Well, I kind of have a little different take on this. I started out dispatching at a small PD w/911 back in 1988. I was there for 2 years, took a break and started with state police in 91.
First, I have to throw a disclaimer in there: I thought I would be bored working for OSP because I thought it would consist of traffic stops and nothing more. Yes, there are a lot of those, but it's so much more and I do love my job. Every dispatcher that works for us who worked in 911 before, whether a large or small center, all come back saying the same thing.....that they had no idea how busy we could get, nor the calibre of the calls having the same excitement level.
As for small PD's, the one thing you need to remember is this: They may roll up the sidewalks at 9pm, but crap still happens at 2am. You may go a month or more between "good" calls, but when a big one happens, and if it is really a small department where you are the only one on duty, you will get nailed to the wall with chaos. One house fire garnered me juggling 3 phones and 4 radios simultaneously because we dispatched police, fire and public works....and all of them wanted attention NOW. As well as everyone and their dog calling 911.
I don't say this, though, to scare you. Because there is one thing about this job that some people don't realize. If you are intrigued by it and think you'll like it, the chances are you will eat up all that chaos and get a huge adrenaline rush that will keep you coming back for more. It is GOOD to have feast and famine when you are a dispatcher because those quiet down times are when you get to recharge your batteries for the next wave that hits.
For me, there was something inate in me that always made me wonder about the job. I had no clue what it entailed, but I thought I'd like it. I fell in love with the job right away. It was FUN, and I got paid for it. I loved getting all the crazy calls, being asked to think on my feet and challenging myself to perform under seemingly impossible cir****tances. I'm the kind of person who, when I decide to do something and someone tells me I can't do it, well, I will not only prove them wrong, but in a grand fashion. So this always satiated my desire to perform and triumph.
The thing is, when you sit along, likely you will see a lot of computer screens (unless there is no CAD at that department), and you will wonder how you can keep it all straight. Just think of it like working on your computer and having several windows open. Each window - or screen - performs a separate function, and no, you don't have to stare at each one intensely ever moment. You eventually find your stride and these computers become an extension of you. So there is a fluidity with it in that sense. And if the crap hits the fan while you're sitting there, you may recoil and think you can't do it. Just remember that this is why there are training periods. You learn to function and your reflexes kick in when you have an idea of how to drive that car.
Small departments (in our state at least) tend to give minimal training to dispatchers before they are kicked loose on their own. Having a minimal staff means they have to hurry to get people in there and sitting down, so like with me on my first job, I had 2 weeks of training and I was cut loose. Great when it's quiet, but when I got an mva where ems was asking for the jaws of life, I had no clue what they were talking about. I was frozen in fear because I didn't know what to do.
So if you get the job and they hurry you through training, take those quiet times to read everything in the center and ask questions of anyone you can. Know who you can call in a pinch so they can walk you through it, and don't be afraid to tell another dispatch agency you may be working with that you are new and need some help. It's always better to let them in on what the deal is so they can help you through if they can rather than just letting them think that you're inept because your department can't find qualified employees. I always try to give dispatchers from other centers (especially small ones) a break when I talk to them because I remember all too well my 2 weeks of training and how I must have looked and sounded.
And lastly, just know that you WILL make mistakes. And you may start off loving the job, but there is a period mid-training, or a few months in, where you think to yourself that you have to be nuts to think you can do this and you fear every call that comes in because you think it's going to require something beyond your skills. Remember this because it is a phase that I have seen every dispatcher I've worked with go through in their training. It's normal and you get over it. Just remember that common sense rules and if you don't know, ask. I've been at OSP for 14+ years now and there are still stupid little things I sometimes have to ask for insight on because I forgot or never encountered the situation before. There is no shame in asking if you don't know. That is different from not being able to retain basic information though. (I *don't* subscribe to the theory that there are no stupid questions. If I tell you the blue button labeled "intercom" is an intercom and I have to tell you that numerous times even though you've used it several times, I would say that is a stupid question.)
At some point you learn to stop holding your breath and you are able to relax a little. And when you hit that point, that's when you really start loving your job. If you *like* that sort of thing like I do.
I hope that helps a little. The job can be alternately boring as hell and busy as hell. But that's what I love about it. I like responding in the here and now, not to an inbox/outbox!