911 Dispatcher Requirements in Georgia: What is the Path to Become a Communications Officer in Georgia

Georgia’s 911 dispatchers — termed communications officers — are state certified. The process is unlike that of many regulated occupations in that the required dispatch training typically takes place after hire.

Pre-hiring requirements include earning a high school diploma or GED and having the ability to successfully complete multiple assessments and screenings.

College education is generally expected only of 911 professionals who want to take on high-level positions. However, post-secondary education can offer direct or indirect benefits to an emergency professional even at the lower levels.

In Georgia, communications officer is considered a peace officer specialty. Training and certification are handled by the Georgia Peace Officer Standards and Training (POST) Council. Communications officers need to meet eligibility requirements on a par with other peace officers.

POST also offers Instructor Training Certification.

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

Select a Georgia 911 Dispatcher Topic:

General Eligibility Requirements

Peace officer eligibility standards are described in state regulation (http://www.gapost.org/Rules/14comoff.html). Individuals are to be at least 18 years of age and citizens of the United States (though not necessarily by birth).

Prospective communications officers will need to have fingerprint-based background checks. Backgrounds must be free of serious crimes or of repeated minor crimes that indicate disregard for the law.

POST rules also mandate “good character”. An applicant will, at the time of application, authorize POST to conduct a comprehensive background investigation that can include education, job experience, and finances, among other things.

A pre-hiring oral interview is a required part of the application process. One purpose is to determine the level of communication ability.

The prospective dispatcher will also need to have a physical examination. The doctor will consider both physical and mental conditions that could impair performance of job duties.

Meeting Additional Hiring Requirements

Though the required minimum age statewide is 18, some agencies set it as high as 21. The municipality may administer drug screening and/ or polygraph tests prior to hiring.

An examination is often required. The Georgia State Police, for example, take a Telecommunicator Examination; they must pass with a score of at least 70% (https://dps.georgia.gov/frequently-asked-questions-georgia-state-patrol-dispatcher).

Some municipalities prefer employment experience and/ or education beyond high school even at the basic communications officer level.

Duluth sets the minimum educational level for communications officer at high school/ GED level but notes that post-secondary coursework or a degree in a field such as criminal justice, public or business administration, or office administration is a “desirable qualification”. The Department also values training in areas such as information systems or secretarial science. Among the other desirable, but not mandatory, qualifications are foreign language fluency and prior work in public safety communications.

Roswell seeks a year of experience that involves communicating with the public but may accept other combinations of education/ experience.

Hall County notes that no experience is required for Communications Officer Trainee. However, the agency does expect a variety of skills, including the ability to read maps and knowledge of the specific geography of Hall County (http://www.gaapco.com/index.php/employment/130-commofc-hallco). Candidates must take a keyboard test.

Standards are subject to change.

The Certification Process

The individual will submit an application at the time that he or she applies for admission to the Basic Communications Officer Training Course. Applications can be downloaded from the website of the Peace Officer Standards and Training Council (http://www.gapost.org/commoff.html).

The applicant will sign a release authorizing POST to receive various pieces of personal information.

Fingerprints are made prior to application submission. POST prefers that applicants have their fingerprints made electronically. They are directed to the Identogo website (https://www.aps.gemalto.com/ga/index.htm). An applicant also has the option of including two fingerprint cards. Directions for all options can be found in the application packet.

The applicant will attach a copy of high school or GED; a home school affidavit can also be accepted.

An applicant who has a military background will include a copy of a discharge document/ DD-214.

The required basic training program for communications officers is 40 hours. The dispatcher will need to complete it within six months of the time that he or she commences employment. APCO International, a nationally recognized professional association, notes that Georgia’s training program culminates in written and performance assessments (http://psc.apcointl.org/2010/09/01/state-training-certification-survey/).

Additional Post-Hire Training

Some dispatchers are required to hold Emergency Medical Dispatch (EMD) and CPR certifications; this training prepares them to give pre-arrival medical instructions.

Dispatchers may need NCIC/GCIC certification; this is so they can utilize crime information networks.

Advancement Opportunities

As civil servants, communications officers have a defined career ladder. They may progress through several classifications and pay grades on the strength of work history, provided that they have the knowledge base and aptitude.

Trainers are state-certified. They are expected to have three years of agency experience. They typically meet training requirements by completing a Georgia-approved program, though rules state that an individual can be certified after completing a program that is “the recognized equivalent” and also performing satisfactorily on written and performance examinations that have been approved by the Council (http://www.gapost.org/Rules/6instcrt.html). The instructor course is 40 hours.

Again, individual municipalities may note various required skills. Fayette County notes that a Communications Officer Trainer can qualify with education at the high school level but that the level of competency is that that is generally associated with having had an internship or apprenticeship (or having had a year or two of previous experience in a similar job role).

High level administrative positions may note a degree requirement; an example is E-911 Director for Fayette County (http://www.gaapco.com/index.php/employment/139-fayette-e911director).

Some dispatchers complete advanced level certifications to help them prepare for supervisory and managerial level positions. One example is the Registered Public-Safety Leader (RPL) certification, offered by APCO International.

Additional Information

Certification information is available from the Peace Officer Standards and Training Council (http://www.gapost.org/index.html). Certification specialists can be reached by mail or email (http://www.gapost.org/staff.html).

State professional associations include the Georgia Chapter of the Association of Public-Safety Communications Officials (http://www.gaapco.com) and the Georgia Emergency Numbers Association (http://www.ganena.net).

Georgia dispatchers who have been in the field 20 or more years may have been ‘grandfathered’; those who were grandfathered are registered as opposed to certified.