911 Dispatcher Requirements in Colorado: What do you need to work in Emergency Communications in Colorado?

In Colorado, standards for hiring and training of emergency dispatchers vary from one municipality to another.

Colorado is among the states that does not mandate a minimum level of emergency services training. However, individual agencies may offer a significant amount of classroom instruction as well as on-the job training. A Denver 911 professional, for example, typically receives eight weeks of classroom training and then spends an additional twelve weeks with a trainer.

911 dispatch is part of a broader career group that may be termed “emergency communications” or “public safety communications”. Advancement is based on a number of factors.

Higher education, such as an associate’s or bachelor’s degree, may offer additional opportunities and status in the Emergency Dispatcher field.

Select a Colorado 911 Dispatcher Topic:

Educational Expectations for Entry and Advancement

A high school diploma or GED is generally adequate for a career in dispatch. However, agencies sometimes prefer degreed candidates or accept degrees en lieu of relevant job experience. Employing agencies will look for academic abilities as well as socioemotional ones. The required skills may, however, be attained in a variety of ways.

A dispatcher may progress to the supervisory level with education at the high school level. However, some high-level safety communications positions favor those with degrees.

County and city human resources websites can be a starting point for determining the minimum, or generally accepted, hiring standards. Actual expectations will vary, depending on the applicant pool as well as the actual duties involved. Positions at the highest levels will be very competitive. The following is a look at the expectations of some Colorado municipalities:

Colorado Springs: Most dispatch and public safety communication positions do not require college education (https://coloradosprings.gov/human-resources/page/salary-schedule-job-classifications-descriptions). The expectation is a diploma or GED, along with specialized training in dispatch or another related field. Dispatchers are expected to have intermediate reading skills; in this case, intermediate is defined as the high school to college level. Math skills are required at only a basic (elementary to high school) level for dispatcher and trainer positions while supervisors are generally expected to have skills at an intermediate level. Basic writing skills are sufficient for dispatch; trainers and supervisors, though, are expected to have skills at an intermediate level. Human Resources notes that skills can be obtained through self-study.

Educational expectations are higher for public safety communication managers. At this level, a bachelor’s degree is expected. The hiring agency will consider candidates with degrees in public administration or business administration as well as communications; other related degrees may be accepted. Reading skills should be at the advanced level (college or above); this is the level that would include legal documents and financial reports.

Larimer County: Larimer County lists high school graduation or general equivalency as the minimum educational requirement for emergency communications operators and supervisors. Among the required skills at the operator level are reading and interpreting maps, communicating effectively, typing quickly, and prioritizing tasks.

An emergency communications manager will need the equivalent of a bachelor’s degree. The hiring agency can accept two years of high-level work experience as a year of college education.

Boulder: The city of Boulder lists skills and abilities en lieu of minimum educational level for police dispatch positions (https://bouldercolorado.gov/human-resources/job-search-by-class-title). However, a bachelor’s degree is listed among the desired (preferred) qualifications. Bilingualism is also on the list of desired qualifications.

Denver: Denver has also set the minimum education level for 911 operators and police dispatchers at the level of high school graduation or general equivalency (https://www.denvergov.org/content/denvergov/en/department-of-safety/emergency-services/911-emergency-communications/jobs.html).

Work Experience Requirements

Some municipalities expect work experience, if not in dispatch, in a related field such as one that involves “public contact”. Successful dispatch experience can make a person a candidate for supervisory positions; a dedicated dispatcher may progress to the supervisory level after several years.

Candidates for managerial-level emergency communications or public safety communications positions are generally expected to have had previous positions that involved exercising a good deal of responsibility. However, they may or may not have started as dispatchers.

Denver expects that 911 agents and agents will have had two years of experience involving public contact; experience is to have included application of procedures, policies, or legal guidelines.

Larimer County notes that no experience is necessary at the “Operator I” level. The individual will need at least a year of experience at this level to move up to the “Operator II” level.

Boulder lists prior dispatch experience as a desired, but not required, qualification.

Professional Certifications

Colorado agencies list a variety of third party professional certifications. Certification may not be required at the onset; the agency may instead state that the individual will need to be able to attain it within a set period of time. The agency’s own in-house training program may qualify the completer for various entry-level credentials.

One commonly referenced certification is Emergency Medical Dispatch (EMD). The agency may also seek Emergency Fire Dispatch (EFD) and/ or Emergency Police Dispatch (EPD). Some job descriptions note that certification is to come from the NAED (or IAED as it is now known). Again, the provider may from one agency to the next. Dispatchers who provide pre-arrival medical directions are typically also required to hold CPR certification. Additionally, some workers may need brief training/ certification in the incident command system, criminal information data systems, and/ or telecommunications response to missing children reports.

Additional Information

Colorado’s professional association is NENA-APCO; it is a chapter of both APCO International and the National Emergency Numbers Association (https://www.conenaapco.org/). NENA-APCO is not a legal regulatory body, but may be a source of information as well as a professional development resource.