1. #1
    Forum Member

    Join Date
    Nov 2005
    Dallas, Oregon, United States

    Default Some advice for a high school student...

    Hey everyone, I'm looking into whether or not I want to be a fireman and looking at all my options and everything. I'm looking to get as much experience/knowledge as I can before I apply for a dept in Oregon, so far this seems like one of the better idea I've had, please critique;

    Get associates degree as a paramedic, or get certified as a paramedic, which ever grammar you wish to use, then enlist in the air force as a pararescuer for 2-4 years (if they don't force me to stay in longer than that) or longer if I really enjoy it. Then if I want to become an officer (and if I'm able to change my MOS for when I become an officer) have the AF pay for my last two years of college and get a degree in something, not sure what yet, maybe business management with a minor in spanish, and then spend however many years is required to pay off for college in the AF as an officer. Then either join the AF reserves as an officer, and become Oregon certified as a firefighter and apply to as many fire dept that are hiring as possible. Or if I'm not able to be in the AF reserves and have a job as a firefighter at the same time without getting fired if I get deployed, either just retire after fulfilling my time to pay off for college, or stay in the military until I've served 20 years and can retire with pay and then look into getting a job as a firefighter (though that doesn't look as likely because I'll be 40). Oh, and also I'm going to become oregon state SAR certified before I'm 19 through the polk county sheriff's officer.

    So, any advice would be great, thanks!

  2. #2
    MembersZone Subscriber

    Join Date
    Mar 2005


    First, here is a little bit about myself. I am 19 years old living in NE Ohio. I have a son, who was the best thing that ver happened to me, and is great motivation in my pursuit of this career. When I was a senior in high school, I found out that I had a child on the way. I got into a 240 hour fire program through contact I made at my explorer post. Once I completed my 240, I enrolled in an EMT-Basic program. I finished that, and am currently in paramedic school. I have been a volunteer for a year on a department that is very progressive in terms of training. I also work fulltime for an ambulance company doing both 911 ems and transfers. So although I am very new to this, I have learned a few things alon the way, so here is my advice.

    1. It is good to have both long and short term plans and goals. I ran into the mistake of focusing so much on the future, and loosing sight on the short term task at hand. (ie: fire academy, basic school, medic school, etc...)

    2. If you have a chance to join a cadet program, explorer post, or any other similar program, DO IT. The contacts you will make are what will help you out along the way. Contacts have helped me get on the fire department, get in to fire school , and get my emt job.

    3. Keep your mouth shut, and your ears open. You will learn alot. I came into this thinking I knew something. Turns out I didn't. Once I realized this, life has imrpoved.

    Good Luck,


  3. #3
    Forum Member

    Join Date
    Nov 2005
    Dallas, Oregon, United States


    Ok, I'll switch it up a little to get more options going... I'm going to go to chemeketa to get an mixed or double AS degree as an EMT/Paramedic and in Fire suppression, and then I'll get my BS degree by going through the Advanced Fire Officer Certificate program. That much is set unless someone knows of another program/major offered in a college in oregon that would be better and give me better knowledge.

    Next, I want to join the military, I want to start off as enlisted and then go to OCS/OTS, or I could enlist after I get my AS degree and have the military pay for my bachelors after I finish my enlistment and then go to OCS and become an officer. What I need to figure out is what branch should I join, and what MOS in that branch. I want something that will further my knowledge as a paramedic and firefighter, I was thinking pararescuer with the air force, or firefighter with the air force or army or navy, or a special forces medic (MOS 18D) or engineer (18C) with the army. Whatever it is, I want it to give me as much education/experience as possible. Thanks

  4. #4
    Forum Member

    Join Date
    Nov 2005
    Dallas, Oregon, United States


    Oops, sorry montville, didn't see you had posted when I wrote my last post.

  5. #5
    MembersZone Subscriber

    Join Date
    Nov 2005


    Here are some thoughts on how one should proceed to become a firefighter. Good luck in your endeavors!

    Two Year Plan

    ¨ 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 courses.

    o Set-up a course curriculum that allow you to obtain a two-year degree in fire science. If the local college does not after a fire science program, find one that does.

    o This curriculum should also allow you to complete the required courses for a fire academy.

    o Enroll in an Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) course.

    ¨ Find out if your community has either a volunteer program or fire explorers.

    o If still in high school look into a Regional Occupational Program (ROP). Many local fire departments have community outreach recruitment programs.

    o Volunteering in the community 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.

    o Fire fighters are self-motivated and self-starters that have historically been involved in their community.

    o The feeling is if you are helping out in your community now, when hired you will be the type that will continue to stay involved helping out in the various committees and groups on and off the job.

    Start a log that includes everything you have done to prepare.

    Include dates, names of instructors. Include any personal experiences that may be pertinent in to becoming a firefighter. A few examples of this could be:

    o You witnessed a car accident and were able to render aid.

    o You volunteered your time at the Boys and Girls club

    o If you experience a life-changing event.

    o You were voted most inspirational on your athletic team or your fire academy.

    o Your high school athletic team won the championship.

    o You were a lifeguard at the city pool.

    o There are no rules. Anything that you think might be significant. Write it down!

    This information will either go on your resume, or may be speaking points in an interview. This is preparing you to answer those difficult questions in an interview.

    A common question in an interview is: Please share with the panel a stressful time in your life, and please share with us how you dealt with it.

    o Make it easy and accessible. If you are more comfortable with a pencil and notepad. Use it. If you are more comfortable on the computer then use it to formulate your thoughts and ideas. This should just be an easy memory jogger for you. Keep a notebook or notepad in your room in a convenient spot so you wont forget.

    ¨ 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 in during their worst moments, the fire service is may not for you.

    ¨ Physical Fitness.
    Stay in, or get into shape! Fire fighting is a very physical job requiring peak performance. If you are not in good cardiovascular shape, it will become very evident in the physical agility testing or the prehire medical exam. It also is important to look the part in the interview. If you don’t, it decreases your chances of being hired. If you see an out of shape-looking fire fighter don’t look at him and believe, “if he or she got on so can I”! Odds are he was in better condition when he was 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 that you can see becoming a member or your crew tomorrow. A candidate who walks in with facial hair, large tattoo’s or body piercing that is not permitted by the department’s policies and procedures, 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 know the fire department is a paramilitary organization. These will definitely not improve your chances of success.

    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.

    Wear it anytime 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 program that lets you know which departments are testing.

    o There are a lot of businesses on the Internet that will allow you to hear the needed information on which departments are testing and what there requirements are.

    o Most departments test every 2-3 years. They will then hire from the “eligibility list” until it expires. The window to file an application is usually very small. The time frame to file an application ranges from as short as 1 day to as long as 30 days. Whichever the case, once the filing period is closed, the department will not accept any more applications. If you don’t have a subscription to one 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

    Remember a fire fighter 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 that 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. Not only will you be scrutinized during your background check, but also so will the company you choose to keep.

    Learn a trade

    Woodworkings, framing electrical, plumbing, welding, automotive, are common examples of a trade. Fire fighting is very physical hands on job that requires good psychomotor skills and hands on approach. Typically those that have learned a trade possess these good applicable skills for the job. If you know how a building is built, you will be able to predict how a fire’s effect on it. If you know where the electrical and plumbing is typically run behind the drywall, you will most likely know how 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.

    o If you don’t currently have this kind of experience, the first thing to do is start taking a trade class of interest at your community college. You will at least learn the basics. You should 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 a computer.

    Public Speaking. If you are uncomfortable getting up in front of a group, you must take steps to overcome your fear. The largest percent of the testing process (the interview), and ultimately a large part of the job deals with public speaking! No 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 over the others that don’t. Even if the other candidates have more experience the job will usually be awarded to the candidate who can present him or herself in a clear and concise manner.

    o If public speaking is your downfall, it is imperative to join toastmasters or take some courses in your community college. A speech and debate class is an excellent way to get over the jitters. Acting classes or drama classes can also be an excellent way to feel more comfortable.

    · A typical question could be “what do you consider a negative aspect about yourself”. (Or a weakness). 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 very 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!

    Visit the local fire stations
    Interview the firefighters and elicit their help in helping plan your career path. It is a tremendous compliment for the firefighters to have someone aspire to be in their position. Visiting the fire stations will help you learn about the job and learn 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 grown” prospect.

    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.

    Paul Lepore
    Battalion Chief
    Author of:
    Smoke Your Firefighter Interview
    The Aspiring Firefighter's Two-Year Plan

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