I have seen the depths of Hell... and it is Chicago ARTCC when there's thunderstorms in Chicago...
First order of business, I'd suggest a little stroll around Airline Dispatchers Federation
. This site has alot of good information about what it is we mystery men (and women) do, besides ruin your travel plans.
That site will likely answer alot of your questions, and if you come up with any others, I'd be glad to answer them for ya! I love what I do, but let me tell ya, if you want to be a pilot, working this job will only make you want to be one more!
The airline I work for is technically a "regional" airline, but we fly coast to coast and into Canada, with some legs over 1000 miles, so we do sort of blur the line, so my perspective will be from that point of view.
In general terms, dispatcher work isn't very hard... Traits that will help you succeed in this business are the ability to handle multiple tasks in a stressful environment, be comfortable making command decisions and the ability to remember your name after 10 rounds with Holyfield.
Mindsets... Hmmm... Well, I think the best advise I ever got from a fellow dispatcher was to never "go negative". This job, like most, will work under your skin at times.. It's important to not lose your cool and start "going negative". You can bet that on a bad day everyone who's calling you is already in a bad mood. They know it's not your fault, and you need to remember that when they're venting at you! No matter what happens, your toes are still tapping.
Where the field is heading.. Well, that's kind of the six million dollar question. A few years ago, the career path was to work the regionals for a few years, get a job with the majors and away you went. Since the Regional explosion and the subsequent downsizing of the majors fleets, the path to the majors is much more difficult and much less secure. That being said, pay and quality of life are improving for us regional guys. You'll find some of the dispatch schools talking about dispatchers that make six figure saleries and some such. Though the pay can get pretty good, I think it's unrealistic in this current business environment to expect to make huge bucks as a dispatcher. You can carve out a pretty good life though with what you can make.
Some other thoughts... The more flexible you are, the better your chances of advancing in Dispatch. As a junior dispatcher fresh out of school, the more flexible you are, the more choices you have. I myself started my dispatch career in beautiful, exotic Wichita, Kansas. Not the best place in the world, but it gave me the experience I needed to move on to a more lucritive opportunity. The good news is, even though you won't be raking in legendary coin, your cost of living in the cities the regionals are based in are pretty reasonable. Wichita was dirt cheap (well, there was alot of dirt, too) and Appleton isn't all that expensive either. Though I'm sure the opportunity to work for a major like Delta or United will exist in the future for me, I'm not entirely sure I'd want to do it. I like it here, and I've lived in Chicago long enough to get my fill of traffic problems and Richard Daley. <grin>
Well, back to trying to piece together the ruins that are this day in flight operations... Please take the time to check out that site and throw some more questions my way.. I'll be happy to answer them.