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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I didn't want to be one of those students! I had too much invested in becoming a firefighter to let this happen. I think I could have eventually been hired as a firefighter had I not completed paramedic school. However, I do know it would have taken me a lot longer than it actually did.

Here is how becoming a paramedic (and attempting to be the best paramedic I could be) worked for me. I took the test for the department I presently work for twice (once every two years). Both times, there were about 3,000 people testing for about 10 or so jobs. Both times, the department held a random lottery to reduce the numbers. Both times I was not selected in that random lottery. Both times, the department hired a fair amount of volunteers. Then, a miracle (for me) happened. The department was planning on providing paramedic services and needed to hire 11 paramedics. I got a letter in the mail one day stating that information, but I figured I didn't have a chance because I wasn't a volunteer there and because they were probably still going to have a lottery. Boy was I wrong. I found out there were less than 100 applicants that had even kept their contact information current and bothered to send copies of their paramedic licenses in.

They invited us to go to a physical ability test (because all original 3,000 or so had taken the written examination a year or so prior), and then if we were successful in that phase, to an oral interview. I still wasn't getting my hopes up. That was until I showed up at the physical ability test and found out there was about 70 candidates that had showed up. I further found out a few days later that only 60 went to the oral interviews. 60 people for 11 spots? Got to love those odds! I especially loved those odds since I was one of those lucky 11 individuals to go to the recruit academy. All because I had made the effort and sacrifices to go through paramedic school. Yes, it cost me about $7,000 in tuition and books, as well as an undetermined cost of lost wages (because I could not work that many hours - I wanted to focus on paramedic school), but I easily made that up in my first year or so on the department. Money well spent, I might add.

Even now, becoming a paramedic is almost a sure way (I say almost because nothing in life is guaranteed and you can't count your chickens until they're hatched) onto the fire department. If you are willing to make a sacrifice for a year or so, spend the money necessary to get you from start to finish, dedicate yourself to becoming the best paramedic you can be, understand that you might have to be a paramedic for the duration of your employment with a fire department, then you significantly increase your odds of becoming a full-time firefighter. You make the choice; there is no one to blame but yourself if you never achieve each and every one of your dreams over the course of your life time!

I am not trying to tell you what to do. Your choice of becoming a paramedic or not becoming a paramedic is one only you can make. Either way, you have to live with your decision for the rest of your life. Do what you have to do to get what you want out of life. Just remember that if you do decide to do something and your heart and soul is not 100% into it, you are setting yourself (and your employer, and the public, and your co-workers) up for FAILURE! You need to do your best and set yourself up for success - the people we provide service to deserve nothing less than the best!