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# Thread: Did you make a total career change?

1. ## Did you make a total career change?

Hello,

I was wondering if anyone here knows of someone, or has personally made a total career switch into the direction of FF'ing.

I'm curious because I graduated college with a major in accounting, and minor in econ. and have done nothing but financial analysis, manage billing\pricing, and accountant work since I graduated in CT and moved out to CA.

Originally I had planned on joining either the Army, or working towards joining a Police force, or FF. BASICALLY... what I consider the complete opposite of Accounting work (desk jockey?). Unfortunately I let outside forces influence me in a direction I should've known would only provide me one thing... money. And no happiness.

SO - at this time, I am just begining to put forth a serious effort into
1 - Learning as much as I can about the profession.
2 - Do what I can to gain experience or get into hands on situations that will put me in the right direction and give me better perspective.

Besides my unrelated college education, I have a clean record, and I think besides hiking and rock climbing, I had CPR training years ago when I worked a rock climbing wall as an instructor and safety super visor. But that was 3+ years ago...

So - any advice on how\where to start, what testing\classes to take first (EMT I assume and find local Academy testing sites\times) would be greatly appreciated
AND...
any foreseeable problems given my specific situation that I may need overcome.

Thanks again for any help!
~Jeff

2. ## Recently in your shoes

Hi Jeff,

I went to college, got a nearly useless BA in English, then became a high school teacher. One of my in-between jobs was in video production, and that gave me a chance to ride along with a fire department and I loved it. I also found out teaching wasn't a great career choice for me, so, in 2006, at the age of 25, I was where you are now. Now, 3 years later, I have gotten hired and actually start orientation at a local department this Monday.

First of all, I am in Florida, and you aren't. Fire and emergency service set-ups differ greatly across the country, so my advice may not pertain to your situation. Do some research about what is required of probationary firefighters where you live.

In Florida (and many places) right now is a really harsh time to try and get involved in the fire service. I have applied at many different departments and have had over 1000 applicants competing for the same position, where 3 years ago there may have been a tiny fraction of that. Also, no matter who you know, or what people might tell you ("don't worry, I'll get you in," "I'll talk to the chief about you," etc...), take what they say with a grain of salt. Hanging around the firehouse when you can and getting to know some of the guys can be a big help. However, what will get you hired is your skills, experience, and how you sell yourself.

Down here being a paramedic is a huge selling point. I reccommend to anyone in your situation to go to paramedic school first if they can afford it. It'll help you get hired, and you'll have more opportunities to make a decent salary and gain some experience in the interim (either in EMS, the hospital, etc). I didn't do it that way and was lucky to finally get hired as a FF/EMT, but working as an EMT for 2 years was pretty tough on me economically (EMT-B pay is about $10 locally). Also, having a college degree will make paramedic school a lot easier (less pre-reqs, more experience in test-taking). A common argument I get into with my fellow academy graduates is whether you should only apply at your "first choice" department or apply everywhere within driving distance. I am a fan of the latter. I applied at nearly 20 different departments in the year and a half since I left academy. That gave me lots of experience in taking physical tests, written tests, and--most importantly--doing interviews. It also got me on hiring lists at many departments, which is nice to know even if the wait might be 2 years or more. I am sure there are departments who value someone who is only applying with them, but I think most departments care more about what you bring to the table. It sounds like your on the right track with your research. Your rock climbing experience sounds like a good selling point, and don't undersell your college degree, it'll be a good jumping-off point for further fire science and EMS classes. Stay/get in shape, find a local mentor who can help point you in the right direction, prepare for the long haul and get to work. Best of luck! -Alex 3. Another career changer here. :] I too have a completely unrelated BA and just got hired by a big department. That degree can be your golden ticket if you get all of the other necessary stuff taken care of. An AS in Fire Science will be cake for you. Since I had my BA already, I only needed to take eight courses to get mine. EMT will be important too, and if you can get a fire academy behind you, some community service work, and accomplish something that demonstrates that you have mechanical aptitude, you'll be golden. The paramedic route can be a great way to get hired, but you may not be doing what you really love if you aren't really into the medical side of things. As a paramedic, you will likely be running medical calls all day and all night, every shift, so you really have to love it. It's a difficult time to get hired in California right now too, but don't let that dissuade you. The lucky few who see this through and actually get picked up by a department have usually spent numerous years pursuing this career. Departments will start hiring again soon, so start building your resume now if you really want this. Having a BA gives you a good head start on the competition. 4. I worked with a firefighter who left a lucrative career as an engineer. Another who was a big wig in the oil industry. Both are now Captains on my department. And the list goes on and on: An ex-teacher, postal carrier, train engineer, pilot, etc. Changing professions for the fire service is happening all the time. You're in good company! There's all kinds of fire based education you can shoot for. And do, shoot for it! But start taking the coming on tests and keep taking them. You may get hired without the need for advanced education. Before you jump in, make sure this is a profession you truly desire. Take a look at "A Firefighter's Journey." It's a documentary movie about the fire academy experience. It demonstrates the realities and hardships of the firefighter's profession. This is my film, and although I'm plugging it here, the movie's stark reality will open the eyes of anyone seeking a career in the fire service. It's as close to the action as you can get. Don't be deterred, just know what you're getting into. It's a great profession! Good Luck, Rob Bieber www.firewerxfilms.com 5. Same here. I went and got a BS in Information Technology and had an office job for 3 years. I was already a volunteer FF so I knew about the profession alittle. I made the switch and it was the best decision of my life. You will be very nervous in making this decision but to see if you like the fire service, try volunteering at your local fire department if they are not fully paid. Good luck. 6. Hey guys, I owned a construction company in Ohio before getting hired here in Texas. So far, it's been a great move. The schedule alone is worth the change, let alone the money and excitement. Nonetheless, I'd highly recommend getting your feet wet with EMS, either 911 or even facility transport. Alot of departments want some kind of EMS experience on that resume. Either way, keep up the hard work and determination. It took me just over a year to go from drywall finisher to full time, paid firefighter. That includes ems school and fire academy. 7. Attended college and graduated with a BS in Recreation Management. And was a member of the college fire department and the rescue squad that served 9 small towns over a 300 square mile chunk of northern VT. Went to work in the ski industry for several years. And was a volunteer firefighter. Tested in a couple of places just for the hell of it but never really wanted to be a career firefighter. I enjoyed doping it on the side and never thought about doing in FT. Changed careers and went into restraunt management for almost 17 years. And remained a volunteer firefighter and expanded my role in the department to public educator, public information officer and safety officer. Also started doing more training within the department and teaching pubed and juevnile firesetter training on the regional and state level. At 42, went to back college and received my Alternative Teaching Certification. Taught for 2 years until I decided it really wasn't what I wanted to do. And still a volunteer firefighter. Got my EMT. Went to work for an ambulance company fulltime. Good money and fairly good schedule. Was still a volunteer and worked part-time for 2 departments on my off-days. Got my EMT-I. Over the next year got my Public Educator I & II and Instructor I & II. At almost 49, was hired on fulltime as Public Education & Training Coordinator. 30 years as a volunteer before being hired fulltime ....... Yes, it's been a long, strange trip. I would recommend volunteering. See what it's like. 8. Killed this post. My thoughts are better reflected in the other one. Silly rabbit, Trix are for kids! 9. I am not hired yet but figured I would post my info too... I am 31 years old and have worked for 10 years in Information Technology. My education is based entirely on this field. I am in senior management now for a global company based in California. About 3 years ago my wife and I decided to volunteer with the Red Cross to assist some residents that had been displaced in our community during some wild land fires. Through this process I learned about a reserve firefighter position in the community I live in. After some research I decided to apply and I was accepted. (Believe it or not I had never even been to a fire station in my life before this.) Basically, I fell in love. Since then I have spent my time working as a reserve anytime I can (and anytime my wife will allow ) outside of my day job. I have finished my EMT and a number of fire technology classes. I am on the hiring list for a few different departments in my area and with any luck, and a little help from the economy, I will accomplish my goal in the next couple of years. I am not a rich guy, but I do very well. One thing that I have learned is that you can spend your entire life chasing down a salary. When you get it, if you don't do what you love, it won't mean a lot. Thanks for starting this thread. Good stuff. Edit - I agree with the advise above my post. Volunteer first. You will figure out really fast if this job is meant for you. You can learn a lot in classes but the text books can't teach you what its like in the firehouse or on emergency scenes. It's a different world and it's not designed for everyone. Good luck to you. 10. ## This Guy's Boat... Axed. Eh. 11. I am 30 years old and am only just now looking to get into firefighting. I've been working in IT for a number of years, chasing the$. My whole life I've known that my greatest joy comes from helping others and I realize that while I can help someone fix a problem with a Word document, it does not seem fulfilling. I'm really searching my heart for what would be the best thing for me and my family. My wife is currently disabled and we are seeking treatment options with the hope that one day she'll be able to go back to work. If that doesn't work out, I don't know if I'd be able to pursue another career path. I've been encouraged by this forum post that I'm not alone in the struggle to seek out firefighting and I wish all the best for those that are working towards this goal. Since my family is in sort of a holding pattern, I'm working on getting in shape and just reading what I can about firefighting so I'll be better prepared if/when the time comes that I can pursue firefighting. Also, my brother-in-law is a VFF and has been for 8 years. Talking with him about it has also been quite encouraging.

12. Originally Posted by cversion7
I am 30 years old and am only just now looking to get into firefighting. I've been working in IT for a number of years, chasing the \$. My whole life I've known that my greatest joy comes from helping others and I realize that while I can help someone fix a problem with a Word document, it does not seem fulfilling. I'm really searching my heart for what would be the best thing for me and my family. My wife is currently disabled and we are seeking treatment options with the hope that one day she'll be able to go back to work. If that doesn't work out, I don't know if I'd be able to pursue another career path. I've been encouraged by this forum post that I'm not alone in the struggle to seek out firefighting and I wish all the best for those that are working towards this goal. Since my family is in sort of a holding pattern, I'm working on getting in shape and just reading what I can about firefighting so I'll be better prepared if/when the time comes that I can pursue firefighting. Also, my brother-in-law is a VFF and has been for 8 years. Talking with him about it has also been quite encouraging.
The stress and time requirements of the fire academy and probation, must be a serious consideration for someone in your situation. But if you and your family can manage during that time, why not test for the job now.

Getting fire based education and experience before applying at a career department is one option. But many - mostly big cities - will hire you without any previous education or experience. They will train you.

Consider that option. You may find, you don't have to wait till you have the money and time to pursue an education.

Rob Bieber
Producer/Director: A Firefighter's Journey
www.firewerxfilms.com

13. If you are doing well financially, becoming a firefighter may not be easy.

I was making about 43K a year working fulltime at my FT gig at a private ambulance company before being hired on fulltime at my FD. In addition, I was making about 8K a year working the day shift on my days off at the FD while working for the ambo.

I am making much less now. Next year will be better after the 6K state supplemental kicks in, but it still will be about 25% less than I was making the past 3 years.

Keep that in mind, unless your FD pays very well (which a few do).

14. ## Another Career Changer Here

I'm a 34 year old High School Teacher beginning the steps to change careers to FF. The route I'm testing right now involves volunteering for the local station and beginning EMT work this fall. I've applied for one full time position and have taken the test . . . but we'll see. I'm looking forward to beginning volunteer work and soaking everything I can up like a sponge. Interestingly enough, I teach at a small Christian School and my career change will actually mean a pay raise (And my three year old son thinks it pretty cool, too)

15. Firefighting is the only career I have ever had. I was 27 when I got hired. Everything I did before that was just a job. Boring meaningless work that I didn't like. It is definitely worth the effort that is required to do what your heart wants.