How to Become a 911 Dispatcher in Virginia

Virginia’s 911 dispatchers are often the first to react to an emergency, and must make split-second decisions that can mean the difference between life and death. The recognized responsibility and the challenging level of this type of work is one of the reasons the average salary for 911dispatcher jobs in Virginia is relatively high among other jobs requiring a similar amount of education and training. Last year, the average starting salary was $35,000.

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Leading places of employment in the field include:

  • Arlington County Emergency Communications Center
  • Chesterfield County Emergency Communications Center serving Richmond and handling 597,130 calls for service annually
  • Virginia Beach Emergency Communications, processing nearly half a million calls for service annually
  • Norfolk Department of Emergency Preparedness and Response’s Division of Emergency Communications, responding to over 700,000 calls for service annually
  • Chesapeake Emergency Communications Center, processing 350,000 calls for service annually
  • Department of Public Safety Communications – Fairfax County, Virginia


Training and Education for a Successful Career in Emergency Dispatch

Possessing a relevant degree in any of the following subjects will demonstrate a higher level of commitment to the field and can also improve long-term career promotions:

  • Nursing
  • Psychology
  • Communication
  • Criminal Justice
  • Homeland Security
  • Emergency Management

Agencies that participate in education programs and 911 dispatcher training in Virginia include:

  • Commission of Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies (CALEA)
  • Public and private colleges, universities, and technical schools
  • Virginia Office of Emergency Medical Services
  • Online education institutions
  • Association of Public-Safety Communications Officials (APCO)
  • Dispatcher School of the Commonwealth of Virginia

The individual skill development programs of all emergency communication agencies provide thorough 911 operator training throughout Virginia. This includes the following certifications from some of the major employers in the state:

  • Basic Dispatcher School
  • Emergency Medical Dispatch
  • CPR
  • Virginia Criminal Information Network (VCIN)
  • Emergency Medical Responder
  • Telecommunicator Training Academy
  • National Incident Management System (NIMS)
  • On-the-job training for technology including:


    • Computer Aided Dispatch (CAD)
    • Radio technology
    • GPS mapping systems


What to Expect from a Career as a 911 Dispatcher in Virginia

As candidates find out more about how to become a 911 dispatcher in Virginia they will be curious to know what day-to-day life is like. Some days can be slower while others can seem almost chaotic; there is no typical call for emergency service, and 911 dispatcher job descriptions vary. Often times these professionals will handle emotionally difficult situations, and for that reason the job can be both challenging and rewarding.

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In one of the more recent 911 calls with a good ending, a four-year-old Newport News girl was credited with saving her mother’s life, calling emergency services after she apparently had a seizure and fell to the floor unconscious. A 911 dispatcher-in-training received the call and was able to alert medical units and stay on the phone with the little girl until paramedics arrived at the scene.

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