1. #1
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    Default Changing Careers

    Hello everyone, this is my first post and I am hoping you guys can help me out. I am 27 years old and I have been out of college for about 4 years. All of my life I have wanted to become a firefighter, but was always held back by the pay. See I ran up a lot of debt while in college and 29 or 30 grand a year was not going to get me by. Well I have the debt almost gone and want to pursue my dream. I am looking at Dallas, Fort Worth, OKC and Houston area FD's and any input would be great.
    Questions:
    1. How long does the hiring process take? From what I read online it can take over a year before you start training. I need about a year to prepare to make this change. Should I start taking the tests now?
    2. Will my bachelorís degree in Safety Management and my 4 years experience as a Safety Engineer give me any advantage in the hiring process?
    3. What kind of "second jobs" do firefighters usually have? I have been too many First Aid/CPR classes that were taught by EMS/Fire persons. Can you make any money doing this type of training? I am not trying to get rich, but I would like to be able to pick up another $12,000yr.
    4. What was the hardest part of becoming a firefighter? Civil Service Test, CPAT, Interview? I want to be well prepared.

    Sorry this is long. Any input would be helpful.

  2. #2
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    1. depends

    2. not really

    3. depends on where you are at, there is always some type of side job, with a degree you can sub teach

    4. hitting the lottery of getting picked for a job


    in texas most want you to be certified, and emt, some want paramedic

    online fast course::: http://www.trainingdivision.com/Courses.asp

    dallas and fort worth will train you, but hard to get on

    check this site weekly:: it will also let you know what each dept wants.

    http://www.tcfp.state.tx.us/employment.asp

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    Quote Originally Posted by DanTheMan_01 View Post
    Hello everyone, this is my first post and I am hoping you guys can help me out. I am 27 years old and I have been out of college for about 4 years. All of my life I have wanted to become a firefighter, but was always held back by the pay. See I ran up a lot of debt while in college and 29 or 30 grand a year was not going to get me by. Well I have the debt almost gone and want to pursue my dream. I am looking at Dallas, Fort Worth, OKC and Houston area FD's and any input would be great.
    Questions:
    1. How long does the hiring process take? From what I read online it can take over a year before you start training. I need about a year to prepare to make this change. Should I start taking the tests now?
    2. Will my bachelorís degree in Safety Management and my 4 years experience as a Safety Engineer give me any advantage in the hiring process?
    3. What kind of "second jobs" do firefighters usually have? I have been too many First Aid/CPR classes that were taught by EMS/Fire persons. Can you make any money doing this type of training? I am not trying to get rich, but I would like to be able to pick up another $12,000yr.
    4. What was the hardest part of becoming a firefighter? Civil Service Test, CPAT, Interview? I want to be well prepared.

    Sorry this is long. Any input would be helpful.
    Well Dan, i would like to welcome you to the community. First of all just so you know this job is pretty hard to get and most people test anywhere from 5-10 years before they get the job. Its a long and strenuous journey but worth it. Which i why i spend hours filling out applications and bettering my chances by getting my Paramedic license. It's something you need to be committed too. Bachelors degree is a huge plus side, but your gonna need some training to even test for some departments. I know here in Illinois you can't test unless your an EMT-B. Unfortunately your probably gonna have to head back to school and get yourself an EMT license and possibly a Paramedic license. The whole being in one career and now wanting a change will bring up questions in an interview. Questions like "Why do you want to become a fireman now?" "What have you been doing to prepare for this career?" and They may ask about your debt. I don't want to make it seem like this is a bad idea, I mean it is the greatest job in the world. A job i have yet to attain after almost 5-years of testing. I just want you to be informed.

    1. I am currently in the hiring process now. it has been about a month.

    2. The degree may give you an edge. but without some necessary certifications it wont. Here in Illinois you get 5 preference points for BA in some tests.

    3. I know a lot of firemen around here are contractors.

    4. so far the hardest part of the testing process for me was the Psych Exam. I just took it today and i have mixed feelings about it.

    Hope this helps and good luck.

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    Quote Originally Posted by DanTheMan_01 View Post
    Hello everyone, this is my first post and I am hoping you guys can help me out. I am 27 years old and I have been out of college for about 4 years. All of my life I have wanted to become a firefighter, but was always held back by the pay. See I ran up a lot of debt while in college and 29 or 30 grand a year was not going to get me by. Well I have the debt almost gone and want to pursue my dream. I am looking at Dallas, Fort Worth, OKC and Houston area FD's and any input would be great.
    Questions:
    1. How long does the hiring process take? From what I read online it can take over a year before you start training. I need about a year to prepare to make this change. Should I start taking the tests now?
    2. Will my bachelorís degree in Safety Management and my 4 years experience as a Safety Engineer give me any advantage in the hiring process?
    3. What kind of "second jobs" do firefighters usually have? I have been too many First Aid/CPR classes that were taught by EMS/Fire persons. Can you make any money doing this type of training? I am not trying to get rich, but I would like to be able to pick up another $12,000yr.
    4. What was the hardest part of becoming a firefighter? Civil Service Test, CPAT, Interview? I want to be well prepared.

    Sorry this is long. Any input would be helpful.
    Well welcome Dan the Man!!! You are about to embark upon a journey like no other!! This is no exaggeration...because testing to become a firefighter, is like no other employment process you've ever done. It's competitive....it's difficult..it's frustrating...and at times, it will seem unfair. So keep telling yourself that the "fair" is a place where you go once a year to see a bunch of farm animals, baked apple pie and try to avoid stepping in cow s**t. That's about as much fair as you're going to see. I've never been involved with Safety Management, BUT, I've safely managed some major incidents; and like the previous poster suggested: IT'S THE BEST JOB IN THE WORLD!!

    Now to your questions: A degree won't hurt you, BUT, it's not going to be the "silver bullet" you may think it is. Many degreed people think that a sheepskin is their American Express black card to stroll right up into the interview, and be given the job on a silver platter. NOT!!! They often try and beat the interview panel over the head with their sheepskins, then wonder why the guys on the other side of the table, pulled the eject lever and sent you flying out of the room!! No...you're gonna need to package yourself! You need to start testing right away. You need to start learning how to take written tests, pass CPATS and most importantly, TAKE INTERVIEWS. Interviews are weighted 100% in the process. I don't know what your family or personal life is like, but start looking into EMT and Paramedic training. From beginning to end, it may take a year or more to get through a hiring process, but much depends on you!!

    I'm not sure why you think you have to have a second job to become a firefighter. I get that you're established in your job and would take an initial pay cut. But there are some well paying departments out there, and the pay cut might only be temporary.

    Finally, THE INTERVIEW!! No doubt in my mind is the most subjective, most mind blowing and possibly the most daunting part of the whole process. Yes, you can get in shape and master the CPAT...yes you might be great at taking written tests. BUT IF YOU DON'T PREPARE, THE INTERVIEW WILL LEAVE YOU IN A WET PUDDLE FEELING VIOLATED! So take heed; check out the following:
    www.eatstress.com (aka Capt.Bob) (His son also has a web site which escapes me right now!!) Good Luck!!

    "The Axeman"
    ___________
    "Purpose, Truth and Passion Yield Power and Dominion IN ACTION!!!"

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    Thanks, AxeMan and Nightmare great info! I have always been good at interviews, but I'm sure these will be nothing like the interviews I have done in the past. I will keep my eyes open for civil service tests coming up and do a lot of reading about the job to familiarize myself with the challenges and rewards of being a firefighter. I was always one of those kids who wanted to be a firefighter when I grow up. I guess I just never grew out of it. A second job would be a must. Choosing this career will be cutting my salary in half if not more, but I have a TON on experience with training, so I am sure it won't be hard to find something.

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    Dan,

    I went through the hiring processes in OKC and in Houston. I took the written tests for both cities in July 2009.

    OKC administers the written tests every month, and every 6 months they take the highest scores from the last 6 tests and have them do the CPAT and interviews. My timeline for OKC is:
    July 5 2009 Written test (test scores are released quickly)
    Sept 2009 CPAT orientation (they let you see the course and try each individual station)
    Early November 2009 CPAT
    2 weeks later Oral Board

    This was as far as I got in OKC. From what I heard, they weren't sure they'd have funding for the 10-15 positions they were hiring. They were supposed to be hiring in February 2010, which would have made OKC's hiring process 7-8 months. There is more information about their hiring process here : http://www.okc.gov/fire/employment/index.html

    I took the CSE in Houston on July 7, 2009. The written test was very easy. I would guess that at least 10% of test takers scored a perfect 100. It's important to draw a good lotto number. Houston tests for both inexperienced trainees (longer academy) and fast track (already certified). There was supposed to be a January 2010 academy from this class but it was postponed til July. It could have been a 6 month long hiring process.

    My Houston timeline is:
    July 7, 2009 Written
    January 2010 CPAT, Polygraph

    I was given a conditional offer from Houston in May 2010, but turned it down because I had an offer from San Antonio to start on the same day. I would have had to return to Houston in late May to get a medical exam, psychological exam, and drug test.

    I would guess that Houston will have another test for you to take some time in 2011. They just had a fast track test a month or 2 ago.

    In OKC the toughest part of the process that I got to was the interview. I never got results from them since they were only going to release scores if they ended up hiring.

    Houston has no formal interview, just a sit down with your recruiter to go over your written application. The Polygraph was nerve wracking, and the 1.5 mile run will be tough if you're not prepared.
    Last edited by Hurdles; 07-22-2010 at 04:48 PM.

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    Hurdels,

    Thanks for the info that helps a lot. OKC and Houston are really on the bottom of my list, but I bet they are on the bottom of everyones list and it would be easier to get hired. The pay in Houston and OKC is a lot lower than the DFW area. Anyone know why that is?

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    Quote Originally Posted by DanTheMan_01 View Post
    Hurdels,

    Thanks for the info that helps a lot. OKC and Houston are really on the bottom of my list, but I bet they are on the bottom of everyones list and it would be easier to get hired. The pay in Houston and OKC is a lot lower than the DFW area. Anyone know why that is?
    Not to be a dick but actually they arent on the bottom of everyones list. Pay is not the priority about this job. Most people concern about the size of the dept, not the pay. Houston and OKC are both very large departments that A LOT of people test for and want. Once you take a test you'll see what everyone means. Stop worrying about your pay and "priorities" and go out and take a test. Then, you'll be able to start narrowing down your options. The notion that "it would be easier to get hired" is completely and utterly untrue.

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    Well pay has to be somewhat of a priority. I am not 20 years old with no worries in the world. I have a wife to take care of and a mortgage to pay. I have nothing against either of these departments and am not looking to get rich. I am from OK and would honored to work for OKCFD . I live in Houston and I know they have an outstanding FD, but the DFW area is closer to home and they just happen to pay more. Does anyone have any idea why they pay more? The cost of living is not much different than Houston.

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    FWFD just held a written exam in May. The earliest they would have another is June of next year if they do have one.

    ...plenty of time to get EMT, Fire cert, get in better shape, and practice taking civil service tests.

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    There are so many people on the forums now that want to know what kind of second job they should get before they even get accepted to academy. There are so many people on here constantly talking about benefits and salary.
    We all have to make a living, I understand that. However, from someone on the outside looking in, wouldn't you want to reserve talk about money for later if you were going to bring it up at all.
    Salary information is easy to find and is black and white. It's not like you're going to get a reply on the forums that reads "What!? They told you they pay X,xxx.xx a year!? That's not true! Negotiate for more money!" so a salary either meets your needs or it doesn't. That's all the further it should go especially for large departments where I KNOW for a FACT that salary information is posted on their website.
    I don't want to sound snyde or like I'm standing on a soap box handing down edicts but there are so many people trying so hard just to get a badge who never, not one time, bring up money. Talking about having a wife and kid to support doesn't change the reality either. There are a lot of people out there who have a wife and kid(s) who are working hard for the badge... And they don't bring up salary on the forums. Sure, they talk about it at home, with the wife, but they don't bring it here. They don't bring it here because salary is black and white and discussing pay scales on an open forum as one of the 4 or 5 things you're concerned with before you're even on a list doesn't seem right.

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    Hey Dan lots of great comments to help you. I've got a little bit of advice for you. Go down to your local fire department and grab a cup of coffee and shot the breeze with a few of the firefighters there. If your area is rural, take a trip to one of the larger cities or districts and start with some simple conversations. I've been on the job for nearly 24 years and have coached, mentored and/or talked to thousands of folks that share your same curiosities. Most if not all firefighters are great people, that want to pass the torch to folks like yourself.

    Most folks will spend a 4-6 semesters taking Fire Science classe, and spend hours in the gym preparing for the job opportunity. The sad truth is most candidates won'd even spend a few days preparing for the interview process. I've been an instructor for years at the recruit academies and fire science programs only to recognize one common thread. Most candidates won't start preparing for their interview process until they receive a date and time for a particular department.

    There are literally thousands of people testing for the limited fire service positions. Good candidates become GREAT candidates when preparing for the interview panel well before any city announces a test. One must prepare their templet and identify life experiences that have influenced them over the years. This takes time and practice. Most successful candidates identify folks and life experiences that has shaped them as an individual. Check out 911interviews.com to identify what you can do to improve your overall position when testing for the most respected career in the world. Best of luck in your journey. Good things will come to you

    Joe
    911interviews

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    Quote Originally Posted by MTGillinois View Post
    There are so many people on the forums now that want to know what kind of second job they should get before they even get accepted to academy. There are so many people on here constantly talking about benefits and salary.
    We all have to make a living, I understand that. However, from someone on the outside looking in, wouldn't you want to reserve talk about money for later if you were going to bring it up at all.
    Salary information is easy to find and is black and white. It's not like you're going to get a reply on the forums that reads "What!? They told you they pay X,xxx.xx a year!? That's not true! Negotiate for more money!" so a salary either meets your needs or it doesn't. That's all the further it should go especially for large departments where I KNOW for a FACT that salary information is posted on their website.
    I don't want to sound snyde or like I'm standing on a soap box handing down edicts but there are so many people trying so hard just to get a badge who never, not one time, bring up money. Talking about having a wife and kid to support doesn't change the reality either. There are a lot of people out there who have a wife and kid(s) who are working hard for the badge... And they don't bring up salary on the forums. Sure, they talk about it at home, with the wife, but they don't bring it here. They don't bring it here because salary is black and white and discussing pay scales on an open forum as one of the 4 or 5 things you're concerned with before you're even on a list doesn't seem right.

    You know I didn't start this thread to be ridiculed about asking questions. Yes, I am just like all of you guys. My dream since I found out I was not good enough to be a professional baseball/football player was to be a firefighter. Not for the money or status, but for the excitement, the pride, saving lives, public service and because I looked up to them as a child, not only because they are public figures, but because they have courage and pride in what they do. No, I do not care about the salary, but whatís wrong with asking questions? No, I am not a firefighter and I am not on a list, but I don't know any firefighters to ask so I turned to this forum. Thanks to all the people who gave good information and sorry if I offended people by asking questions about second jobs.

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    Quote Originally Posted by DanTheMan_01 View Post
    You know I didn't start this thread to be ridiculed about asking questions. Thanks to all the people who gave good information and sorry if I offended people by asking questions about second jobs.
    Dan:

    Understand some here were just trying to keep you from stepping on some of the landmines ahead of you. Mentioning salary and benefits is one of the huge landmines. We know it. Just don't bring it up. Some departments don't allow rookies to have second jobs until they're off probation.

    Quote Originally Posted by DanTheMan_01 View Post
    Not for the money or status, but for the excitement, the pride, saving lives, public service and because I looked up to them as a child, not only because they are public figures, but because they have courage and pride in what they do. .
    If you used the above as part of your answer to the question in your interview "Why do you want to be a firefighter" you would be a "Clone" candidate like too many others. That's why it's so critical to learn how to take a firefighter interview which is like no other and usually 100% of your score to get hired.

    "Follow your heart and the money will follow."
    Last edited by CaptBob; 07-25-2010 at 01:45 AM.
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