How to Become a 911 Dispatcher in Los Angeles, California

In Los Angeles, 911 calls are answered at the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) Metropolitan Communications Dispatch Center by dispatchers called Police Service Representatives (PSRs). The LAPD center employs over 500 PSRs who typically answer 75-250 calls per shift. Calls are heaviest during evenings, weekends and holidays. Non-police-related emergencies are referred to the Los Angeles Fire Department (LAFD) dispatch center which receives over 450,000 calls each year.

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The state-of-the-art LAPD Communications Center consists of two identical facilities; one is adjacent to LAPD’s downtown headquarters and the other is in the San Fernando Valley. Both have back-up systems that will allow them to continue to operate in the event of an 8.3 earthquake. Emphasis is on a “stress-reducing work environment” that includes noise control, natural lighting and spacious work areas with individual air/heat controls. Emergency calls in LA have been increasing about three percent a year, offering a good employment outlook for 911 dispatchers.

The steps you need to take to become a 911 dispatcher in Los Angeles are as follows:

Get a Good Education
Complete the Application Process
Take the LA Public Safety Dispatcher Basic Course
Become a Full-fledged 911 Dispatcher in Los Angeles



Step 1. Get a Good Education

Although a high school diploma or GED is the only educational requirement for the job of 911 dispatcher in Los Angeles, you have a much better chance of being hired if you have an associate’s or a bachelor’s degree.

A degree in any of the following subjects will give you an edge in this highly competitive field:

  • Criminal Justice
  • Public Safety
  • Homeland Security
  • Fire Safety/Prevention
  • Emergency Management
  • Law Enforcement
  • Fire Science

It’s no surprise that Los Angeles, the second largest city in the U.S., has a lot of schools to choose from. There are at least eight four-year colleges/universities and over a dozen two-year community colleges. In addition, residents of the City of Angels can obtain a degree from numerous accredited online schools.

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In addition to being a U.S. citizen over the age of 18 with a high school education and a clean criminal record, the following personal attributes and abilities are needed in order to be successful as a 911 dispatcher:

  • Good memory retention
  • Multi-tasking abilities
  • Active listener
  • Good verbal communicator
  • Above average typing speed
  • Patient
  • Able to remain calm in stressful situations
  • Willing to work shifts, nights, weekends and holidays

It is a significant advantage in Los Angeles if you are able to understand and speak Spanish. Other bi-lingual abilities are also an asset, especially Korean, Vietnamese, Filipino, Chinese and Armenian.



Step 2. Complete the Application Process

All applications for 911 dispatcher jobs are processed by the City of Los Angeles Personnel Department. Their website lists available positions, job descriptions and online application forms. If your application form is accepted you must successfully complete the following phases of the hiring process:

  • Written examination that evaluates your communication skills, memory retention, reasoning powers and perceptual ability
  • Background investigation
  • Oral interview
  • Medical examination



Step 3. Take the L.A. Public Safety Dispatcher Basic Course

Once you have successfully completed the application process you will be required to take and pass the 120-hour (three weeks) public dispatcher course that covers the following subject areas:

  • Criminal Justice System
  • Introduction to Law
  • Interpersonal Communications
  • Telephone Technology/Procedures
  • Missing Persons/Domestic Violence/Abuse Cases
  • Community Policing/Hate Crimes/Cultural Diversity/Gang Awareness
  • Law Enforcement Communications/Radio Technology
  • Resources/Referral Services
  • Critical Incidents
  • Wellness Management
  • Supporting Instructional Activities/Exercises

An exam study guide with sample questions is available from the California POST site.



Step 4. Become a Full-fledged 911 Dispatcher in Los Angeles

After taking the basic dispatcher course you will spend a period of time taking part in “hands-on training” during which you will sit and answer calls alongside a training dispatcher-instructor.

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When the training instructor feels you are ready you will go to work as a LAPD Police Service Representative or a 911 dispatcher with the LA Fire Department.

The average annual salary of 911 dispatchers in Los Angeles is as $25,095. Depending on education and experience, you can expect to start between $16,533 and $24,800, and eventually earn up to a maximum of $35,429.

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