09-07-2010, 11:31 PM #1
- Join Date
- Sep 2010
Looking for advice regarding my future...
Hey everyone. My name is Steve and as you can tell I'm new here. I'm 20 years old and I'm here to get advice from the people that do this everyday. I'm currently going to college for culinary arts but that is just to raise my GPA before next semester starts. I used to volunteer in my local Fire Dept. when I was 16 and I loved every minute of it, but my family came under some hard times so I had to leave the department and get a job. One thing led to another and I never got the opportunity to go back, it's something I regret but everything happens for a reason. I've always been interested in firefighting, I remember going to the local fire station with my grandfather who volunteered and always being interested in what they were doing.
Now that I've got the introduction out of the way I guess I'll get to the point. I'm planning on going to my local community college to get an associates degree in Fire Science which I can get in two years. I'm working two jobs pulling 70 plus hours a week to pay for college and everything else. I have a clean record and I've been told I have all the qualities to become a firefighter. So my question to you all is, what advice can yall give me to actually make this dream a reality? I would love to get back into volunteering, but like I said earlier working two jobs and going to school fulltime I barely have time to do anything.
09-08-2010, 12:28 AM #2
- Join Date
- Nov 2005
Welcome to the site. You are certainly a hard working, motivated young man. These qualities certainly make good firefighters. Here is a road map of what you can d to reach your goals. Best of luck to you.
This sample Firefighter Two-Year Plan was developed with input from Mike
Sarjeant, a Deputy Chief on the Long Beach, California, Fire Department.
If still in high school look into a Regional Occupational Program
Many local fire departments have community outreach recruitment
Graduate from high school or obtain your GED.
A diploma is much preferred.
Talk with a counselor at a community college that offers fire science
Set up a course curriculum that allows you to obtain a two-year degree in
fire science. If the local college does not offer a fire science program, find
one that does.
This curriculum should also allow you to complete the prerequisite courses
for a fire academy.
Take an Emergency Medical Technician Course (EMT).
This will accomplish a few things. First of all, it is a course required by most
departments. It will also let you know if this profession is for you. If you find
you can’t handle the sight of blood or helping people during crises, the fire
service may not be for you.
Enroll in a state certified fire academy.
Many departments require completion of a Firefighter 1 Academy prior to
taking the entry-level exam.
Completion of a fire academy prior to being hired will greatly enhance
a candidate’s chance of successfully completing the fire department’s
academy. Many fire departments have a 25-30% failure rate.
Find out if your community has either a fire department volunteer
program or Fire Explorers.
Volunteering in the fire department is an excellent way to gain real life
experience. This exposure will also allow you to determine if this is
indeed the right career choice for you.
Volunteer in your community.
Find something that you are interested in and volunteer your time:
church, sports, hospital, YMCA, Red Cross, etc. It doesn’t matter.
Get involved. Volunteering is something that should be done because
it’s the right thing to do, not because it will look good on a firefighter
application. Firefighters are self-motivated and have historically been involved in
their communities. The perception is that if you are helping out in your
community now, you will be the type who will likely continue to stay
involved after you are hired, helping out in various committees and
groups both on and off the job.
Visit the local fire stations.
Interview the firefighters and elicit their help in planning your career
path. It is a tremendous compliment to the firefighters to have someone
aspire to be in their position. Visiting the fire stations will help you learn
about the job and the culture of the fire service. In addition, you will
learn of things that you could be doing to enhance your chances of
getting hired. Ultimately, when the department hires, you will be in a
good position since the firefighters have gotten to know you and have
taken the time to mentor you. There is nothing better than a “home
Prepare for a fire department interview.
Consider the reasons why you want to become a firefighter and be
able to express them. Do your research and learn the rules of the road
concerning the interview process. Participate in “mock” interviews with
Start a log that includes everything you have done to prepare yourself.
Include details, dates and names of instructors. Include any personal
experiences that may be pertinent to becoming a firefighter.
A few examples of this could be:
You witnessed a car accident and were able to render aid.
You volunteered your time at the Boys and Girls Club.
You experienced a life-changing event.
You were voted most inspirational on your athletic team or your fire
Your high school athletic team won the championship.
You were a lifeguard at the city pool.
Anything that you think might be significant. There are no rules. Write
This information will go on your resume, or may be speaking points in
an interview. This is preparing you to answer difficult questions in an
interview, such as, “Please share with the panel a stressful time in your
life and how you dealt with it.”
The log should just be an easy and accessible memory jogger for you. If
you are comfortable with a pencil and notepad, keep them in your room
in a convenient spot so you won’t forget to use them. If you are more
comfortable on the computer, then use it to formulate your thoughts
Get in shape.
Firefighting is a very physical job requiring peak physical strength and
endurance. If you are not in good physical condition, it will become very
evident during the physical ability testing or the pre-hire medical exam. It
is also important to look as if you are physically prepared for the job.
If you see a firefighter who looks out of shape, don’t look at him and
think, “If he got hired, so can I!” Odds are he was in better physical
condition when he was first hired. You are trying to do everything you
can to improve your chances. This is a very important part that you
have complete control over.
Look the part!
The rule of thumb in an interview is to hire someone who you can see
becoming a member of your crew tomorrow. A candidate who walks
in with excessive facial hair, large tattoos or body piercing that is not
permitted by the department’s policies presents as a candidate who
is not ready for the position. Do not make the mistake of saying that
you will remove them when you are ready to be hired. You are making
a statement. It is important to understand that the fire department is a
paramilitary organization. These will definitely not improve your chances
Invest in a suit and tie. Although not required for the interview, a
candidate who does not wear one stands out. First impressions are
critical. Make sure the suit is conservative, not flashy.
Dress professionally whenever you will have contact with members of
the department. This includes station visits. Remember, it is important
to make a good first impression.
Enroll in a service that lets you know which departments are testing.
There are several businesses on the Internet that will inform you of
which departments are testing and what their requirements are.
Most departments test every two to three years. They will then hire from
the “eligibility list” until it expires. The window to file an application is
usually very small, ranging from as short as one day to as long as 30
days. Once the filing period is closed, the department will not accept
any more applications. If you don’t have a subscription to one of these
services, you will miss a lot of opportunities.
Talk to your family.
The decision to become a firefighter is a monumental one. It will most
likely be a long road that requires a lot of time and sacrifice. If you don’t
have a family or friend support network, it will become extremely difficult.
Most importantly, if your spouse does not support your decision, you
are destined for failure.
Surround yourself with reputable people.
A firefighter position is a life choice, not just a job. You must be prepared
to live your life with excellent moral and ethical values. For this you will
need the support of family and friends who are good role models. If your
friends are not a positive influence in the community, you may want to
find a new set of friends. Remember the old saying, “Birds of a feather
flock together.” A background check will scrutinize not only you, but also
the company you keep.
Learn a trade.
Woodworking, framing, electrical, plumbing, welding and automotive are
all common examples of a trade. Firefighting is a very physical job that
requires good psychomotor skills and a hands-on approach. Typically
those who have learned a trade possess these applicable job skills. If
you know how a building is constructed, you will be able to predict how
a fire will travel through it. If you know where the electrical and plumbing
is typically run behind the drywall, you will most likely know where it
would be safe to open it up. You will also have become very comfortable
with power tools. The importance of being able to work with your hands
cannot be overstated.
If you don’t currently have this kind of experience, start taking classes
in a trade at your community college. You will at least learn the
basics. Back this up with some real life practical experience. It will be
invaluable knowledge and will play out well in an interview. Mechanical
aptitude cannot be learned in an Internet class or while sitting behind
Improve your public speaking skills.
If you are uncomfortable getting up in front of a group, you must take
steps to overcome your fear. The largest percentage of the testing
process is the interview and ultimately a large part of the job deals with
public speaking! You won’t talk a fire out, but you will talk to different
groups about how to prevent them. If you can present yourself well in
an interview, you are leaps and bounds ahead of the others who can’t.
Even if the other candidates have more experience than you, the job
will usually be awarded to the candidate who can present him or herself
in a clear and concise manner.
If public speaking is your downfall, it is imperative to join Toastmasters
or take some courses at your community college. A speech and debate
class is an excellent way to get over the jitters. Acting or drama classes
can also be an excellent way to feel more comfortable in front of a
Teaching others can also help you learn to think on your feet. Whether
you are teaching CPR and First Aid or your local Sunday school class,
it will help you learn to present information clearly and field questions.
A typical interview question might be, “What do you consider a weakness
about yourself?” Your answer could be, “I used to feel uncomfortable
getting up and speaking in front of a group. I knew this was a very
important part of my chosen vocation. I took several classes at my
community college to help improve my comfort level. Since then I feel
much more confident in my ability to speak in public.”
You can have all of the best traits in the world, but if you can’t effectively
convey them in an interview they will go unnoticed. Now that’s turning
a negative into a positive!
Maintain a clean driving and criminal record.
It goes without saying that firefighters are held to a standard that is
much higher than the average citizen. The road is littered with firefighter
candidates who have failed their background check due to a poor driving
or criminal record.
Maintain a good credit history.
Your credit history is a reflection of your reliability, honesty, organization
and attention to detail.
Update your resume.
Make sure your resume has no technical or grammatical errors, is well
organized and comprehensive. Ask reliable friends or family to proofread
Improve your Education
Got to school! Earn your Associates degree. If you already have one consider earning your Master’s degree. You must understand that many Chief Officers either are currently working on a Bachelors, had one when they started in the fire service, or earned one while working as a firefighter. You are in a bad position when asked about your educational plan and you do not have one.
Recruit fire academies are very academically challenging. You must have the academic background to make us believe that you can read technical information one night and be tested on it the next day. Additionally, we are looking for people who we can send to Paramedic or Hazardous Materials School. The more education you have, the better chance you will have of making it through tough academic programs.
Consider Becoming a Paramedic
A paramedic license will absolutely help you stand above the competition on most fire departments. DO NOT go to paramedic school just because you think it will help you get hired. Go because you like running EMS calls and would like to better be able to treat sick people.
Paramedic school is very tough. Do not go unless you are a very strong EMT and are ready!
Fivision ChiefPaul Lepore
09-17-2010, 07:47 PM #3
- Join Date
- Sep 2010
Stingray2112…You really have a lot going on! You are 20 years old, so you are young, and that is to your advantage. Chief Lepore has provided plenty of information for you, that is, quite honestly as comprehensive an answer you could have ever hoped to receive regarding obtaining employment in the fire service. You asked about your future, but what I am more concerned about is your present. I do not know your obligations, or family circumstances, but working 70+ hours per week while pursuing ANY endeavor is counterproductive. My question is, why so many hours? Culinary school is great, but if it is not your passion you are wasting your time in my opinion. Whatever career you chose to pursue you must be prepared to make sacrifices to attain it. If your obligations are such that you must earn a certain amount of money to meet those obligations your road to success is not impossible but it will take longer and it will be more difficult. If that is your circumstance then your approach has to be more detailed, and time management becomes a major priority. You cannot afford to waste any time spinning your wheels on classes that have zero application to your desired field of study that are not core classes.
You also cannot afford to saddle yourself with unnecessary debt; school tuition notwithstanding. Indebtedness is a killer of dreams and will force your priorities to focus on what you have to do rather than what you want to do. Send me a personal message, if you like, and perhaps you can divulge more of your personal situation and together we can formulate a success plan for your future in the fire service. Take care.
09-19-2010, 08:03 PM #4
Focus on getting hired doing somekind of EMS work (private transport or 911). That will give you alot of experience and looks good on a resume.
Then, once you have some miles behind you, you might start to stand out as a fire recruit. Just a thought.
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