Salaries for 911 Emergency Services Dispatchers

911 dispatchers serve as the critical link between people in distress and the emergency services they need at a moment’s notice to protect life and property. From small towns to major cities, both first responders and the community at large rely on skilled 911 dispatchers with the training to remain calm under pressure and skillfully gather and convey the key pieces of information that police, fire and EMS need to be ready when they arrive on scene.

Salaries for the emergency communication pros who make the entire emergency dispatch system tick from behind-the-scenes can vary widely. Dispatch centers can cover all kinds of different areas, from single metro area jurisdictions to multi-county regions, and that can mean a significant difference in salaries.

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While the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported an average salary of $45,800 for emergency services dispatchers as of May 2020 (classified as public safety telecommunicators), it doesn’t begin to provide a clear picture of exactly what you can expect to earn.

So we’re here to provide the details, effectively serving as the link between future 911 dispatchers and the information they need to gear up for a career in the field.


A Closer Look at 911 Dispatcher Jobs and Salary Benefits

Highest Paying States and Major Metro Areas for 911 Dispatchers

How Education and Experience Factor into a 911 Dispatcher’s Salary


A Closer Look at 911 Dispatcher Jobs and Salary Benefits

According to the National Emergency Number Association (NENA), as of February 2021, there were 5,748 public service answering points (PSAPs) in the U.S. Every year, about 240 million calls are placed to PSAPs, about 80% of which are now made from mobile devices.

Growth in the emergency dispatcher profession is expected to remain strong in the coming years. As of 2019, there were 98,300 911 dispatcher jobs in the U.S. By 2029, this number is projected to grow to 104,3000 jobs – an increase of 6% during this period. The profession will see about 6,100 job openings during this period ending in 2029 due to a combination of new job growth and normal turnover resulting from retirements.

According to the BLS, 911 dispatchers earn, at the low end of the pay scale (25th percentile), about $34,630 and about $67,150 at the top end of the pay scale (90th percentile). Although, in general, earners at the 25th percentile are usually those who are fairly new to the profession and earners at the 90th percentile represent some of the most seasoned 911 dispatchers (who often hold a supervisor or director-level title), location continues to play a big part in the earning power of these professionals.

For example, while some PSAPS may only employ a handful of dispatchers who serve a small community, municipality, or county, others may employee hundreds of dispatchers that serve tens or even hundreds of thousands of people.

For example, the DuPage Public Safety Communications agency, which encompasses the massive Chicagoland 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 who, in 2018 alone, processed more than 1.2 million calls.

Highest Paying States and Major Metro Areas for 911 Dispatchers

In general, salaries for 911 dispatchers 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 $62,440, while the highest paid average salary in metropolitan areas is significantly higher, at $96,230.

Geography, as expected, is one of the biggest factors that determine what 911 dispatchers can expect to earn, with dispatchers in parts of the country where the cost of living is higher typically earning more than their colleagues in more affordable areas.

As of May 2020, the states with the highest average salaries for emergency dispatchers were:

  • California: $68,930
  • Alaska: $61,640
  • Washington: $61,550
  • Oregon: $58,030
  • Connecticut: $57,430

It’s no surprise that some of the highest paid 911 dispatchers are located in California metro areas, where the cost of living soars far above many other parts of the country:

  • San Jose (includes Sunnyvale and Santa Clara), CA: $96,230
  • San Francisco (includes Oakland and Hayward), CA: $88,100
  • Santa Barbara (includes Santa Maria), CA: $79,340
  • Santa Cruz (includes Watsonville), CA: $75,580
  • Ventura (includes Oxnard and Thousand Oaks), CA: $74,930
  • Stockton (includes Lodi), CA: $74,930

What can you expect to earn as an emergency dispatcher? The following BLS table provides insight into what emergency dispatchers are earning by state and by experience/education level (25th – new to the profession, likely no post-secondary education; 90th – four-year education, supervisory position), as of May 2020:

rea Name
Employment
Annual median wage
Alabama
2390
32080
Alaska
280
55860
Arizona
2100
42390
Arkansas
1050
29520
California
7130
67920
Colorado
1780
52160
Connecticut
1070
57100
Delaware
260
45650
District of Columbia
80
-
Florida
4860
40190
Georgia
3340
34050
Hawaii
210
-
Idaho
500
40890
Illinois
3450
55500
Indiana
1930
38750
Iowa
880
46760
Kansas
1130
34790
Kentucky
1310
33160
Louisiana
1610
32190
Maine
520
43980
Maryland
1580
48310
Massachusetts
2760
49550
Michigan
2310
44670
Minnesota
1270
55960
Mississippi
1290
27410
Missouri
2520
37810
Montana
400
41240
Nebraska
850
38310
Nevada
510
54530
New Hampshire
650
47800
New Jersey
4220
47400
New Mexico
800
36590
New York
5300
49100
North Carolina
3520
36470
North Dakota
250
49570
Ohio
4450
47870
Oklahoma
1610
31820
Oregon
1030
57690
Pennsylvania
3370
45030
Rhode Island
340
48690
South Carolina
980
34680
South Dakota
370
37460
Tennessee
1940
36830
Texas
7710
38890
Utah
750
39860
Vermont
300
47190
Virginia
2560
39140
Washington
1510
62030
West Virginia
680
29650
Wisconsin
1290
48110
Wyoming
270
42480

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.

Associate and bachelor’s degrees in areas like public safety, criminal justice, emergency management, and communications are frequent pursuits of aspiring emergency dispatchers who want to prepare for supervisory-level careers and higher salaries.

Recent job postings (June 2021, posted on NENA) reveal top-level salaries emergency dispatcher supervisors, managers and director positions, all of which require a minimum of a bachelor’s degree:

  • Professional Development Manager of 9-1-1 Emergency Communications, Aurora, CO (minimum bachelor’s degree with coursework in business, public administration, organizational communications, information technology, or an industry-related field): $86,579 – $108,224
  • General Manager Regional 911 Call Center, Santa Cruz, CA (minimum BA/BS): $175,290
  • Executive Director, Consolidated Dispatch Authority, Marshall, MI (minimum BA/BS): $87,000 – $95,000

 

May 2020 Bureau of Labor Statistics salary and job market trends for public safety telecommunicators. Figures represent national data, not school specific information. Conditions in your area may vary. Data accessed June 2021.

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