How to become a 999 call taker: Laura's story

Did you catch Laura on BBC One's new series of Ambulance? Find out more about her role as a 999 emergency call taker. Part of the Bitesize world of work series.

The most satisfying part of the job for me is going home knowing I've made a difference to somebody's life.

  • Laura has always wanted to help other people. She sadly lost her mum when she was 12 but felt inspired by the paramedics who had helped her family when they needed it most
  • She went on to study Health and Social Care and has been working as a 999 call taker since 2016
  • She handles a wide variety of calls on each shift – everything from childbirth to mental health crises – and has learnt to expect the unexpected!
  • Laura has secured a place at university to start paramedic training later this year.
Watch Laura in action on BBC One's Ambulance

Emergency call takers are sometimes referred to as emergency medical dispatchers or emergency call handlers. They handle calls from the public and GPs requesting an ambulance.

What to expect if you want to be an emergency medical dispatcher

  • Emergency medical dispatcher salary: £17,652 to £20,795 per year
  • Emergency medical dispatcher working hours: 40 to 42 hours per week. You work shifts, which could include evenings, weekends and bank holidays

What qualifications do you need to be an emergency medical dispatcher?

  • Typical entry requirements: You could get this job through a college course, an apprenticeship or applying directly. Good computer skills and a typing qualification could be useful to get into this job. Relevant college courses include Level 2 Award in Touch Typing and Level 2 ECDL Award in IT User Skills. You can also get into this role through an advanced apprenticeship in emergency service contact handling. You'll usually need to be over 18 and may need a GCSE (or equivalent) grade 9 to 4 (A* to C) in English or equivalent but employers will set their own requirements.
    Paid or unpaid experience of working in healthcare would be useful. You could contact the voluntary services co-ordinator or manager at your local NHS trust for advice about opportunities.
    You can apply directly to this role via your local ambulance service. Each service sets their own entry requirements, though it may help your application if you have GCSEs (or equivalent) grade 9 to 4 (A* to C) in English, Maths and Science, experience in customer care, like a call centre operator, map reading skills and knowledge of local geography, an understanding of medical terminology, the ability to speak a community language or a recognised and up-to-date first aid qualification.

This information is a guide (sources: LMI for All, National Careers Service)_

For careers advice in all parts of the UK visit: England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales

If you’re interested in becoming a 999 call taker but are not sure if your skill set matches up, take a look at the Wheel of Strengths from Barclays Lifeskills.

It’s a nifty interactive tool you can use to identify your skills, interests and personality. It will also suggest jobs that might suit you and identify how building other skills could open up other job roles.

Take a look - your future awaits!

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Tanoh: paramedic
Kestra: medical student
Kate: critical care nurse