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What Schooling?

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  • What Schooling?

    I have grown up around firefighting from my baby years. My grandpa was a career firefighter and my dad is a volunteer. I am going throuhg mandatory training right now, and I want to go and become a career firefighter. My question is what schooling do I need after high school(I'm a senior now)? The advice I recieved so far is to become a qualified paramedic. What else do I need to get hired in a bigger city?

  • #2
    I have been trying to post this for a few weeks, but am unable to start any new threads.

    Found this while looking through some old files on my computer. Originaly posted on the alt.firefighters newsgroup by Chief Johnson of the Little Rock, AR FD several years ago.

    This is a reply to a person named Joe who, while still in High School, wanted to know how to get ready for a career in the fire service.
    How do I Prepare to be a Firefighter?

    Where Do You Want to Live?
    The first thing I suggest you think about is where do you want to live. Once you've examined that aspect of your life, then look at the fire service employment options in the vicinity of where you want to live. I've never lived in an area that I didn't like, but I suspect that everyone doesn't feel that way. Consequently, find a place you will like in terms of the community in which you want to live. During the first several years of your career, you will most likely work "shift work" and will be "off duty" about two thirds of the time. Therefore, you need to reside in an area that is compatible with your personal preferences. Years ago, I met some fellows who told me they didn't care where they lived as long as they were firefighters. I've lost touch with them, but I figured they wouldn't be too happy after the initial excitement of being a firefighter wore off. We all need to be balanced, and there is more to life than simply where we work.

    Visit With Folks Already On the Job

    When I visit with prospective firefighters, I advise them to visit the firefighters in the department in which they contemplate seeking employment. Not everyone I counsel wants to work where I do. Some are young people visiting our city. Others are college or university students who will return "home" when they complete their education. I also suggest that each prospective firefighter contact the fire chief or training officer for that same department if the prospect is encouraged by what he heard when he visited with the firefighters. Some fire chiefs and training officers won't or can't take time to visit with prospective firefighters, but I always encourage prospective firefighters to make the effort to set up the meeting. As a fire chief, I always enjoy speaking with prospective firefighters. You should make contacts locally for starters and see what results.

    Career Preparation Include Many Options and Varies from Person to Person
    Fire departments are always looking for dependable, intelligent, responsible, trustworthy, enthusiastic and personable employees. So does just about every other credible employer. While a college degree won't hurt anyone, simply possessing one doesn't help me determine if a prospective firefighter is dependable, intelligent, enthusiastic or personable. Personally, I would rather hire someone who could be described in this manner rather than someone who had the degree but wasn't balanced. The attributes I just listed can be demonstrated most easily by the way that you handle your time between high school and where you seek employment as a firefighter. Most of us have to work to support ourselves, and you - as a high school student - may not realize how important it is that you take your part-time jobs seriously and begin developing a satisfactory employment record well before the day comes when you want to become a paid firefighter.

    To my knowledge, I don't recall ever hiring a firefighter who never worked somewhere else before becoming a firefighter. Therefore, it is important that everyone I consider for employment demonstrate a good work history. It doesn't matter to me if a prospective firefighter worked part-time making pizza or boxing groceries at the local supermarket. What matters are characteristics like showing up for work on schedule, possessing a good attitude, approaching the job in a manner which demonstrated concern for customers as well as co-workers, accepted responsibility, and learning quickly. What better way to demonstrate these characteristics to a fire chief than having done so in each and every job you have between now and when you land that position you are seeking?

    We can teach probationary firefighters how to do their jobs, but we can't teach them to be dependable, intelligent, responsible, trustworthy, enthusiastic, and personable.

    Not everyone who wants to be a firefighter can attend college and complete a degree between high school and when the tests can be taken for the first time. Likewise, some people decide to change careers and may be working two jobs, changing diapers, or fulfilling other responsibilities which preclude their attending college before they become firefighters.

    Specific Things to Do Now
    Almost every prospective firefighter asks me the same question: what can I do to prepare for a career as a firefighter. My answers to them usually include the following:

    1) Read the Reader's Digest regularly. Read other publications regularly. Most entrance exams with which I'm familiar test extensively for reading comprehension. Obviously, there won't (or shouldn't) be any questions on the test which are taken from the Reader's Digest. However, I've found that lack of reading skills - particularly the inability to understand what one reads - will inhibit a firefighter to the point that he/she may have difficulty studying for promotional exams even if he/she is able to be hired initially. While it is great to remain a firefighter if that is what one wants to do, it is prudent to improve your reading skills if you are lacking in this area.

    2) Join a volunteer fire department, become a Red Cross volunteer, or find some other way to gain experience working with others. Not only will you gain valuable experience, which may correlate, to being a firefighter, you will be able to learn how to work with others, how to take direction, and how to be seen as a team player.

    3) Take a CPR course, attend a First Responder course, or become an Emergency Medical Technician. A lot of what the fire service does is medical related. If the thought of helping people with medical problems turns you off, you need to overcome it or find another career. Two thirds of most fire department responses in most areas probably are medical related. If you mix with other students and instructors in these classes, you will gain a lot of insight during class as well as during breaks.

    4) Meet 3-5 firefighters who have joined the service in the last two years. Ask them about the testing processes that were used to pick them. They ought to be able to give you some valuable insight. As a fire chief, I can't tell you as much about the testing process as they can. I know a lot about it, but it has been decades since I took a firefighter entrance exam. A recently employed firefighter will be able to answer many more of your questions - if you ask the right questions.

    5) Visit the fire stations/departments nearest to their homes, several times, over the course of a few months. No one ever scored any points with me during a pre-employment interview when I asked about the last two or three visits to a fire station - and the candidate said, "I've never visited one" or something similar to that. How really can someone convince a fire chief (or manager of any business, for that matter) that he/she wants a job in a place the applicant has never visited?

    6) Subscribe to Fire Engineering, Firehouse, or other suitable fire service publications. If you want to learn about a profession you should read the trade journals. Learn the lingo, see the tools and equipment of the trade, read the classified ads in the back which list the qualifications of the jobs advertised in the various issues. Few departments seek firefighters through these publications, but many fire administrative positions are announced in classified ads in fire service publications.

    7) Cut out newspaper clippings with any references to any fire service or fire department activities. Read them. Decide if you still want to pursue a career in the fire service.

    8) Contact the employment office, personnel office, or human resources department - the office/agency that distributes job announcements for firefighter positions where you would like to work - and review the document(s). Ask also for a copy of the job description as well as a position description. These documents will tell you about the knowledge, skills, and abilities required of the people who fill the position of firefighter as well as help you understand the duties, form of supervision, and other requirements of the position. An increasing number of cities are requiring prospective firefighters to complete Firefighter I and Firefighter II courses before even testing for a position. Some cities also require that applicants be Emergency Medical Technicians. Some cities require other forms of education, but most don't yet require college credit for firefighter positions. There are always exceptions to what I'm sharing with you, but you can find out what is required by obtaining the job announcement, job description, and position description documents.

    9) Consider a tour in the military as a way of bridging the gap between high school and a fire service career. My son tried college right out of high school. He didn't like it even though he had a full scholarship based on grades and test scores.. He didn't know what he wanted to do. Most of the people who ask me about becoming a firefighter probably believe they really want to be firefighters, but some don't. I can tell that after visiting with them for a half-hour. My son worked for a year or so after he dropped out of college. He then joined the Army. He is really enjoying the challenges of Army life, and new opportunities are opening up for him almost weekly. When he enlisted, he received a healthy enlistment bonus and a written guarantee of $40,000 for college expenses when he completed his first four-year enlistment. At this point, he wants to make a career out of the Army. However, if he changes his mind, he can separate from the military and find himself better prepared for the future due to the increased personal maturity, the leadership experiences gained during his Army enlistment. The knowledge that he can work as a team player and whatever other benefits which result from his military experiences.

    10) Seasonal fire fighting positions exist within National Forests and the Bureau of Land Management. Many seasonal firefighters are college or university students. Some are even teachers. Being a seasonal firefighter is a good way to save money in the summer to help pay for college expenses during the school year. Plus, it helps prospective career firefighters acquire new skills, work in a team environment, and develop a base of experience, which will remain for years to come.

    No "One Size Fits All" Answer
    Ask other people what they would suggest - just like you did when you inquired on this news group. When I began my fire service career, I was willing to listen to anyone who would make a suggestion. Some of the things I've told you in this message were what I heard when I started my career. In the early to mid 1960's, few firefighters I knew were thinking about going to college. Fire science courses were scarce then. Many of us served in the military before or during our fire-fighting days. For those who were drafted, their jobs were saved until they returned from military service. With very few exceptions, the men who were fit enough to be firefighters were fit enough to serve in the military. Uncle Sam's GI Bill program helped many firefighters pursue college course work after military duty was completed. Although some of my colleagues took classes as much for the money they received as for the educational value, those who took fire science and business administration courses seem to be helped on promotional exams. Hopefully, they were helped in their jobs as well. When I was a rookie firefighter, I was willing to listen to other peoples' suggestions as to what I should do. A few back then said "go to college" because they hadn't seen firefighters with a college education. Today, one really cannot expect to advance to the top without a bachelor’s degree or a master’s degree in some fire departments. However, you don't have to have the degree in order to become a firefighter in most instances.

    You can, if you so choose, pursue the college courses while you are a firefighter. It may be easier for you - in the 11th grade – to plan for college and then a career in the fire service. However, there are prospective firefighters who are already raising a family or working two jobs who simply cannot find the time now to take college courses to prepare themselves for a career change to that of a firefighter. Accordingly, I tell those folks to seek the college training after they've landed the fire-fighting job.

    Well, Joe, I think this is enough for now. Best wishes as your consider your options. You are wise to be contemplating your career while you are still in high school. This is a great time to consider a fire service career.

    Best regards.

    Phil Johnston
    Little Rock Fire Department, AR
    "The most mediocre man or woman can suddenly seem dynamic, forceful, and decisive if he or she is mean enough." from "Crazy Bosses"
    Genius has its limits, but stupidity is boundless.


    • #3
      There is a plethora on the "Hiring and employment" forum with n this website. I encourage you to check it out.

      Here is some information I think will get you pointed in the right direction. Good luck in your pursuit!

      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
      Paul Lepore
      Battalion Chief


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