Remember, You’re Just a Rookie

I've coached several candidates who have had B.S./BA degrees in Public Administration areas. They have been misguided by counselors that said this would be an asset to get into the fire service. What ends up happening is these candidates show up at an entry-level oral board boasting and trying to hammer the board with their degree. What they don't understand is not many on the other side of the oral board table have this degree. And most of these candidates will never have a chance to use it in the fire service. Can you get hired going the education route? Sure. It happens all the time. Many of our non-medic candidates just started the LA City Academy.

An associate sent me this information from a fire officer who instructs Fire Protection and Fire Management programs at California State University Los Angeles. With the subject of wanna-bees desiring to get their BA/BS degrees confirmed what you and I already know about candidates in interviews showing up with BA/BS degrees. And that is they get either laughed out of the room or the interview panel becomes resentful and down goes the interview score! DUH!

This from a SF candidate: I'm currently on the SFFD H-2 list "4th Generation hopefully SFFD"! I'm also a volunteer firefighter/EMT. My volunteer Fire department requires Paramedic certifications for entry-level firefighters. After graduating from a four year university . . . I had an administration internship with my volunteer department where I wrote and designed the District's Master Plan and preformed statistical analysis for "time respond" for Fire suppression and medical calls. I also went on ride alongs with the engine, truck and even with the chief himself. I was told by the chief if I went out to get my paramedic license . . . I would be hired on the spot. Becoming a paramedic is not my cup of tea . . . it's been beaten in my head as a child "from my grandfather and father" to be a firefighter not a medic . . . ! All of the paid firefighters like my work ethic and all say they should let me in as a Firefighter/EMT.

My reply: With all due respect to your family members, the playing field has changed. It must be killing you to see these guys hired and it's not you. Like it or not, understand that 75%+ of calls are medical in nature. Eighty percent of the job offerings are for fire medics. Had you gone to medic school as I encourage candidates to do, gained the valuable in service medic street time, you wouldn't be trying to fight your way into a department as an EMT. You would be wearing the H-3 badge for SFFD (I'm 3rd generation San Franciscan myself) or another department.

John came in for a coaching session after not being able to pass any oral boards. He was one of those candidates who I think was misguided into a Public Administration Degree. During his coaching, he kept trying to come back to his degree. I finally told him, "Screw you! You want to come into my oral board and try to hammer me with a degree you may never use?" You're applying for a snotty nose rookie position as a firefighter!" John dropped his head and said, "Maybe that's why I can't get through any orals."

John ended up going to paramedic school (which he should have already done instead of the B/A degree). Although he mentioned the B/A degree in his oral board answer "What have you done to prepare for this position" he focused on his personal life and paramedic experience. He got his badge!

I believe in education. If you want to get a Public Administration, Engineering or any other degree as a career track, great. Don't think it will be the key to get into the fire service. It could hurt you.

I look for the shortest distance to the badge. If I were starting out, I would run to paramedic school. Yes, you can get on without it. I have candidates all the time who get a badge without being a medic. But for the time spent and with more than 80% of job offerings being fire/medic, the odds are better.

Many departments have educational incentive programs where they will pay you to go to school. I took advantage of this program and received an additional 5% pay. This 5% was included in my retirement.

The proof is in the badges!

"Nothing counts 'til you have the badge . . . Nothing!"


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