Much More Than A Job

Josh McFadden

Josh McFadden


Josh McFadden

For some people, the place where they go to work every day is simply a job and nothing more. For others, work duties are part of their career.

When you think of a job, you may think of coming into the office for eight (or more) hours a day, punching a clock, going through the motions, and doing what you have to do in order to get a much-needed paycheck. A career is different. In a career, you likely have more motivation, more engagement, more passion, and more motivation to continually develop and grow.

In a job, there’s often little hope or even expectation for growth. In a career, the employee has clear goals for advancement and skill development. There’s a defined path for additional future responsibilities and even leadership opportunities.

Some people are content to have a job rather than a career. The workers would rather not increase their accountability or expectations and prefer things to stay the same way. Other people bounce around from job to job for a variety of reasons and never settle on a career.

In the emergency dispatch industry, people can find careers through different positions, skill development, and continuing education. The IAED is here to support you in your efforts and provide tools to help you succeed in your career ambitions.

Digging deeper: What are the differences?

Financial expert Trent Hamm, founder of the organization the Simple Dollar, discussed some of the distinguishing characteristics between a job and a career. He wrote, “A job is simply something you do to earn money. Career advancement is not something you’re interested in there, and the work often doesn’t interest you at all. In five years, you’ll likely not be doing anything like your current job. A career is a series of connected employment opportunities, where you build up skills at employment opportunities to move you into higher-paying higher-prestige employment opportunities later on.”1

Hamm expounded on the subject with a few other explanations.

A job:

  • has minimal impact on future resumes and job applications because it’s completely unrelated to the positions you’ll be applying for.
  • is just there to put some easy cash in your pocket.
  • offers very few networking opportunities because the people at the job are not people you’ll likely know in a future job.
A career:
  • is a series of heavily related jobs that will always be used on future applications and resumes.
  • provides the backbone of experiences and learning that will fuel your professional life for years, if not your entire life.
  • is loaded with networking opportunities, as most of the people around you are involved in similar careers to yours, and they’ll keep popping up time and time again.2
A job can become a career

There are some employment opportunities we typically think of as jobs—temporary stop-overs to help make ends meet for a time. For example, fast food cooks and clerks, janitors, grocery store stockers, and pizza delivery drivers might not be typical positions that many people expect to work long term.

This doesn’t mean workers have to treat them as jobs. Even these could, in fact, turn into careers.

Hamm points out that a convenience store clerk can certainly show up to work every day, stand behind the counter, and do the bare minimum to keep the job and collect a check. However, ambitious employees may see future growth opportunities, even in a position such as this. Workers may do extra work and may even take it upon themselves to learn about store management, accounting and inventory procedures, or interpersonal communication.

Larry H. Miller, a prominent businessman from Salt Lake City, Utah (USA), worked a series of jobs in his early and mid-20s, eventually securing a position in the parts department of an auto dealer. He treated the position as more than a job and learned everything he could about the business. He was motivated to grow the job into a career and wound up buying a car dealership nine years later. Eventually, he owned the nation’s 10th-largest car dealership, bought a professional basketball team, and saw his net worth soar to more than $400 million.3

Career growth prospects and the link to job satisfaction

Whether you see your current employment situation in emergency dispatching as a job or as a career, it’s important to enjoy what you do. Everyone wants to find at least some sense of fulfillment and satisfaction in what they do for a living. Unhappiness at work can lead to emotional and physical problems, including burnout and depression.

Jacob Morgan, writing for “Forbes,” elaborated on a study conducted by the Society for Human Resource Management, which the organization conducted in 2013.4 In the study, researchers examined the key factors that contribute to job satisfaction. While appreciation for one’s work was No. 1 on the list, learning and career development was No. 6, two places in front of an attractive fixed salary.

Author Brian Hill stated that one of the top six ways to increase an employee’s happiness at work or in a career is the opportunity for advancement. He wrote, “Employees are more satisfied with their current job if they see a path available to move up the ranks in the company and be given more responsibility and along with it higher compensation. Many companies encourage employees to acquire more advanced skills that will lead to the chance of promotion.”5

What can employees do?

When you’re serious about turning your job into a career, or when you want to move to the next level in your advancement, there are resources available. Many companies offer tools and programs to help you progress. In the absence of such assistance, there are still things you can do on your own—at and away from work—to increase your understanding of your profession, gain valuable skills and competencies, and put yourself on a better track for the trajectory you want to go.

Management and organizational development consultant Susan M. Heathfield listed five steps for career growth:6

  1. Set goals and create a plan to achieve them.
  2. Develop a timeline, including milestones.
  3. Utilize company programs (if available).
  4. Own your career path (and discuss your ambitions with your boss).
  5. Write down your desired path and goals.
In an article for the Harvard Business Review, Herminia Ibarra suggested that advancing in one’s career takes effort and determination. “Those who want to develop themselves must create opportunities. That means coming to understand how your organization works, how it makes money, and who its key people are,” she said.7

Ibarra further said, “Look for roles outside your group or organization that allow you to learn and practice new skills and raise your profile. Teach, speak, or blog on topics relating to your interests. Go to professional gatherings and meet with people from different companies. And, if there isn’t something out there that meets your needs, create your own.”8

We’re here for you

Clearly, the emergency dispatch profession is unique. Your day-to-day tasks are quite different from what most people handle. Though you’re under the headset all day, you never know what type of call you’ll get next. You may think of your time in the comm. center as a stepping-stone, or you may envision a lengthy career. Wherever you stand, the IAED is dedicated to supporting you and the centers where you work.

Our mission is “To advance and support the public safety emergency telecommunications professional and ensure that community members in need of emergency, health, and social services are matched safely, quickly, and effectively with the most appropriate resource.”

In order to achieve this mission, we need to ensure that emergency dispatchers and others in the profession have the right training and knowledge. Not only will this allow you to render the best possible assistance to callers and patients, but it can give you more gratification at work and inspire you to move forward in an enriching career.

With the help of the Academy, you can certify and recertify as an emergency dispatcher. There are also opportunities outside of management such as in quality assurance (EMD-Q®, EFD-Q, and EPD-Q) and as an instructor with the Academy.

Laura McConchie, who currently works for St John Ambulance Service in New Zealand as training and quality manager, has seen her career soar with the help of the IAED and through her own initiative. She began as a call handler in 2006 and advanced to the position of dispatcher within a year. By November 2009 she became the trainer and auditor at her center. Another 6 ½ years later, she became the national manager of the Training and Quality Team for centers in St John: Auckland and Christchurch.

“Most of my learning has occurred by seeking out and being motivating and attending the conferences to network with others to share material, which has proved worthwhile along the way,” she said.

Check out some of the tools and resources we offer to help you learn and grow.


This is our signature event of the year. Held annually, NAVIGATOR moves to different locations in the U.S. and brings together some of the brightest minds and most experienced professionals in public safety and emergency dispatching. This three-day event comprises dozens of educational sessions on topics ranging from organizational management, leadership, and technology to stress management, QA, and in-depth instruction on calltaking in medical, police, and fire calls.

NAVIGATOR is the ideal place to network with colleagues and like-minded professionals. Here, you can gain new insights into best practices and share ideas with people from comm. centers around the world. It’s also an occasion where we celebrate greatness and recognize achievements. It’s where we announce the Dispatcher of the Year, Instructor of the Year, the recipient of the Dr. Jeff J. Clawson Leadership Award, and other award recipients.

In 2019, more than 1,500 people attended the event in National Harbor, Maryland.

This is hardly the only NAVIGATOR conference we have, though. Throughout the world, we also hold conferences in the U.K., Ireland, China, Middle East, Australasia, Europe, and Asia. We follow the same format at these events as well.

“Attending NAVIGATOR provides attendees the opportunity to meet with and hear thought leaders within our industry to gain insights and ideas that can be used to further their own commitment to our profession, expand their knowledge base, and help them grow personally and professionally,” said Pam Stewart, IAED Director of Operations. “With over 180 speakers and 11 different educational tracks (at the U.S. event), attendees are sure to learn something that will positively impact their career and set the framework for their future in public safety. And with attendees, sponsors, and exhibitors hailing from 15 different countries, the networking opportunities are priceless.”

McConchie has attended several NAVIGATOR conferences, both the U.S. event and Australasia NAVIGATOR. In fact, she spoke at Australasia NAVIGATOR in 2017 and 2018 as well as at the most recent NAVIGATOR in National Harbor, Maryland. in April. She said making the effort and sacrifice to attend is well worth it.

“NAVIGATOR is extremely worthwhile, as the amount of sessions and the huge networking opportunities are exceptional,” she said. “I always get motivated at these to come back with new ideas, as everyone attending is eager to share, learn off each other.”

The College of Emergency Dispatch

We may not have a football team or even a mascot, but our college is a champion for emergency calltakers and dispatchers.

Launched in 2013, the College of Emergency Dispatch promotes learning opportunities for emergency dispatch professionals. This is your best source to access Continuing Dispatch Education (CDE) courses and quizzes.

The mission of the college is “To promote industry-leading educational opportunities to the men and women in the emergency telecommunications profession, and support the emergency industry by empowering those that serve with the knowledge, skills, and abilities necessary to succeed.”

All you have to do is go to learn.emergencydispatch.org and log in using your member ID. You’ll then enter a site full of informative, interactive courses, most of which are in English.

By the end of 2018, members had completed more than 172,000 lessons and logged nearly 122,000 CDE hours on the College. As 2019 began, there were also more than 1,863 users on the college, with 1,662 agencies represented.

“For me, the College has been one of the best innovations in many years,” said Mark Richards, EMD-Q and member of the Board of Accreditation and Medical Council of Standards. “I don’t think it should be a case of ‘should we?’ It should be a case of “why wouldn’t we (use the College)?’”

McConchie loves the many advanced lessons and quizzes on the College. She points out how easy is it to go at your own pace because you can watch and replay the courses as needed.

Certification and recertification courses

With the help of our partners at Priority Dispatch Corp., we offer a slew of courses where you can certify and recertify in various disciplines. These courses are held both on-site at our corporate headquarters in Salt Lake City, Utah (USA), and in locations across the world. Agencies can even sign up to host their own courses.

Hundreds of courses are available throughout the year, including the following:

  • EMD
  • EMD-Q
  • EFD
  • EFD-Q
  • EPD
  • EPD-Q
  • ETC
The IAED’s Boards of Curriculum develop all courses, which cover everything from basic information to advanced concepts, and everything else in between. When you successfully complete a course and pass the exam, you are eligible to be certified through the Academy. Your certification is valid for two years.

Instructor training

If you’re interested in expanding your skill set and gaining teaching experience, the Academy can help. We offer instructor training courses to prepare you to impart your knowledge to aspiring emergency dispatchers. You can certify as an EMD, EPD, EFD, or ETC instructor.

Instructors travel to different locations to teach the courses. In the process, they develop friendships, make professional connections, and inspire others in their own professional journeys.

“I enjoy passing on my experiences to other people, knowing that they are gaining knowledge and experience themselves and they will use that experience in ensuring others improve in their own work,” said EMD instructor James Gummett.

ED-Q instructor Tammy Jewell has glowing reviews of her time in this role.

“I love to travel all over and hear agencies speak proudly of their centers, accomplishments, and goals for the future,” she said. "The commonality among every place I visit is the desire to serve and protect the public. They take their jobs seriously and want to learn how to be better telecommunicators, managers, auditors, etc.”


The Communication Center Manager’s Course is an annual training event designed especially for agency leaders. In partnership with Fitch & Associates, this annual course is held in two on-site sessions for a total of two weeks in two different sessions. You can also participate online. The next course will be Sept. 8–13 and Oct. 27–Nov. 1 in Little Rock, Arkansas (USA).

The course “provides a comprehensive foundation of management and leadership practices tailored to today’s communication center leaders.” Like NAVIGATOR, it’s also an excellent way to build a network of friends and colleagues in the industry. The course covers many topics, including human resources, customer and media relations, operations, finance and budgeting, and technology.

No matter where you are in your career journey, there are opportunities to expand your skills and knowledge. These could lead to other position or proficiency in your tasks. Take advantage of the Academy offers and become the professional you want to be.


  1. Hamm T. “The Difference Between a Job and a Career. The Simple Dollar. com. 2008; July 7. https://www.thesimpledollar.com/the-difference-between-a-job-and-a-career/ (accessed March 27, 2019).
  2. See note 1.
  3. Robinson D. “An Extraordinary Life: Jazz Owner Larry H. Miller: 1944–2009.” Deseret News. Deseret News Publishing Company. 2009; Feb. 21. https://www.deseretnews.com/article/705286422/An-extraordinary-life-Jazz-owner-Larry-H-Miller-1944-2009.html (accessed March 27, 2019).
  4. Morgan J. “The Top 10 Factors for On-The-Job Employee Happiness.” Forbes Media LLC. 2014; Dec. 15. https://www.forbes.com/sites/jacobmorgan/2014/12/15/the-top-10-factors-for-on-the-job-employee-happiness/#2cb8f7d75afa (accessed March 27, 2019).
  5. Hill B. “What Are the Factors Affecting Job Satisfaction?” Hearst Newspapers, LLC. 2019; March 7. https://smallbusiness.chron.com/factors-affecting-job-satisfaction-20114.html (accessed March 27, 2019).
  6. Heathfield SM. “5 Tips to Improve Your Career Development.” The Balance Careers. Dotdash publishing. 2019; Jan. 7. https://www.thebalancecareers.com/improving-career-development-4058289 (accessed March 27, 2019).
  7. Ibarra H. “Six Ways to Grow Your Job. Harvard Business Review. Harvard Business School Publishing. 2013; Sept. 25. https://hbr.org/2013/09/six-ways-to-grow-your-job (accessed March 27, 2019).
  8. See note 7.