries:
- South Central Tennessee: $27,870
- North Arizona: $30,170
- Southeast Alabama: $23,340
- East Georgia: $21,700
- Southeastern Wyoming: $35,370
How Education and Experience Factor into a 911 Dispatcher’s Salary
Education and experience both tend to play a large role regarding the salaries of 911 operators. Although education does play a role, experience in this profession likely plays a larger role, with higher salaries and advanced positions going to those professionals with more experience.
It is important to note, however, that education for 911 dispatchers does become a factor when considering that many agencies accept a formal education as a substitute for experience, on a year-by-year basis.
The correlation between experience/education and salary is evident when viewing recent job postings. For example:
- A senior public safety dispatcher job posting in San Jose, CA, revealed an annual salary range of $68,286 to $83,096. Candidates eligible for this position must possess at least 3 years of experience as an emergency dispatcher.
- A communications dispatcher trainee job posting in Santa Rosa, CA, revealed an annual salary of $42,900 and $53,244. This job posting required no formal dispatching experience, although candidates must possess at least one year of experience in customer service.
- An entry-level 911 dispatcher job posting in Wisconsin Rapids, WI, revealed an annual salary of $35,755. This posting had no experience requirements.
- A job posting for a communications center supervisor in Santa Monica, CA, revealed a salary range of between $64,452 and $79,572. Candidates for this position must have at least 3 years of experience in emergency dispatching.
- A job posting for a public safety dispatcher in in Lake Havasu City, AZ, revealed an annual salary of $34,008 for trainees and an annual salary range of $37,398 and $52,374 for dispatchers with at least one year of experience.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics furnished the salary data in this table specific to emergency dispatchers working throughout the United States: