Emergency services dispatchers serve as the critical link between the population and the emergency services. From small towns to major cities and metropolises, the work of 911 dispatchers is needed—and valued—throughout the country.
But salaries for these behind-the-scenes pros are far from consistent, varying widely based on metro/non-metro area, geographic location, experience, and position. And while the BLS reports a median salary of $40,660 for 911 dispatchers, with the top 10% earning $63,930, these numbers may not accurately reflect salaries in many parts of the country, or even from one state’s emergency dispatch center to the next.
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
A Closer Look at 911 Dispatcher Salaries – And What Influences Them
According to the National Emergency Number Association (NENA), in 2017, there were 8,918 PSAPS (primary and secondary) in the U.S. that answered more than 240 million calls. This large number of PSAPs calls for a large number of dispatchers –95,000, to be more specific, according to the BLS.
But not all PSAPs are created equal. In other words, some PSAPS may only employ a handful of dispatchers who serve a small community, municipality, or county, while others may employee hundreds of dispatchers that serve tens or even hundreds of thousands of people.
For example, the DuPage Public Safety Communications office, which includes the Chicago area, provides dispatch services for 22 police departments and 22 fire departments and serves a population of more than 850,000. This office has a budget of about $17 million and employs 87 full-time telecommunicators.
In general, salaries for 911 dispatchers often reflect the size of the emergency communications office and its service area, with large metro areas, and their large budgets, capable of employing more dispatchers with higher salaries. According to the BLS, the highest average salary for emergency dispatchers in nonmetropolitan areas is $53,240, while the highest paid average salary in metropolitan areas is significantly higher, at $96,930.
Geography, as expected, is one of the biggest influencers of 911 dispatchers salaries, with dispatchers in areas of the country with higher costs of living earning more than their colleagues in other parts of the country.
The highest average salaries for 911 dispatchers are found in California ($65,120), Alaska ($57,120), Washington ($56,900), Minnesota ($55,900), Oregon ($55,790), and Connecticut ($55,470).
Recent job postings on NENA’s website support BLS stats. For example, a communications dispatcher job post in Santa Clara, CA reveals a salary range of $71,683-$86,680, while a 911 dispatcher job post in Grants Pass, OR, reveals a salary range of $47,403-$64,729.
How Education and Experience Factor into a 911 Dispatcher’s Salary
Both education and experience influence salaries for emergency services dispatchers. While experience tends to pay a larger role, many agencies accept a formal education as a substitute for experience, on a year-by-year basis.
In most cases, 911 dispatchers with at least a few years of experience have salaries that fall into the 50th-75th percentile. For example, in Texas, those in the 75th percentile (entry-level) earn a median salary of $31,770, while those in 50th percentile earn $37,470 and those in the 25th percentile earn $45,360.
Emergency communications directors and supervisors are among the highest paid in the industry, with many of these professionals earning a salary that falls into the 90th percentile or higher. For example, 911 dispatchers in New Jersey earn a median salary of $46,510, while those in the 90th percentile- likely those in director or supervisor positions – earn $65,980 – about $20,000 more.
Recent job postings on the NENA website also reveal the larger salaries those in supervisory and director positions demand:
- Police Communications Dispatcher Supervisor – Seattle, WA: $85,280-$99,840
- Associate Director – North Scituate, RI: $94,695-$109,956
- Communications Manager – Richardson, TX: $82,896-$117,480
- Director of Public Safety Communications – Tucson, AZ: $121,000-$240,000
The following BLS table provides a further breakdown of 911 dispatcher salaries, by state and percentile:
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/oes435031.htm. BLS salary data represents state 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 postings and employment statistics accessed from the National Emergency Number Association (NENA) www.nena.org.
All data accessed in July 2019.