Material Recording, Scheduling, Dispatching, and Distributing Occupations Career Information
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Significant Points· Many of these occupations are entry level and do not require more than
a high school diploma.
· Workers develop the necessary skills through on-the-job training lasting from several days to a few months; dispatchers usually require the most extensive training.
· Numerous job openings will arise each year from the need to replace workers who leave this very large occupational group.
Nature of the WorkWorkers in this group are responsible for
a variety of communications, recordkeeping, and scheduling operations. Typically,
they coordinate, expedite, and track orders for personnel, materials, and equipment.
cargo and freight agents route and track cargo and freight shipments,
whether from airline, train, or truck terminals, or shipping docks. They keep
records of any missing or damaged items and any excess supplies. The
agents sort cargo according to its destination and separate any items that cannot
be packed together. They also coordinate payment schedules with customers and
arrange for the pickup or delivery of freight.
Couriers and messengers deliver letters, important business documents, or packages within a firm, to other businesses, or to customers. They usually keep records of deliveries and sometimes obtain the recipient's signature. Couriers and messengers travel by car, van, bicycle, or even by foot when making nearby deliveries.
Dispatchers receive requests for service and initiate action to provide that service. Duties vary, depending on the needs of the employer. Police, fire, and ambulance dispatchers, also called public safety dispatchers, handle calls from people reporting crimes, fires, and medical emergencies. Truck, bus, and train dispatchers schedule and coordinate the movement of these vehicles to ensure that they arrive on schedule. Taxicab dispatchers relay requests for cabs to individual drivers, tow truck dispatchers take calls for emergency road service, and utility company dispatchers handle calls related to utility and telephone service. Courier and messenger service dispatchers route drivers, riders, and walkers around a usually urban area. They distribute work by radio, email, or phone, making sure that service deadlines are met.
Meter readers read meters and record consumption of electricity, gas, water, or steam. They serve a variety of consumers and travel along designated routes to track consumption. Although many meters still are read at the house or building, many newer meters can be read remotely from a central point. Meter readers also look for evidence of unauthorized utility usage.
Production, planning, and expediting clerks coordinate and expedite the flow of information, work, and materials, usually according to a production or work schedule. They gather information for reports on work progress and production problems. They also may schedule workers or parts shipments, estimate costs, and keep inventories of materials.
Shipping, receiving, and traffic clerks track all incoming and outgoing shipments of goods transferred between businesses, suppliers, and customers. These clerks may be required to lift cartons of various sizes. Shipping clerks assemble, address, stamp, and ship merchandise or materials. Receiving clerks unpack, verify, and record incoming merchandise. Traffic clerks record the destination, weight, and cost of all incoming and outgoing shipments. In a small company, one clerk may perform all of these tasks.
Stock Clerks and Order Fillers receive, unpack, and store materials and equipment, and maintain and distribute inventories. Inventories may include merchandise in wholesale and retail establishments, or equipment, supplies, or materials in other kinds of organizations. In small firms, stock clerks and order fillers may perform all of the above tasks, as well as those usually handled by shipping and receiving clerks. In large establishments, they may be responsible for only one task.
Weighers, measurers, checkers, and samplers check and record the weight and measurement of various materials and equipment. They use scales, measuring and counting devices, and calculators to compare the weight, measurements, or other specifications against bills or invoices. They also prepare reports on inventory levels.
Working ConditionsWorking conditions vary considerably by occupation
and employment setting. Couriers and messengers spend most of their time alone
making deliveries and usually are not closely supervised. Those who deliver
by bicycle must be physically fit and are exposed to all weather conditions,
as well as to the many hazards associated with heavy traffic.
Car, van, and truck couriers must sometimes carry heavy loads, either manually
or with the aid of a handtruck. They also have to deal with difficult parking
situations as well as traffic jams and road construction. The pressure of making
as many deliveries as possible to increase earnings can be stressful and may
lead to unsafe driving or bicycling practices.
Meter readers, usually working 40 hours a week, work outdoors in all types of weather as they travel through communities and neighborhoods taking readings.
The work of dispatchers can be very hectic when many calls come in at the same time. The job of public safety dispatcher is particularly stressful because slow or improper response to a call can result in serious injury or further harm. Also, callers who are anxious or afraid may become excited and be unable to provide needed information; some may even become abusive. Despite provocations, dispatchers must remain calm, objective, and in control of the situation.
Dispatchers sit for long periods, using telephones, computers, and two-way radios. Much of their time is spent at video display terminals, viewing monitors and observing traffic patterns. As a result of working for long stretches with computers and other electronic equipment, dispatchers can experience significant eyestrain and back discomfort. Generally, dispatchers work a 40-hour week; however, rotating shifts and compressed work schedules are common. Alternative work schedules are necessary to accommodate evening, weekend, and holiday work, as well as 24-hour-per-day, 7-day-per-week operations.
Other workers in this group—cargo and freight agents; shipping, receiving, and traffic clerks; stock clerks and order fillers; production, planning, and expediting clerks; and weighers, measurers, checkers, and samplers—work in a wide variety of businesses, institutions, and industries. Some work in warehouses, stockrooms, or shipping and receiving rooms that may not be temperature controlled. Others may spend time in cold storage rooms or outside on loading platforms, where they are exposed to the weather.
Production, planning, and expediting clerks work closely with supervisors who must approve production and work schedules. Most jobs for shipping, receiving, and traffic clerks, stock clerks and order fillers, and cargo and freight agents involve frequent standing, bending, walking, and stretching. Some lifting and carrying of smaller items also may be involved. Although automation devices have lessened the physical demands of this occupation, their use remains somewhat limited. Work still can be strenuous, even though mechanical material handling equipment is employed to move heavy items.
The typical workweek is Monday through Friday; however, evening and weekend hours are common for some jobs, such as stock clerks and order fillers in retail trade and couriers and messengers, and may be required in other jobs when large shipments are involved or when inventory is taken.
EmploymentIn 2009, material recording, scheduling, dispatching, and distributing workers held about 3.9 million jobs.
Training, Qualifications, Adv.Many material recording, scheduling, dispatching,
and distributing occupations are entry level and do not require more than a
high school diploma. Employers, however, prefer to hire those familiar with
computers and other electronic office and business equipment. Those who have
taken business courses or have previous business, dispatching, or specific job-related
experience may be preferred. Because communication with other people is an integral
part of some material recording, scheduling, dispatching, and distributing jobs,
good oral and written communications skills are essential. Typing, filing, recordkeeping,
and other clerical skills also are important.
State or local government civil service regulations usually govern police, fire, emergency medical, and ambulance dispatching jobs. Candidates for these positions may have to pass written, oral, and performance tests. Also, they may be asked to attend training classes and attain the proper certification in order to qualify for advancement.
Trainees usually develop the necessary skills on the job. This informal training lasts from several days to a few months, depending on the complexity of the job. Dispatchers usually require the most extensive training. Working with an experienced dispatcher, they monitor calls and learn how to operate a variety of communications equipment, including telephones, radios, and various wireless devices. As trainees gain confidence, they begin to handle calls themselves. In smaller operations, dispatchers sometimes act as customer service representatives, processing orders themselves. Many public safety dispatchers also participate in structured training programs sponsored by their employer. Some employers offer a course designed by the Association of Public Safety Communications Officials. This course covers topics such as interpersonal communications; overview of the police, fire, and rescue functions; modern public safety telecommunications systems; basic radio broadcasting; local, State, and national crime information computer systems; and telephone complaint/report processing procedures. Other employers develop in-house programs based on their own needs. Emergency medical dispatchers often receive special training or have special skills. Increasingly, public safety dispatchers receive training in stress and crisis management, as well as family counseling. Employers are recognizing the toll this work has on daily living and the potential impact that stress has on the job, on the work environment, and in the home.
Communications skills and the ability to work under pressure are important personal qualities for dispatchers. Residency in the city or county of employment frequently is required for public safety dispatchers. Dispatchers in transportation industries must be able to deal with sudden influxes of shipments and disruptions of shipping schedules caused by bad weather, road construction, or accidents.
Although there are no mandatory licensing or certification requirements, some States require that public safety dispatchers possess a certificate to work on a State network, such as the Police Information Network. The Association of Public Safety Communications Officials, the National Academy of Emergency Medical Dispatch, and the International Municipal Signal Association all offer certification programs. Many dispatchers participate in these programs in order to improve their prospects for career advancement.
Couriers and messengers usually learn on the job, training with a veteran for a short time. Those who work as independent contractors for a messenger or delivery service may be required to have a valid driver's license, a registered and inspected vehicle, a good driving record, and insurance coverage. Many couriers and messengers who are employees, rather than independent contractors, also are required to provide and maintain their own vehicle. Although some companies have spare bicycles or mopeds that their riders may rent for a short period, almost all two-wheeled couriers own their own bicycle, moped, or motorcycle. A good knowledge of the geographic area in which they travel, as well as a good sense of direction, also are important.
Utility meter readers usually shadow a more experienced meter reader until they feel comfortable doing the job on their own. They learn how to read the meters and determine the consumption rate. They also must learn the route that they need to travel in order to read all their customers' meters.
Production, planning, and expediting clerks; weighers, measurers, checkers, and samplers; stock clerks and order fillers; and shipping, receiving, and traffic clerks usually learn the job by doing routine tasks under close supervision. They learn how to count and mark stock, and then start keeping records and taking inventory. Strength, stamina, good eyesight, and an ability to work at repetitive tasks, sometimes under pressure, are important characteristics. Production, planning, and expediting clerks must learn how their company operates along with its priorities before they can begin to efficiently write production and work schedules. Stock clerks, whose sole responsibility is to bring merchandise to the sales floor to stock shelves and racks, need little training. Shipping, receiving, and traffic clerks and stock clerks and order fillers who handle jewelry, liquor, or drugs may be bonded.
Shipping, receiving, and traffic clerks, as well as cargo and freight agents, start out by checking items to be shipped and then attaching labels and making sure the addresses are correct. Training in the use of automated equipment usually is done informally, on the job. As these occupations become more automated, however, workers in these jobs may need longer training in order to master the use of the equipment.
Advancement opportunities for material recording, scheduling, dispatching, and distributing workers vary with the place of employment. Dispatchers who work for private firms, which usually are small, will find few opportunities for advancement. Public safety dispatchers, on the other hand, may become a shift or divisional supervisor or chief of communications, or move to higher paying administrative jobs. Some become police officers or firefighters. Couriers and messengers, especially those who work for messenger or courier services, have limited advancement opportunities; a small fraction move into the office to learn dispatching or to take service requests by phone. In large firms, stock clerks can advance to invoice clerk, stock control clerk, or procurement clerk. Shipping, receiving, and traffic clerks are promoted to head clerk, and those with a broad understanding of shipping and receiving may enter a related field such as industrial traffic management. With additional training, some stock clerks and order fillers and shipping, receiving, and traffic clerks advance to jobs as warehouse manager or purchasing agent.
Job OutlookOverall employment of material recording, scheduling, dispatching, and distributing workers is expected to for all occupations through 2010. In addition, numerous job openings will arise each year from the need to replace workers who leave this very large occupational group.
Projected employment growth varies by detailed occupation. Meter readers will experience a in employment due to automated meter reading systems that greatly increase productivity. The use of e-mail and fax will contribute to a for couriers and messengers as well. New technologies will enable stock clerks and order fillers to handle more stock, resulting in slower-than-average employment growth. Employment of shipping, receiving, and traffic clerks and of cargo and freight agents also will due to the increasing use of automation that enables these workers to handle materials and shipments more efficiently and more accurately.
Employment of dispatchers; production, planning, and expediting clerks; and weighers, measurers, checkers, and samplers is projected to for all occupations through 2010. Population growth, in addition to the expanded role of dispatchers stemming from advances in telecommunications, should boost employment levels. Employment of production, planning, and expediting clerks should benefit from more emphasis on efficiency in the production process, while the growing need for accurate inventory records spurs employment of weighers, measurers, checkers, and samplers.
EarningsEarnings of material recording, scheduling, dispatching, and distributing occupations vary somewhat by occupation and industry. The range of median hourly earnings in 2009 are shown in the following tabulation:
Cargo and freight agents
Meter readers, utilities
Weighers, measurers, checkers, and samplers, recordkeeping
Shipping, receiving, and traffic clerks
Couriers and messengers
Stock clerks and order fillers
All other material recording, scheduling, dispatching, and distributing workers
Workers in material recording, scheduling, dispatching, and distributing occupations usually receive the same benefits as most other workers. If uniforms are required, employers usually provide either the uniforms or an allowance to purchase them.
Related OccupationsOther occupations that involve directing and controlling the movement of vehicles, freight, and personnel, as well as distributing information and messages, include air traffic controllers, communications equipment operators, customer service representatives, and reservation and transportation ticket agents and travel clerks.
For further information on training and certification for police, fire, and emergency dispatchers, contact:
- Association of Public Safety Communications Officials, International, 351 N. Williamson Blvd., Daytona Beach, FL 32114-1112. Internet: http://www.apco911.org
- International Municipal Signal Association (IMSA), PO Box 359, 165 E. Union Street, Newark, NY 14513-0539. Internet: http://www.IMSAsafety.org
Information on job opportunities for police, fire, and emergency dispatchers is available from personnel offices of State and local governments or police departments. Information about work opportunities for other types of dispatchers is available from local employers and State employment service offices.