Here's my story:
I'm 22 years old and just finishing my Bachelor's degree in Law Enforcement with a computer science minor, which is totally unrelated to a job as a firefighter/paramedic. I live in Illinois near Chicago and have been seriously looking into joining a fire department. I feel that a career as a firefighter/paramedic would be a better overall career choice for myself, although law enforcement is still something I am highly interested in. I am single, in excellent shape, and very motivated and dedicated to learning new things. I have no experience in anything fire related, which I feel is the major thing holding me back. I wish I would have at least minored in fire science, but I need to look towards the future now.
My major questions are:
1. Is it too late at this point in my life to try? From what I've read on here most people get hired around my age with much more experience than me (such as paramedic licenses and fire science degrees). From what I can tell, it seems more competitive than getting a job in law enforcement.
2. What steps should I now take to pursue this career at this point in my life once I obtain my degree? I've heard people say test all over, to get hired by an ambulance company.
3. Is there anything I can do to put myself over everyone else? Once I get my degree, I will have plenty of time to do anything.
thank you for your answers.
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03-06-2007, 01:33 AM #1
- Join Date
- Mar 2007
New guy looking to join the FD, need your help please
03-06-2007, 02:38 PM #2
- Join Date
- Jun 2006
You getting a BA (hopefully) in itself puts you up there already, but you already have the gist of it already, test all over etc etc. The Bachelors in CJ/law enforcement will help you in some depts like LA county, being that it'll supplement if you wish to go into arson investigation/code enforcment. If you have time now try and take an EMT-1/EMT-B course just to familiarize yourself with patient care, along with the fact most paramedic programs require you to have EMT-1 first. Other than that, unless you have the time/resources take some fire science classes if you can or FF-1/ff-2(prefferably proboard/ifsac as they are nationally accredited). The reason why its so competitive with the fire service rather than police is that 70% of the nation is volunteer, where as most if not all police depts are paid. The fact that there is a different kind of respect for fireman as opposed to police. And of course we get to break things, hah. Anyways good luck
03-06-2007, 05:11 PM #3
- Join Date
- Mar 2007
I have a good friend who's dad is a veteran on a local FD so I am going to see if I can volunteer where he works so I can get an idea of how everything operates and make some contacts.
If anyone has any suggestions feel free to let me know, as this is a similar, yet totally different career that I am now pursuing.
03-07-2007, 02:31 PM #4
- Join Date
- Aug 2005
22 is not nearly old to be starting in this field. In the state of Il, with a few exceptions, you can be hired between the ages of 21-35. There are several northern suburbs testing right now including a few group tests. contact skokie, wilmette, and morton grove. I saw the adds in the careers section (last page) of the Sunday Tribune. that tends to be a good place to find announcements. The best course of action to greatly increase your odds of getting hired are to enroll in EMT B at a local community college, after completion, look into medic school. Lastly, you are correct, it is a very competitive field. The best way to get hired is to take every test that is out there. You can work on getting hired by your "dream dept" once you're on the job. good luck.
03-07-2007, 10:18 PM #5
- Join Date
- Nov 2005
Welcome to the board. At 22 you are still considered to be very young. The average age to be hired on my department (Major department in So Cal.) in 28.
You have done well by getting your education. It will separate you from your competition. For the record, if I were to give anyone advice on how to get hired I would first tell him or her to get a Bachelor's degree and then worry about the fire department. So, in my book you are right on track.
Here is a chapter out of one of my books that I believe will help you out.
This sample Firefighter two-year Plan was developed with input form Mike Sarjeant, a Captain on the Long Beach, California, Fire Department.
If still in high school look into a Regional Occupational Program (ROP).
Many local fire departments have community outreach recruitment programs.
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.
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 grown” prospect.
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 firefighters.
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 academy.
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 it down!
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 and ideas.
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 agility 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 or 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 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.
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 2-3 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 1 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 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 a computer.
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 group.
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 it.
03-08-2007, 04:36 PM #6
- Join Date
- Mar 2007
Thank you for that information. I talked with one of the guys on the local FD and went to go interview him just this week and everything went extremely well. One of the first things I asked him was if I was too old and he laughed, so I'm glad that won't be an issue. He told me that any bachelors degree will put me over the edge of people that have just a high school, GED, or Associates degrees which is a big relief for me, since I thought I would have to go back to college and change majors. He also said that a bachelors in Law Enforcement is still related to the job in terms of arson investigation and underwater evidence recovery.
I am now planning on testing everywhere I can, while going to back to school after I get my bachelors in a month, and obtaining a EMT-B certification as well. Do you think I should take some fire science classes as well, or should I just read books on the subject during that time? I know nothing about EMT work so I'm thinking I should strictly concentrate on that for now unless anyone else has any opinions.
Oh, and I will be purchasing your books very soon.
04-22-2007, 02:50 PM #7
- Join Date
- Dec 2006
Last edited by martz847; 06-07-2010 at 07:24 PM.
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