Salaries for 911 Operators in Iowa

The map on any dispatch center’s wall in Iowa shows a nearly perfect grid of counties and roads… a dispatcher’s dream for describing locations and determining addresses. But the distances that need to be covered when responding to emergencies in this largely rural state requires some serious expertise for 911 operators who may need to provide first aid instruction when the situation calls for it… and to keep callers calm until first responders arrive.

Iowa Workforce Development predicts that the number of dispatcher positions in the state will grow by 5.2 percent during the period from 2016 to 2026, resulting in nearly 100 slots opening annually through a combination of both new positions and regular job turnover.


Median paychecks for those positions are a generous $45,460 a year, equivalent to $21.86/hr, beating the national median by about $5,000 a year. At the top margin, in the 90th percentile, the median comes in at $60,590 ($29.13/hr), only slightly below the national median.

Salaries at the Agencies that Employ 911 Dispatchers in Iowa

All 99 counties in Iowa are equipped with the technology today to accept wireless enhanced Phase II service which transmits location coordinates along with cellular calls. Dispatchers here are paid to become proficient using that technology to locate people in emergencies who may not even know their own location.

Des Moines-West Des Moines – Includes:

  • City of Des Moines Communication Center
  • Westcom Dispatch Center
  • Polk County Sheriff’s Office
    • 10th percentile: $19.35/hr / $40,250
    • Median: $26.70/hr / $55,530
    • 90th percentile: $30.75/hr / $63,970

Polk County, which includes both Des Moines and West Des Moines, is served by only three PSAPs, with the City of Des Moines combining police and fire dispatch, and Westcom handling the smaller cities of West Des Moines, Clive, Urbandale and Norwalk. The Polk County Sheriff’s office dispatches for the remaining 16 law enforcement agencies and 15 fire departments in the county.

Southeast Iowa nonmetropolitan area – Includes:

  • Mahaska County E9-1-1 Center
  • Ottumwa Police Department
  • Wapello County Sheriff’s Office
  • Appanoose County Law Center
  • Marion County Sheriff’s Office

Mahaska County E911 is the main dispatch center for fire, law enforcement, and EMS in Mahaska County taking about 22,000 calls annually. Unfortunately, estimates for emergency dispatcher salaries have not been released for this area.

Davenport-Moline-Rock Island – Includes:

  • Muscatine County Joint Communications
  • Clinton County Communications
  • Scott Emergency Communication Center
    • 10th percentile: $14.71/hr / $30,590
    • Median: $23.19/hr / $48,240
    • 90th percentile: $34.14/hr / $71,010

As of 2008, all Davenport fire and police dispatching was combined with other Scott County 911 operations in the Scott Emergency Communications Center, which takes all calls for all emergency response entities in the county today.

A Full Breakdown of 911 Dispatcher Salaries Across Iowa

Although Des Moines offers the highest median salary in the state for dispatchers, it is running neck and neck with Cedar Rapids. For the upper ten percent of dispatchers, though, the Davenport area is definitely the place to be, with a salary of $71,010 ($34.14/hr).

Area name
Employment
Annual mean wage
Ames
40
49100
Cedar Rapids
60
53640
Davenport-Moline-Rock Island
110
49050
Des Moines-West Des Moines
140
53080
Iowa City
70
50770
Northeast Iowa nonmetropolitan area
100
38730
Northwest Iowa nonmetropolitan area
90
41490
Sioux City
60
38600
Southeast Iowa nonmetropolitan area
180
-
Southwest Iowa nonmetropolitan area
120
38440
Waterloo-Cedar Falls
80
45090

Salary and employment data compiled by the United States Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics in May of 2018. Figures represent accumulated data for all areas of employment for emergency services dispatchers https://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes_ia.htm#43-5031. BLS salary data represents state and MSA (Metropolitan Statistical Area) average and median earnings for the occupations listed and includes workers at all levels of education and experience. This data does not represent starting salaries. Employment conditions in your area may vary.

 Job growth projections sourced from Iowa Workforce Development and published in the U.S. Department of Labor-funded Long Term Occupational Projections (2016-2026) database – https://projectionscentral.com/Projections/LongTerm.

All salary and job growth data accessed in June 2019.

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