You Want To Become A Firefighter – Should You Become A Paramedic?

Many students go to paramedic school thinking it'll be a quick ticket to the career; for some it's not the case.


Becoming a firefighter is not an easy task. Thousands of people lined up to take a test for a fire department that was only going to have a couple of job openings over the life of the list (if even that sometimes). I remember it so clearly. 3,000 people for one job. 5,000 people for 10 jobs, 4,000...


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Becoming a firefighter is not an easy task. Thousands of people lined up to take a test for a fire department that was only going to have a couple of job openings over the life of the list (if even that sometimes). I remember it so clearly. 3,000 people for one job. 5,000 people for 10 jobs, 4,000 people just so a fire department can establish a hiring list (but with no anticipation of hiring anyone). The list goes on and on. It was very intimidating at first seeing all of those people lined up and realizing I had to compete against all of them. It took me a while to figure it out, but I eventually did: I wasn't competing against them, I was competing against myself! I had nobody to blame except for myself if I did not get hired.

It did not take long to realize that those departments that were requiring candidates to be licensed as a paramedic (which more and more departments were starting to do in the early 1990's), even in the Bay Area, were getting less than 100 applicants every time they tested! Some departments were getting less than 50 applicants, and some as few as 10 to 20 applicants! If I really wanted to increase my odds of getting hired as a firefighter, I needed to become a paramedic.

When I began the process of becoming a firefighter, most of the firefighters I talked to all advised me to just go to the community college that has the fire technology program, and then get your EMT and your Firefighter 1 academy certificates and that should be all you need to get hired. Well, I soon found out that what worked had for them when they got hired, was probably not going to work for me; I was going to do that and more! When a buddy of mine graduated with our four-year degrees from the local State University, we knew we wanted to become firefighters and started to draw out our plan of action after having conversations with various firefighters.

We knew that we would have to get our EMT certificate and Firefighter 1 certificate as soon as possible, so that we would be able to take more entry-level firefighter examinations (since that is what many of the Bay Area agencies were requiring to test). We knew we would also need to get our two-year degrees in Fire Technology as well, to help show our commitment to the fire service as well as our motivation. Our four year degrees were something we were proud of, but we also knew that some candidates did not have that level of education and we did not want to stand out too much and be considered as "over-educated" college boys that wanted to go straight to fire chief after probation.

That is why we knew we also had to get our two year degrees in Fire Technology. We also knew that if we didn't get hired after receiving our EMT and Firefighter 1 academy certificates that we better bite the bullet and go to paramedic school. Obviously we were taking every test we qualified for and hoping we could get hired without becoming a paramedic. Not that we didn't want to become paramedics, we didn't want to endure another year or more of intense schooling. Don't get me wrong, it's not that we mind running EMS calls, however given the choice, I think we both would rather fight fire than run EMS calls (and that is probably true for many candidates that end up going to paramedic school).

This is where the problem begins for many future paramedic students. Many of them (like myself) go into paramedic school thinking it will be a quick and easy ticket into the fire service. Yes and no. Yes, your odds will greatly increase at getting into the fire service because you are a paramedic. No, because many students that go into paramedic school know that it is an easy ticket and do it just to become firefighters. I was one of those people. I went to paramedic school to become a firefighter. I will admit it.

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