How to become an ambulance dispatcher: Emily's story

Meet Emily, 23, and learn more about life as an ambulance dispatcher. Part of our Bitesize world of work series.

The most satisfying thing about my job is knowing that, at the end of the day, I've helped a family just like mine.

  • Helping people runs in the family. Both her mum and dad work for the North West Ambulance Service, and Emily decided to follow suit and become an ambulance dispatcher
  • Emily studied Spanish at A-level and loved the fact that she could communicate with others in different languages. She wanted to use these skills in the workplace – in dispatch, communication is key!
  • Multi-tasking is crucial in her role as Emily is the main point of contact between the ambulance crew and the control room and must make sure she dispatches the ambulance to the most critical patients quickly.
Watch Emily and her colleagues in action on BBC One's Ambulance.

Ambulance dispatchers 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)_

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