How to become a 911 dispatcher

What Do Police Dispatchers Do?

Police dispatchers answer 911 calls and ensure an effective response to emergencies. They offer a lifeline between the public and law enforcement as well as playing a vital role in ensuring public safety.

A calm demeanor, critical thinking, and exceptional communication skills are essential if you want to join the first-response team. These will be important when performing the following duties:

  • Speaking with callers – Dispatchers help callers remain calm, gather crucial information about the emergency, and guide callers through safety and first aid procedures.
  • Communication and coordination – Assessing urgency and relying on information is an essential part of the role. Dispatchers quickly prioritize calls and assess the most appropriate response. They also efficiently manage multiple communication channels to provide clear and concise instructions to officers.
  • Non-emergency responsibilities – Documenting calls, handling tasks such as background checks, and answering general inquiries are also responsibilities for police dispatchers.


Are you interested in other government organization positions? Take a look at our Civil Service Exam page to learn more about positions like police officers, firefighter, clerks, and many more.

How to Become a 911 Dispatcher

Online Application

Every police department has unique requirements and challenges. We recommend that you contact your local or desired dispatch center and inquire about the necessary steps to become a 911dispatcher.

You will have to fill out an online application to start your process, there you can be instructed on the next steps.

Police Dispatcher Test

The dispatcher test is a selection exam used to screen candidates interested in becoming a 911 operator. Acing the test will help you get ahead of the very competitive application process.

Although there is not one standardized dispatcher test, they usually evaluate some or all these aptitudes: typing, listening, reading, setting priorities, speech recognition, memory, map reading, spatial orientation, and reading comprehension.


Learn more about how to become a 911 dispatcher and ace your upcoming test with our practice guide to the 911 dispatcher test.


Most candidates for public safety police dispatcher jobs in the US take one of the following tests:


CritiCall Practice Test

The CritiCall Test is the most popular 911 dispatcher exam in the US and Canada. It simulates the day-to-day duties of police dispatchers and evaluates potential to succeed in training and the actual job.

Not all CritiCall tests are the same, your dispatch center can choose the modules that are most important for them. Some of them include typing, call summarization, decision-making, memory, prioritization, map reading, reading comprehension, and spelling.

Take a look at this call summarization module sample question. 

Listen to the recording and then answer the question below (open the text version if you don't have access to audio).

▶ Play Audio 

Text Version of The Audio

Operator: "911. What's your emergency?"

Caller: "Hello, I'm on the US One highway junction to Miami. There's a major storm hit, the water is beginning to flood and cars are drifting away".

Operator: "How many cars do you see on the road?"

Caller: "I can't see clearly. I can recognize nine right now, but there might be more, two of them are stuck. The water level is the same height as the window. Hurry, please".

Operator: "What car are you driving?"

Caller: "A Volkswagen van?"

Operator: "Are you in a safe place?"

Caller: "No, I can't see any safe zones around here. Help me. I can't steer. I've lost contact with the road".

Operator: "Keep calm. The emergency crew is on their way, sir".

Caller: "Please hurry".

Operator: "What is your name, sir?"

Caller: "Steven Seveka".

Operator: "Are there kids inside the vehicle with you?"

Caller: "No, just me and my friend Larry Brickman here".

Operator: "OK. Listen to me, try to stay on the road. Whatever you do, don't leave the car. If the water level becomes too high. Get on top of the vehicle. Our helicopter is trying to find you".

How many kids are inside the vehicle?

A. Was not mentioned

B. None

C. Just one, Larry Brickman

D. Just One, Steven da Backer


The correct answer is B.

The caller's answer to the question "do you have kids inside the vehicle?" is "no, just me and my friend Larry Brickman here." Therefore the answer is B.



JobTestPrep is committed to offering the most complete guides and comprehensive preparation. Get familiar with the test and practice with sample questions and explanations to ace your police dispatcher test! 


POST Dispatcher Test

The Commission on Peace Officer Standards and Training (POST) measures your abilities necessary for a successful performance as a 911 dispatcher. It is mainly used by agencies in California.

The POST Test is divided into four areas: verbal, reasoning, memory, and perceptual abilities. It consists of 11 short exams, ranging from 5-15 minutes per test. The complete test battery should take between 2-3 hours to complete.

Try answering the following perceptual ability sample question.

POST Dispatcher Perceptual Ability Sample Question

The number of errors in the COPY when compared to the ORIGINAL is:

A. One

B. Two

C. Three

D. None of these


The correct answer is A. One

There's only one mistake in the first row under "Complaint #":

557522-614 | 557552-614



Access our POST Dispatcher Test PrepPack to pass with a high score. The pack includes simulations and practice tests with step-by-step explanations to help improve your skills in each of the four areas of the test.


Police Communications Technician Exam

This test, also known as the NYPD 911 Operator Exam, is a necessary step to become a 911 dispatcher in New York. The test is 85 questions long and takes 2 hours and 45 minutes to complete.

The Police Communications Technician Exam includes 7 sections: written comprehension, written expression, memorizations, problem sensitivity, deductive reasoning, inductive reasoning, and information ordering.


Read the RULE carefully and answer the question.


A correctional officer whose life is not being threatened may not shoot a violent inmate with a rifle or handgun unless it is a .22 caliber rimfire using rubber, sand, or rock-salt ammunition.

Which of the following is in violation of the RULE?

A. Officer Jerry Thomson shot a violent inmate, who was beating another inmate, with a .22 caliber rimfire rifle, using .22 rock-salt ammunition.

B. Officer John Adams shot a violent inmate who threatened his life with a shotgun, using rock0salt ammunition.

C. Officer James Kelly shot a violent inmate with a .22 caliber rimfire rifle, using .22 sand ammunition.

D. Officer Kim Buckley shot a violent inmate who was not threatening his life with a .22 caliber rimfire handgun, using .22 Short ammunition.


The correct answer is D.

"A correctional officer those life is not being threatened may not shoot a violent inmate with a rifle or handgun unless […]" – Buckley shot a violent inmate with a handgun while not under life threat."“[…] unless it is a .22 caliber rimfire using rubber, sand, or rock-salt ammunition.” – Buckley's handgun is a .22 caliber rimfire, but he used .22 Short ammunition, which does not comply with the RULE.

In answer (A), just as in (D), Jerry's life was not threatened. However, he used the correct ammunition.

In answer (B), Officer Adams's life was threatened. Since the RULE only addresses shootings when the officer's life is not threatened, no violation occurred.

Notice that answer (C) does not mention whether the officer's life was threatened; either way, there was no violation of the RULE:

If Officer Kelly's life was threatened, then there could be no violation of the RULE, just as in answer (B).
If Officer Kelly's life was not threatened, no violation of the RULE had occurred, since the correct ammunition was used.



If you want to practice with more sample questions and simulation tests, access our preparation pack to increase your chances of becoming a competitive candidate.

911 Dispatcher Requirements

There is no single standardized procedure, however, police dispatchers all require the following minimum requirements:

  • Be at least 18 years old.
  • Have a high school diploma or GED.
  • Be a US citizen or legally authorized to work in the US.
  • Undergo a background check and a medical examination.

Additional Skills and Experience

Although not mandatory, a college degree in criminal justice, communication, or a related field can strengthen your application. Experience in roles related to dispatching can also help your chances of being accepted. Jobs such as a call center representative, or any position related to customer service or administrative support are a big plus.

Besides academic and work experience, police departments are looking for candidates who can provide with the following strengths: composure under pressure, emotional control, clear communication, organizational skills, quick decision-making, and computer proficiency. Consider building these skills before applying, they will make you a competitive candidate.

Interview and Psychological Evaluation

The interview and psychological evaluations are a chance to showcase your unique strengths and suitability for the demanding role.

The interview process will depend on the department that you are applying to, but you can expect questions about the following skills:

  • Motivation – Why do you want to become a 911 dispatcher?
  • Decision-making skills – How would you handle an ambiguous call?
  • Stress management – Describe techniques you use to stay calm under pressure/
  • Communication skills – Give examples of clear and concise communication in stressful situations.
  • Understanding of the role – What are some of the key responsibilities of a 911 dispatcher?

The psychological evaluation, often computer-based, will assess your emotional stability, ability to handle stress, and overall management in a high-pressure environment. It is similar to the pre-employment Police Psychological Exam.

Job Training and Certifications

After completing the mentioned steps in your application process, the agency will usually require that you complete a 911 dispatcher training program and/or several certifications relevant for the position. There is not one standardized procedure, each agency sets their training standards.

Some of the most common paramedic related training programs are Emergency Medical Dispatcher (EMD) and Emergency Number Professional (ENP). Some agencies may also provide in-house training programs.

You might also be required to join a training program in some of the following fields:

  • Advanced first aid.
  • Hazardous materials.
  • Domestic violence.
  • Suicide Intervention.

Jobs Similar to Police Dispatcher

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911 Dispatcher FAQ


What skills do you need to become a police dispatcher?

To be a police dispatcher, you will need both tech and people skills. You will use various communication programs to talk to officers and callers. Patience and clear communication are key, as well as being good at multitasking, solving problems, and staying calm under pressure.

Are 911 dispatchers police officers?

No, 911 dispatchers are not police officers. They are civilians who act as the lifeline between the public and emergency services. While they work closely with law enforcement, they don't have arrest powers or go to the scene themselves.

Police dispatchers are civilians hired to answer calls, gather information, and send police, fire, or medical help accordingly.

How much do police dispatchers make?

Salary data for police dispatchers varies depending on location, experience, and agency. Police dispatcher salaries range from $37,000 to $62,000 per year.

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