01-09-2003, 05:00 PM #1
Question for you grizzled veterans...
I'm currently with a paid-on-call department that is paying for most of my training (unfortunately not EMT-B class because we don't run EMS). I would like to eventually make a career out of this, but I'm at a crossroads right now. My question is, do I stay with my current department and stay to get Firefighter Level II certification, or would it be better to leave the department and go ahead and enroll in a fire science associate program? I do plan on going on to paramedic training, and I've heard that helps, but I'm not sure which road is the best to take. I've heard real experience is priceless, but our department is small, we only go on about 50 calls per year. I would greatly appreciate it if anyone had some advice...thanks...
01-09-2003, 07:02 PM #2
- Join Date
- Jun 2002
- Glenn Dale Md, Heart of the P.G. County Fire Belt....
Where Do You Want to Go??....
Looks like you want to do something that is planned out logically. Congratulations, not everyone gets to where you are now. 1. Whenever you get training that is acceptable, get National Pro Board Certification for it. 2. Unfortunatly, you are right on the money with your observation that experience is priceless. It is! My oldest Grandson started firefighting at 16, he is now almost 23, and has recorded almost 4,000 runs. How long will it take you to get his experience at your location?? 3. Sorry to say, but you will have to make a move to a much busier place in order to do what you want (If I understood you correctly). 4.If you can pack up and go without a lot of strings attached, look at the East Coast. Some of the busiest VFDs in the world call Maryland home, and a lot of them are known for the training their members have. This, in turn, helps with the career move. Almost every paramedic in this area is FD based, as all EMS services are operated by the Fire/Rescue organizations, A few are fully paid, A few are fully volunteer, but most are combination departments. There are paramedic vacancies on a regular basis, and many places will hire you AND train you afterwards. Check out some of the Websites of the companies in this area. Try www.gdvfd18.com (my outfit) and use links from there. Stay Safe....Never use Force! Get a Bigger Hammer.
In memory of
Chief Earle W. Woods, 1912 - 1997
Asst. Chief John R. Woods Sr. 1937 - 2006
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I Refuse to be a Spectator. If I come to the Game, I'm Playing.
01-09-2003, 11:02 PM #3
- Join Date
- Apr 2001
- Port Jefferson, NY
There are some VFD's that you can live at and be a member as you go to school. Free room and board, you can get the degree,the training, and the expirence. Ask aroud here in the forms, I have seen info on it before. Good luck.B Holmes
01-10-2003, 01:02 AM #4
thanks for the info...
Thanks for the info, seems as if experience counts... Let me clarify, maybe I wasn't quite clear, but I would like to eventually go on to a career department, I don't know if that changes anything that anyone would suggest. Thanks again for the advice...
01-10-2003, 08:27 AM #5
For the most part, experience means nothing to most career departments. Every department has it's own training academy, whether it be inhouse or a state run academy like Massachusetts. Many departments are looking to hire Paramedics and if you are looking to get a degree, check for a program in Emergency Medicine. Experience is great for your own safety and will help you in the academy and on the job but it won't get you hired. Start taking as many tests as you can.
01-10-2003, 06:21 PM #6
- Join Date
- Feb 2001
Take it all
All great advice. I went the military route. If I had to do it all over again and the military wasnít an option I would get a Bachelors degree in Fire Service Administration and get a Paramedic Cert. You can get a degree in Para medicine but for the most part all the Departments are looking for is that youíre a Paramedic. The cert is the same thing just a lot less classes. FF2 is small Bananas compared to a degree. Many schools will give you credit for FF2 towards a degree. Check out www.ifsac.com for states and so on that are accredited. And the absolute most important thing is taking anything and everything offered especially if it is free. As for the experience thing. I had almost 8 years military and government Fire experience. I finally got the job I was looking for and started all over as the junior man. One thing you have to remember is many of these departments are routed in tradition and your experiences and education as important as they may be and as valuable as they seem to you, donít mount to a hill of beans when your takiní out the trash.ďJust when you think something is made to be Idiot Proof. They go a head and make a better IdiotĒ
01-12-2003, 12:02 PM #7
- Join Date
- Nov 2000
Speaking as a veteran of many oral boards I'd much rather have someone with little or no experience, but was willing to learn and work. The last thing I want is someone "on the job" 2 years in some little VFD who thinks they know it all. We have to untrain them first. And by all means work towards your paramedic certification. EMS is 50%-70% of most career departments run volume.
01-12-2003, 01:29 PM #8
Its true that previous experience might not be a big factor in you getting hired, but 50 calls a year is not enough to start to get an idea of what being a paramedic is like. I would personally stay with this dept if they will pay for your firefighter II, get that, then join another dept that takes more runs and will pay for medic school.
Just my opinion, and I'm not a grizzled veteren yet
01-12-2003, 03:34 PM #9
- Join Date
- Aug 2002
- San Francisco Bay Area
Remember, You're Just a Rookie
Remember, You're Just a Rookie
Iíve coached several candidates who have had B.S./BA degrees in Public Administration areas. They had been guided by misguided counselors that this would be an asset to get into the fire service. What ends up happening is these candidates show up at an entry level oral board boasting and trying to hammer the board with their degree. What they donít understand is they are applying for a snotty nose rookie position and probably no one on the other side of the oral board table has or will ever obtain this degree. And most of these candidates will ever have a chance to use it in the fire service. We need more Indians than future Chiefs.
John came in for Private Coaching after not being able to pass any oral boards. He was one of those candidates who I think was misguided into a Public Administration Degree. During his coaching, he kept trying to come back to his degree. I finally told him, "Screw you! You want to come into my oral board and try to hammer me with a degree you may never use?" Youíre applying for a snotty nose rookie position as a firefighter!" John dropped his head and said, "Maybe thatís why I canít get through any orals."
John ended up going to paramedic school (which he should have already done instead of the B/A degree). Although he mentioned the B/S degree in his oral board answer, "What have you done to prepare for this position" he focused on his personal life and paramedic experience. He got his badge!
Donít get me wrong, I believe in education. If you want to get a Public Administration, engineering or any other degree as a career track, great. Donít think it will be the key to get into the fire service. It could hurt you.
Since most departments offer educational incentives, you can gain the additional education, degrees, and get paid while youíre going. The educational incentive could be included as part of your retirement.
I look for the shortest distance to the badge. If I were starting out, I would run to paramedic school. Yes, you can get on without it. I have candidates all the time who get a badge without being a medic. But for the time spent and with more than 80% of job offerings being fire/medic, the odds are better.
I believe trying to focus on just a few local departments narrows the search, opportunities and gaining the experience needed to compete. With departments testing about every two years, a candidate trying to target 10 departments might be able to take 5 tests a year. Does this give you the needed competitive advantage? I can't tell you how many times I've talked to volunteers from departments who have waited for years trying for that golden opportunity to get hired in that community as a full-paid fire fighter, or candidates who kept their testing for only local fire departments or regions. Then, they have ****n it in the interview. It devastates them. They failed because they didn't present the package. The other candidates with more exposure and experience did. They took their badge.
You might be right and there are exceptions, but itís been our experience that most oral boards are structured. They ask all the candidates the same questions.
My friend Tom wrote:
Entry level is entry level and all the certs and merit in the world will not make a difference without aceing the interview!
I marvel at firefighter candidates who have great credentials. Degrees, certificates, experience and volunteer time. They have all this great stuff and don't realize that if you can pass the oral board, you don't get the job! period! They wait until the last minute and think they can wing it. When they donít do so good in the oral board they think that had to have more credentials. They do little or nothing preparing for the most important part of the testing process, the oral board. The oral board is 100% of the score to get hired. If they do nothing to make a better presentation for their oral boards, nothing will change.
Unfortunately too many candidates have been made into ďClonesĒ by some fire academies, college fire technology programs, and, yes, lots of mock orals with other firefighters and friends (who have never been on an oral board, never been on an oral board outside their department, or itís been so long since they have been on an oral board they are not in touch with the process; everyone becomes an expert once theyíre hired you know). Although it can be good exposure, can you really tell the wantabee or candidate friend how bad they really are? Most canít. Often, we could tell by the third question on an oral board which college or academy the candidate came from. They even looked the same including that little mustache.
"I do interviews all over the county. I am amazed at how poorly the candidates perform. It is very apparent that they have not put much time into preparing for interviews in general.
. . . When a strong candidate comes along he or she is usually head and shoulders above the crowd.
Is it a coincidence that when a candidate finally gets a job offer, they have to choose from several different departments. Did they get lucky? No, they finally figured out how to take an interview."
Bingo! Thatís our point!
Most candidates do poorly on their oral boards. The problem is most of them don't know how poorly theyíre doing. With all respect to Jed's following comment, this is one of the most important clues why candidates have trouble in their oral boards:
"I recently had an interview, and I know my answers were great, especially after hearing how another candidate answered them. He made the list, and I did not.. Go figure!"
This is the problem! Most candidates think their answers are great, when they aren't. If their answers were as great as they thought, they would make the list and get a badge. When candidates do poorly in an oral board, they blame other's and add more credentials. Then, they still do poorly because they have done little or nothing to improve their oral board skills. They listen to other candidates and firefighters who make them into clones. Once a person becomes a firefighter, they are instantly the experts on how to get hired.
We receive e-mails like this one today:
Dear Captain Bob, Thanks for coming to the Oakland written test and handing out your business cards. You gave me one and what a help you have been and you didn't even know it!
After that test, I had an interview with another local department. I thought I did well but didn't get a positive vibe from the panel. Later I got the letter saying I'm on their list but on the bottom third. Then I passed the agility at Oakland, got invited to interview there, and dug up that card from Captain Bob. Whoa baby! I spent hours reading everything on your website and started to understand how to play the game, and probably why I ended up at the bottom of the list on my last oral board. I think my interview with Oakland went SO much better. There wasn't enough time before it, so when I got back I got your video and tapes, and am working my way through that. Long story short, just wanted to say thanks a LOT, first off. ED.
We help candidates get hired all the time with little or no fire education or experience. Hereís one:
Joe got one of our flyers when he picked up an application for the San Francisco Fire Department test. He had seen the ad for the test in the paper. Although he is not a kid, he thought he would give it a shot. No background, formal education or experience.
It didnít take long after Joe contacted us to figure out that he was not the sharpest knife in the drawer.
We suggested a book he could get to help him prepare for the written. He called back to my Son Rob and left a message for me asking, if I buy this book, does it have the answers for the San Francisco test in it?
Every time he called me, he also called Rob and left a similar message. There were many, many calls. We answered all.
Of the 4100 that took the San Francisco written, guess who passed? Joe
The oral was next. Rob dreaded the coaching session. It was a looooong session.
Guess who passed the SFFD oral? . . . Joe
Joe passed the physical agility.
I told this story to a paramedic out of Denver who has been trying 3 years to get hired and canít get through an oral. He said Captain Bob this isnít funny. I know itís not.
Joe doesnít know about you. He doesnít know about your degrees, certificates, education, volunteer time and experience.
Even though Joe is not the sharpest knife in the drawer he has done something you probably arenít. He listened! He listened to what he needed to do. Joe followed the simple formula: Get the program. Work it. Use a tape recorder to practice. Get coaching. Badge! What are you willing to do to get a badge? Call Joe and he will tell you.
Luck is given to the prepared.
Which path will the candidates choose? As Bill OíReilly says on the Fox News OíReilly Factor, ďAs always, weíll let the audience decide.Ē
ďNothing counts til you have the badge . . . Nothing!Ē
01-12-2003, 08:52 PM #10
Thanks again to everyone...this is all good stuff. I didn't expect these answers, but in retrospect, it makes a lot of sense. I guess I'll try to pick up on things for myself personally, but stick to taking classes and getting EMT-P certification. One more thing, I will have a B.S. Business/Economics degree by this coming May. Would it be wise to downplay my education?? I made the decision to alter my career path while in school, but I decided to finish out my degree anyway because I was so close to getting it. Any more advice is always welcome, thanks...git 'er done...
01-14-2003, 07:33 AM #11
- Join Date
- Nov 2002
Gotta run, I rep[ly to this later.
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