I have some advice if you are a licensed paramedic looking to get hired in the fire service. First and foremost, I have seen a trend of a lack of formal education with Paramedic candidates when compared to firefighter candidates. Earning a Paramedic license does NOT mean that you do not need to continue working toward an AA or AS degree. I understand that you may be tired of school or that you need financially get your feet back underneath you after being out of work for an extended period of time while in school. The reality is that I have seen an alarming trend of a lack of formal education with people who have earned their paramedic license.
It's important to understand who you audience is during the interview. In particular I am referring to the final selection (Chief's Interview). You need to recognize that my peers and I all have advanced degrees. Upper level Chief Officers generally fall into one of three categories; we either had a 4 year degree before getting hired in the fire service, we went back and earned it as a working firefighter, or we are currently working to complete it. I may being hypocritical here as I was hired at 20 years old while slowly pursuing an AA degree. At 39 I returned to school and finished an AA degree, then Bachelors, and then a Masters. Again, I am no different than many Chief Officers. My peers all have their degrees. It's very underwhelming to interview a candidate who does not have any education and justifies it that he is working and is too busy to go to school. Again, it's important to note that you are most likely speaking to a Chief Officer who returned to school as a working professional (while raising a family) to earn his or her degree.
While having a degree is not a requirement, it shows initiative, drive and dedication. Before you start to tell me that a degree is not important because we put the wet stuff on the red stuff, I will tell you that education is not the ONLY thing we look for. We are looking for the right combination of education, experience, mechanical ability, maturity, fitness and responsibility.
The next bit of advice I would like to share with you is the fact that we really question your skills if you are a licensed Paramedic working as an EMT. I don't care if you are going on the same calls and working side by side with the Paramedics. YOU ARE NOT functioning as a Paramedic. If you are in fact starting IV's and intubating, you may be breaking the County or department policy. Either way, you are not at the top of your game. You will struggle when hired and placed into a Paramedic role.
In a similar post a few years back, I referenced the water boy on the football team. He is going to all of the practices and he goes to all of the games. In fact, he is oftentimes in the huddle. Having said all of this, I do not want the water boy as my quarter back. I want the regular guy who is in the role at all of the practices to be my "go to guy" on game day. This concept seems to offend many Paramedics who were working in EMT roles.
IF a department is hiring you as a Paramedic, you will be expected to perform on the first call of the first day. THIS IS NOT a learning environment. It is the real deal. YOU MYST PERFORM! I believe that a southern California department has found the perfect way to hire Paramedics. What they do is hire a new medic and give him or her a 10 shift internship. They do not waste time training them in the academy; they simply put the new medic on the box with a paramedic team. At the end of the 10 shift internship the decision is made whether or not to keep the intern. If the decision is made to keep him he now goes to the internal academy. If not, the intern is terminated. The department's termination rate is 50%.
If you are a licensed Paramedic and you are testing for the fire department, you must be ready to step into the role mentioned above. The further you are away from your internship, the less likely you will be to succeed. If, on the other hand, you are working as a licensed Paramedic in a busy 911 system, the internship should be a piece of cake.
My goal here is to help you be successful not only in the hiring process, but once you finally do get hired. It is difficult to see someone struggle after they have put so much energy and effort into getting hired. The more you are able to understand what fire departments are looking for, the more likely you will be in getting hired and completing probation
Good luck to you!
Many people say paramedics is the future of fire departments and no doubt the fastest way to a badge.
Chief, what do you say to those who really want to be good firefighters/emts but ultimately have no desire to become paramedics?
Learn as much EMS as possible then Polymer. Attend continuing education courses outside of your department. Find EMS material and read it in your free time and sit down w/ your medics to understand it. Borrow their medic books from class... it's easy to read and understand. Get your EMT-I/A first... this is a good start as well. You will be able to practice more skills if your dept recognizes this role.
A good B is a huge asset to a medic. Here my local Dept has ambulances in house and run a firemedic/emt combo. It's a great system
Learn as much as you can if it interests you but absolutely do not become a medic for the sole purpose of trying to land a job. You likely will turn out to be a dirtbag medic who's disgruntled and it will show. Be a medic because you want to be able to provide the best care possible for your medical PT's. It's very rewarding but underpaid for the amount of work taken on over the EMT's here.
I agree with Airforce on this one. Become a Paramedic because you have a passion for the job, NOT because it will help you become a firefighter. If you do become a Paramedic solely to get hired on the fire department, you will be unhappy. More importantly you will not be a good Paramedic. It's a difficult enough job for those (like me) who really enjoy(ed) the position. For the record, the best time in my career was riding around on a box in a really busy California Metro department with a great partner.
"I may being hypocritical here as I was hired at 20 years old while slowly pursuing an AA degree. At 39 I returned to school and finished an AA degree, then Bachelors, and then a Masters."
Agreed. Pretty hypocritical. You yourself stated that you did not attain a degree until after 19 years into the job. There is no way I could attain a degree prior to getting my badge. Extremely low income coupled with rising costs of education were a pretty potent 1-2 punch. Add in a supervisor who offered me no support in my work schedule and a wife and kids at home who demanded so much out of me. Why should I have been snubbed in an interview for that? I'm glad that I wasn't.
My advice is if you are sitting on your thumbs than shame on you. If you can get your degree than absolutely do it. Every day you should wake up thinking about what you can do to make yourself a more desirable candidate.
Do you feel that medic cert is more valuable than a degree? Some folks may be able to obtain an AA quicker than medic certification, especially if they have some college credits already. I know all states are different, just curious what your general feeling was.
The difference in when I got hired and today is the advent of Internet based education. Today students can get an education form home. This makes it entirely possible to go to school after work, during your lunch hour, or after the kids go to bed. In your case your employer is not supportive. I understand his position.. Why would he facilitate giving you time off and impacting his bottom line so you can get an education that will only help you leave? I get his position. It's up to YOU to manage your time..
I am telling you my friend that Internet classes are they way to go.
In regards to be being hyopcritical, you are correct. Actually, those were my words. The real deal is that it's my job to hire the most qualified. Everyone has an excuse as to why they can't get something done. This includes you and me. I found a way to get my education while working a full time job, writing books and running a business. It had an impact on me, my kids, my wife and I (we as a family) made huge sacrifices. My peers routinely asked my why i was pursuing a masters degree. While the guys sat in the station watching TV, I was studying at the kitchen table. Before I knew it I had my degree. I was able to parlay this to a promotion on another department.
By all means you can get it done. It's all about choices! You can sit behind a keyboard and complain about the process or you can use your energy wisely.
When my peers and I are sitting on the other side of the table, we don't care about WHY you are not up to speed with the top tier candidates, we are simply looking to hire the best candidate. The intent of the post is to educate you the reader about how we make our decisions. It's up to you. To decide what to do with the information.
To the poster who inquired about a PM license or formal education - great question!
The answer is you should do both.
Here's what I mean:
You need to build EMT time on an ambulance as a prerequisite for most paramedic programs. If it's not for your local program, it should be. You don't want to be seeing a CHF, shooting, or stabbing for the first time during your paramedic field internship. Your chances of success will be greatly diminished.
So, while you are building your EMT hours, you can be working toward your AS degree. Lastly, the anatomy and physiology classes you take toward your degree will help you in pm school.
Allow me to play devils advocate. I am a FF/EMT. The only thing internet courses do is save a commute. The culture of internet learning has changed a lot in the last 10 years. Most legitimate institutions have caught on to the game, a student is required to put as much effort into studying and class time in front of a monitor as they would in a classroom. I argue more time is spent studying because the benefit of lecture, and q&a are missing from the course. I am not trying to downgrade the value of an education, my AAS, is one of the key reasons I am working, for sure. This spring I will be taking classes online, 12 credits worth. My son will be in daycare, during off-days, because of the time demands.
We can argue the benefits of in peron or Internet eduction all day long. I can see it from both sides as I have earned a Masters and I also teach. There certainly is value being in a classroom setting and interacting with the other students as well as the instructor. There is also the consideration that online students have to study harder because they don't have the benefit of a live lecture.
In the end the degree that is awarded does not state whether classes were attended live or online.
I do agree that nowadays it might be easier to complete a degree due to internet classes. But your orignal post stated, "The reality is that I have seen an alarming trend of a lack of formal education with people who have earned their paramedic license". I would think that maybe a majority of these individuals came to a fork in the road and chose Paramedic school first. Probably with the intention of testing everywhere this allowed, and then completing a degree if they did not get a badge. At least that is what I have seen from many of the people testing with my department. In no way do I advocate people becoming complacent just because they became medics. But I definately don't let that hold me back when evaluating candidates. Lots of turds have earned degrees. I will almost always lean towards the candidate who busted his behind so much to provide for his family that earning the degree was just too much. Different strokes I guess. It's much easier to get those classes completed working 10 days a month and earning what I do now though.
The reality is that we get so many applications compared to a relative low number of openings. We literally screen applications to determine who we will interview. So, we never get an opportunity to"hear the individual applicant's story." I believe you are correct when you say that the Paramedic applicants hit a fork in the road and stop pursuing their education.
In my experience (California), a serious paramedic applicant has (or is very close to) an AS degree. For the record, many of the Paramedic applicants have Bachelors degrees. While these are not prerequisites, my message to the candidates out there is DO NOT STOP PURSUING YOUR FORMAL EDUCATION!!!
While education may not factor into the hiring decisions you may make, I can tell you that it is a significant consideration for every Fire Chief I know in this region.
Bottom line is that it's up to the candidate to determine what he or she feels is appropriate. The purpose of my original post is to educate (no pun intended) candidates on the importance education. It's up to them to determine if THEY believe it's important. Personally I believe in providing information from my first hand experience that I believe will help people get hired in the fire service.
I am 25 and have only been testing for about a year now. I am an EMT-I and work for an ambulance company. I also have worked for the BLM as a wildland fire fighter for the past 6 seasons. I have a bachelors degree in Business Management. I have definitely thought about going the paramedic route but being a paramedic doesn't interest me that much and I would only do so to try to get hired more quickly. I agree with what was said above that going to paramedic school solely to get hired as a fire fighter is most likely a bad idea so I have been thinking less and less about that route lately. My question is what more can I do to set myself apart? I am definitely not getting discouraged after only one year of testing, I am just looking towards the future and trying to think ahead. My next move is going to be volunteering at a local department and gain some experience that way. That is the only other thing I can think of to try to set my self apart more though. What are you thoughts? (Or anyone else's who has read this and cares to give some advice to a newb)
I am not sure what region of the country you're in, but if you are in California I would encourage you to put yourself through a basic fire academy. Many departments require this just to take the entry level exam. I believe you will also find that you will need to to get a job as a reserve firefighter.
The problem with working for BLM is two fold:
First and foremost, you are missing the prime testing times for fire departments who are hiring as you are busy during fire season. Next, you have the same experience six times over. Many municipal departments (again California) do not fight that many brush fires. While we go on an occasional strike team and really value having firefighters with brush experience, that's such a small percentage of what we do. As an example, I am a strike team leader. I took 7 different strike teams out in a two year period. We saw tons of fire. It's been three years since we have sent out a strike team.
Conversely, we respond to 85% medical aid calls and respond to structure fires. How are your EMT skills? If you have been through a basic fire academy when was the last time you threw a 35' extension ladder, or donned an SCBA for time.
We are have open seats on fire engines. We are looking for those people who are plug and play. Our training budgets have been cut, our academeys have been shortened. Translated, we are looking for people who require minimal training and can be put in the firehouse with a simple orientation or a shortened academy.
So, for you, I would recommend getting LIKE experience for the job you are applying. If you are applying for a job in the wildland arena, you are on the right page. If, however, you are seeking a job on a municipal department, I would recommend you rethink your approach.
This is not to minimize or demean what my brothers and sisters are doing in the wildland arena, rather to illustrate the differences in what we are looking for.
Good luck and stay safe,
Alright, thanks for the advice. I appreciate it.
A quick question. Does it matter what the degree is in? I got my bachelors in 1999 (the fire service isn't where I initially thought I was going to go). I am now going to be applying to paramedic school in the spring and was just curious in your opinion if what you get your degree in matters. I would like to still get my AA in fire science, but I am at the fork in the road that has been previously mentioned. I appreciate your input if you have the time. Thanks!
No, It doesn't really what your degree is in. The fact that you have earned it is what matters. Regardless of the exact topic of your degree, you still had to take all of the general education requirements necessary for your degree. You then took a concentration in your field of study.
From this point forward, I would encourage you to take fire science courses and work toward Paramedic school (since you have indicated this is your goal). Do yourself a HUGE favor and get a job on a busy EMT ambulance BEFORE going to paramedic school. It's important to be a good EMT! This will also make your paramedic field internship much easier. You do not want to be seeing a shooting, stabbinf or CHF patient for the first time during your internship.
Best of luck to you!
PS, online classes are your best friend!