California Occupational Guides

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Summary Guide for

Police, Fire, and Ambulance Dispatchers in Santa Clara County

May also be called: 911 Operators; Ambulance Dispatchers; Call Takers; Communications Dispatchers; Communications Officers; Communications Operators; Communications Specialists; Emergency Communications Dispatchers; Emergency Medical Dispatchers; Fire Dispatchers; Police Dispatchers; Public Safety Dispatchers; Telecommunicators

What Would I Do?

Police, Fire, and Ambulance Dispatchers, commonly called Public Safety Dispatchers or 911 Operators, take calls for police, fire, or ambulance assistance, and dispatch emergency personnel and vehicles. They also monitor the location of emergency services personnel.

Public Safety Dispatchers work in well-equipped offices and sit for long periods, using telephones, computers, and two-way radios. Dispatcher work can be very stressful due to the high number of calls at times, as well as the possibility of dire consequences due to a slow or improper response. Generally, Dispatchers work a 40-hour week; however, rotating shifts, compressed work schedules, and overtime are common.

Will This Job Fit Me?

The job of Dispatcher may appeal to those who enjoy following set procedures and routines, working with data and details, and following a clear line of authority.

What Wages and Benefits Can I Expect?

In addition to their regular earnings, Public Safety Dispatchers may also receive bilingual pay and shift differentials.

The median wage in 2020 for Public Safety Dispatchers in California was $67,601 annually, or $32.50 hourly. The median wage for Public Safety Dispatchers in San Benito and Santa Clara Counties was $99,608 annually, or $47.89 hourly. The median is the point at which half of the workers earn more and half earn less.

Change to Hourly Wages
Annual Wages for 2020Low
(25th percentile)
(50th percentile)
(75th percentile)
San Benito and Santa Clara Counties$82,759$99,608$117,318
Source: EDD/LMID Occupational Employment Statistics Survey, 2020 Wages do not reflect self-employment.
View Wages for All Areas

Benefit packages for full-time Dispatchers typically include health, dental, vision, and life insurance as well as vacation and sick leave, holidays, and retirement plans. Dispatchers who work for State or municipal agencies may also be provided with uniforms.

What is the Job Outlook?

The growing and aging population will increase demand for emergency services and stimulate employment growth of Public Safety Dispatchers. Many districts are consolidating their communications centers into shared area-wide facilities.

How Do I Qualify?

Public Safety Dispatchers who work for agencies participating in the California Commission on Peace Officer Standards and Training (POST) must meet several statewide minimum standards for employment. These include fingerprint and Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) records checks; a passing score on a verbal, reasoning, memory, and perceptual abilities assessment (written examination); an oral communications skills evaluation (employment interview); background investigation; and medical examination. In addition to POST requirements, candidates applying for jobs in State and local agencies will also need to take a civil service exam.

Finding a Job

Direct application to employers remains one of the most effective job search methods. Positions with State and local agencies are filled through civil service examinations and are advertised in State, county, and city personnel offices and on agency Web sites. Job openings with law enforcement agencies participating in the California POST program are included in the job opportunities section of the POST Web site. Newspaper classified ads and job search Web sites may also provide job leads.  Online job opening systems include JobCentral at and CalJOBSSM at

To find your nearest One-Stop Career Center, go to Service Locator. View the helpful job search tips for more resources. (requires Adobe Reader).

Learn More About Public Safety Dispatchers