Industry Insights

911 Operator Jobs – How to Apply

By: Melanie Bacallao
Aug 14, 2021 • 5 min read

How To Apply & Get Hired For 911 Operator Jobs In Your State!

Have what it takes to be a 911 operator? A 911 operator is essential in connecting a distressed person with emergency aid. If you think you can help others through serious, possibly life-threatening situations, then definitely look into this field!

When it comes to 911 operators, they have to go through weeks and possibly months of academic training. A common misconception, even for those who apply, is that handling 911 calls is relatively easy. It is not.

Stephanie Minott is a current 911 Operator and Communications Officer in Cumberland County, Maine. She recounted her 18-week training, “There is a picture that our society mentally paints of what a dispatcher does… I was no exception,” she said. “Phones ring, trucks go, help arrives, people are saved, and fires are extinguished. There is so much more.”

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What is a 911 Operator?

A 911 operator bridges the gap between people and emergency services under a short response time. The community relies on 911 operators to send direct help to protect lives or property. At the same time, police, fire, and the EMS department also rely on 911 operators to fill them in on the situation, so they are better equipped.

Every country has its own version of an emergency dial; the United States is 911. When people dial this number, a 911 operator is expected to handle the situation calmly and use clear, effective communication. During this time, the operator will collect essential information such as location and names to know which service needs to be dispatched. Having a calm mindset is crucial so that help can be sent as quickly as possible.

Skills Every 911 Operator Should Have

Every career in the justice field needs to have a lot of technical and soft skills compared to most fields. A career in 911 operations and communication is no exception.

Here are the skills needed to be a 911 operator:

  • Independence
  • Good judgment
  • Make quick decisions
  • Multi-tasking
  • Gather information accurately and rapidly
  • Communication
  • Organization
  • High emotional control
  • Intelligence

Additional skills include knowing your geography, foreign languages, and typing above 45 words per minute. On the more technical side, 911 operators have to pilot radio, communication, and computer equipment. These technical skills will be cultivated during academic training.

For the most part, being a 911 operator means heavily leaning on skills that may already be present or easy to nurture. If you find yourself lacking or falling short on any of these skills, don’t worry. They are easy to learn and adapt to. Take online courses if needed!

Qualifications of a 911 Operator

There are certain requirements when it comes to being a 911 operator. The field itself is very accepting and has lenient requirements compared to other justice fields. That doesn’t mean there aren’t any restrictions or qualifications you have to meet.

In terms of education, you need to have at least a high school diploma or equivalent. Other desirable traits include foreign language proficiency, relevant coursework, and previous experience in operating radio equipment.

If you’re looking to study how to become a 911 operator, check-in with colleges or universities. Some schools provide a 911 operator certificate to those who enroll in the program. It is also possible that these classes are available online so that a wider demographic of students have access to courses. Having a college degree allows you to have career advancement in the field compared to just having a high school degree. So, if 911 operator jobs are a goal of yours, enrolling in higher education can help you get there.

Recommended online training courses to be a 911 operator include the National Emergency Number Association (NENA) and National Academies of Emergency Dispatch (NAED). These certifications have a required fee to pay, and requirements vary.

Subjects that are taught and related to being a 911 operator include:

  • Public Safety
  • Homeland Security
  • Communications
  • Criminal Justice
  • Emergency Management
  • Psychology

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Training to Be A 911 Operator

Another requirement to being a 911 operator is passing the academic training provided. This includes a lot of classroom instruction and hands-on training. The training program can last from 120 to 520 hours, depending on the agency and state. Likewise, states have different requirements for being a 911 operator.

Other than having at least a high school diploma or equivalent, you must be 18 with a valid driver’s license.

Once hired, you’ll begin going through intensive 911 operator training. As mentioned, the duration of training varies depending on the county. Usually, these are the training programs all 911 operator trainees are subjected to:

  • Emergency Medical Dispatch
  • Advanced First Aid/CPR/AED
  • Critical Incident Stress
  • Domestic Violence
  • Suicide Intervention
  • Hazardous Materials
  • Terrorism
  • Basic Telecommunications
  • TTY Training

Some of these are certificate programs (such as CPR), and others are basic training courses. Training instructors can still add or remove to this list depending on what you need to know.

How to Apply for 911 Operator Jobs

You need to meet the requirements mentioned above to apply for 911 operator jobs. The minimum is at least being 18 with a high school diploma or GED and a valid driver’s license. To apply, check your state county’s official site or your local sheriff’s department’s website. Remember that each state has its own requirements when it comes to being a 911 operator. So, doing some research before starting the application process is a crucial step!

If you’re ready to apply, make sure you meet the following criteria:

  • Be 18 or older
  • Valid driver’s license
  • High school diploma or equivalent
  • Pass a computerized pre-employment test
  • Pass an extensive background test
  • Complete a psychological exam
  • Pass a drug screening
  • Participate in a computerized voice stress analysis (CVSA)
  • Receive NCIC/FCIC certification
  • Completion of 911 operator training

As you can see, there’s a lot that goes into applying to be a 911 operator! That’s why it’s best to be prepared and study ahead of time.

List of 911 Operator Requirements in Various States

Here is a short list detailing the process behind applying for a 911 operator job in the states. This list is meant to show you how some states prioritize different qualifications. You can also find employer and salary information, too.

Alabama

Alabama is ranked 35th on the U.S. Crime Index. The statistics of violent crime in this state are above average.

The requirements to be a 911 operator in Alabama include:

  • Passing a drug screening
  • 6 months using radio transmitters – transmitting and obtaining information
  • Ability to work night shifts, weekends, overtime, and holidays
  • Know NCIC codes and procedures
  • Learn the geography of local/general areas

These are 911 operator employers in Alabama seeking new personnel:

  • Huntsville Police Department
  • Birmingham Police Department
  • Montgomery Police Department
  • Mobile Police Department

The average salary of a 911 operator in Alabama is $39,200.

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Alaska

Alaska is ranked 40th on the U.S. Crime Index. The statistics of sexual assault in this state are above average.

The requirements to be a 911 operator in Alaska include:

  • Must be CPR/EMD/EFD certified within 3 months of hire
  • Write above 35 wpm and pass an exam

Since there are no counties in Alaska, you can try to find 911 operator employment in one of these cities:

  • Anchorage
  • Fairbanks
  • Juneau

The average salary of a 911 operator in Alaska is $44,536.

Arizona

Arizona is ranked 38th on the U.S. Crime Index. The statistics of violence, assault, and car accidents are above average. So, 911 operator jobs will be more plentiful in this State.

The requirements to be a 911 operator in Arizona include:

  • Extensive knowledge of local geography
  • Ability to multitask
  • Fast thinker

These are 911 operator employers in Arizona seeking new personnel:

  • Phoenix Police Department
  • Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office
  • Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community Public Safety
  • Tucson 911 Communication Center

The average salary of a 911 operator in Arizona is $44,876.

California

California is ranked 31st on the U.S. Crime Index. The statistics of violent crimes are around average.

The requirements to be a 911 operator in California include:

  • Working weekends, vacations, and nights
  • Learning local geography
  • Possessing CPR certification at time of hire

Since California is a large state, there are countless 911 operator employers. Here are some areas to help you start your search:

  • San Francisco
  • Los Angeles
  • San Diego
  • Sacramento

The average salary of a 911 operator in Arizona is $51,453.

Connecticut

Connecticut is ranked 9th on the U.S. Crime Index. The statistics for violent crimes are below the national average.

The requirements to be a 911 operator in Connecticut include:

  • Passing two online courses administered by the FEMA
  • Finishing a training program held at the Connecticut Police Academy (3 days, 7 classes)
  • Passing a state certification exam

These are 911 operator employers in Connecticut seeking new personnel:

  • City of New Haven Office of New Management
  • Bridgeport Public Safety Communications 911 Center
  • Stamford Police Department

The average salary of a 911 operator in Connecticut is $45,696.

Florida

Florida is ranked 45th on the U.S. Crime Index. The statistics for violent crime are slightly above the national average.

The requirements to be a 911 operator in Florida include:

  • Writing above 35 wpm and passing a test
  • Having an EMD/EFD certification
  • Having a CPR certification

Since Florida is a large state, there are countless 911 operator employers. Here are a few areas to help you start your search:

  • Tallahassee
  • Jacksonville
  • Miami
  • Miramar
  • Fort Myers

The average salary of a 911 operator in Florida is $40,801.

Hawaii

Hawaii is ranked 27th on the U.S. Crime Index. The statistics for violent crime are slightly below the national average.

The requirements to be a 911 operator in Hawaii include:

  • Having at least 2 years of customer service experience over the phone
  • Having an EMD certification
  • Passing an examination prior to hiring

These are 911 operator employers in Hawaii seeking new personnel:

  • Honolulu Police Department
  • Maui Police Department
  • Hawaii County Police Department

The average salary of a 911 operator in Hawaii is $46,807.

Additional Resources

When it comes to learning how to be a 911 operator, there’s a lot you can explore. If you’re hesitant about getting into the field, verify that this is something you want to do.

You can explore the opportunity of becoming a 911 operator by taking online courses, viewing instruction videos, or even playing games. There are plenty of simulation games to give you an exclusive look at the life of a 911 operator. Doing your research is important so that you can go into this field with confidence. You can even stop by your local call center to find out more, and so that you can get a good feel for what to expect.

For more information on individual state requirements for 911 operators, check this site. We wish you good luck on your journey!

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