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Finish college or medic school?

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  • Finish college or medic school?

    Hey everyone-could use some opinions/advice

    Next spring I will hopefully be a live in FF/EMT up near college park, MD. I am currently a sophomore in college right now. I have my EMT-Basic and I really love doing EMS. I ultimately want to attend med school or PA school, but I think I want to be a paramedic for a few years before doing that. Here's my question:

    -I have the option to take an EMT-I class in Feb, going until July. Then I could take paramedic classes from August 2006 until Jan 2007. Should I do take this oppurtunity or should I complete my 4 year degree? I unfortuanatley have not taken any premed classes, so I would really have to buckle down, and i am not really enjoying college as much as I thought I would.

    -I thought if I get my EMT-I and possibly paramedic as well, I could get hired on at a fire dept. (Hopefully DC or NOVA) and then take night classes/online classes to get my BA over several years. Then try to do one of those one year post bac programs and then hopefully to med school in like 7-8 years. Is this a feasibe idea?

    Would I have a good chance at getting hired by a dept like DC or NOVa with my EMT-I next summer?

    Sorry for the long post-Im just wondering what other peoples opinions are, Im hoping Mike Ward and Capt Bob can chime in if they see this-I would really value their advice and anyone elses. Thanks a lot everyone.

  • #2
    College,college,college. Finish the four year degree first. While paramedic school can be difficult, it is much shorter and will be easier to due at a later time. I gave up four year college to go to medic school ten years ago, now have been on the job four eight years and am trying to finish my bachelors at night, with a wife,kid,and second job. Hey try getting on full-time while going to college. You may change your mind about med school. It is after all the best job in the world.


    • #3
      Going to college or getting the badge

      First leave no doubt that I believe in education. Everyone has an opinion, there are exceptions and more than one road to a badge and there are no guarantees in life which ever path you take. If you want to get a Public Administration, Engineering or any other degree as a career track, great. Don’t think it will be the key to get into the fire service to ride big red.

      Where are you going to get the most bang for your buck in gaining a badge? We have enough chiefs. We need more Indians. Becoming a medic is the shortest distance between you and that badge.

      There is more on this topic with a lot of players in this previous posting:

      This might help:

      Ask yourself who is getting the badges? The vast majority of candidates we see get hired do not have advanced degrees. They're more in the line of EMT, FF1 academy, working on or have an AA or AS degree or medics. Some have no fire education or experience. Their biggest asset was they leaned how to take an interview.

      What’s the time line? If you’re just starting college and want to get your BA, it could take you 4 maybe 5 or more years depending on when you can line up and complete all your classes and requirements. Then, if you wanted to go further the timing it to get into and academy and or paramedic school and get some street time another 2+ years? So around 7 years give or take to get in position to go after the badge. Are you going to need student loans? Do you have a special person in your life who is going to wait while you pursue your career? How long can you tread water?

      I'm sure Mike Ward will chime in. This is from a previous posting.

      The following is from:
      Michael J. Ward, MGA, MIFireE
      Assistant Professor
      Fire Science Program Head
      Northern Virginia Community College
      Annandale, VA

      In my preferred world, a high school graduate will attend college and obtain an undergraduate bachelor’s degree PRIOR to getting a “real” job. This illustrates the values of going to college and getting to experiment and become an adult in a semi-protective environment.

      Lets cut through the testosterone and turf wars and consider the question of which is the best way to get a badge. First, I will agree when considering a major in college, fire science provides a poor return on investment if the goal is a career as a paid firefighter.

      There may be another reason why an 18 year old wants to go to work right away. Many graduates of American high schools lack the reading, mathematic or study skills to start freshman college.

      Firefighting is one of the few middle-class jobs not requiring college education as a pre-employment requirement. I think that distinction will evaporate in the next generation. As Captain Bob repeatedly points out, most fire departments do not provide preferential considerations for someone with a two-or-four year degree. If you are going to college to prepare for a career in fire-rescue, your best investment is to obtain paramedic certification.


      Fire departments continue to hire as if it was 1899 – you are a slab of meat evaluated for your physical, mental and moral capabilities. The regional or local fire academy will provide the needed on-the-job training. Most of them do not care about your volunteer experience or existing fire service certifications. But many will treat you preferentially if you are a National Registry EMT/Paramedic.

      You may have forgotten what it is like to be on the outside with a burning desire to be a full-time firefighter. That desire results in an endless “what-if” game that reminds me of high school dating.

      Captain Bob’s approach to focus on only doing things to get the BADGE is like the suggestions I provide to younger wanna-be’s.


      If you can, go to college and get a bachelor degree. Have fun, try out new things, see the world. Get your degree in whatever interests you, since 80% of your fellow graduates end up in jobs different than what their degree says.

      After you get your badge and get off probation, you can take whatever fire science, emergency management, WMD, ICS, or XYZ classes required by your department. Generally, they will pay for those classes.
      My teaching experience goes from high school vocational EMT (three years) to community college (20 years) through university (four years). My personal educational journey includes flunking out of engineering school, while living in a fire station and spending my parent’s money. I returned to obtain a bachelor and master degree years later.

      There is a huge amount of diversity in "fire science" academic programs. From community college credit for Firefighter I to graduate engineering and hard science research university PhDs.
      Michael J. Ward, MGA, MIFireE
      Assistant Professor
      Last edited by CaptBob; 12-06-2005, 07:16 PM.

      "Nothing counts 'til you have the badge . . . Nothing!"

      More Tips on getting hired and promoted by Firehouse Contributing Author Fire “Captain Bob” Articles here:

      Fire "Captain Bob"


      • #4
        Getting hired on the fire depratment is a full time occupation. Your idea of getting hired as a stepping stone to Medical or PA school sounds great but is probably more than you are bargaining for.

        I would encourage you to stay focused and get through school. Like several of the previous posters have said, get your education.

        If I had it to do all over again I would have listened to my parents and gone to college and earned a degree.

        I was fortunate to get hired at 20 years old and will retire at 50 with a 90% retirement. At 41 I am back in school trying to earn my Bachelors. I would trade it all for going to school and earning my degree at 23 and then get hired on the fire department.

        Paul Lepore
        Battalion Chief
        Paul Lepore
        Battalion Chief


        • #5
          It really depends on what you want. There is no better education than real world experience. Although degrees come in handy for certain jobs. I work with fireman that have degrees and they are as dumb as they come when it comes to the job. As far as going to EMT school, then jumping right in to Medic school I don't agree with that either. I have seen to many people do that and the are terrible medics. Because they never took the time to become a good EMT.

          I work with a guy that is a Firefighter/Paramedic and he took a year leave of absense to go to PA school and then came back to work as a FF/PMDC. He works at the ER on his days off. So it can be done. Hope this helps you, just remember anyone can get a degree, not all can me a good firefighter,paramedic, or EMT.


          • #6

            Thanks to everyone who posted. I think I will continue with college for right now, and see where that takes me. It will probaly be much easier to go to medic school in 2-3 years after I get MY BA, than it would be to earn a bachelors degree with premed classes 7 years from now, working for a fulltime department. I really want to build up my EMT experience and decide what I really want to do.

            Once again, thanks for all the posts so far. They have been a really big help, as well as looking at ohter earlier threads on similar subjects.

            Have a good one and stay safe.



            • #7
              I am 23 yr old trying to get on a paid dept. I understand your dilema because I have struggled with it for the last 5 years and I'm going back in forth right now on medic school. I was a live in FF/EMT near Amarillo, TX for the last 4 years while I got my bus degree. I often wondered why I was getting a degree when all I wanted to do is be a FF, but now I am very glad I did. I got anxious my last year of college and I thought that I could work full time EMS, live at the fire station, and go to college full time. I managed it but it sucked and I wish I had not gone to work as soon as I did. I don't know what type of dept this is in MD but one of the best things for me was being a live in FF. I was going to start medic school in Jan but I think I have decided not to. I also agree with the previous statement - if you become a good EMT first then you'll be better off. For what it's worth I think you're making the right decision.


              • #8
                Value of a 4 year degree

                I often wondered why I was getting a degree when all I wanted to do is be a FF,

                Can you get hired going the education route? Sure. It happens all the time. Many of our non-medic candidates just started the LA City Academy.

                I’ve coached several candidates who have had B.S./BA degrees in Public Administration areas. They have been misguided by counselors that said 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 don’t understand is not many on the other side of the oral board table have this degree. And most of these candidates will never have a chance to use it in the fire service.

                An associate sent me this information from a fire officer who instructs Fire Protection and Fire Management programs at California State University Los Angeles. With the subject of wanna-bees desiring to get their BA/BS degrees confirmed what you and I already know about candidates in interviews showing up with BA/BS degrees. And that is they get either laughed out of the room or the interview panel becomes resentful and down goes the interview score! DUH!

                This from a SF candidate: I'm currently on the SFFD H-2 list "4th Generation hopefully SFFD"! I'm also a volunteer firefighter/EMT. My volunteer Fire department requires Paramedic certifications for entry-level firefighters. After graduating from a four year university... I had an administration internship with my volunteer department where I wrote and designed the District's Master Plan and preformed statistical analysis for "time respond" for Fire suppression and medical calls. I also went on ride alongs with the engine, truck and even with the chief himself. I was told by the chief if I went out to get my paramedic license... I would be hired on the spot. Becoming a paramedic is not my cup of tea... it's been beaten in my head as a child "from my grandfather and father" to be a firefighter not a medic... ! All of the paid firefighters like my work ethic and all say they should let me in as a Firefighter/EMT.

                My reply: With all due respect to your family members, the playing field has changed. It must be killing you to see these guys hired and it's not you. Like it or not, understand that 75%+ of calls are medical in nature. Eighty percent of the job offerings are for fire medics. Had you gone to medic school as I encourage candidates to do, gained the valuable in service medic street time, you wouldn't be trying to fight your way into a department as an EMT. You would be wearing the H-3 badge for SFFD (I'm 3rd generation San Franciscan myself) or another department.

                John came in for a coaching session 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?" You’re applying for a snotty nose rookie position as a firefighter!" John dropped his head and said, "Maybe that’s why I can’t 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/A 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!

                I believe in education. If you want to get a Public Administration, Engineering or any other degree as a career track, great. Don’t think it will be the key to get into the fire service. It could hurt you.

                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.

                Many departments have educational incentive programs where they will pay you to go to school. I took advantage of this program and received an additional 5% pay. This 5% was included in my retirement.

                From another candidate:

                With all due respect to all that was said, speaking as a volunteer firefighter who has a 4 year degree, I would say that getting your BA or BS for a firefighter job is not a good way to go. I got my BS, and $100,000 later, I'm hoping to work in a job that requires only a technical certification that costs $250. and having the BS with out the tech cert makes me pretty much unhirable.

                Get your paramedic. get your FF1 and FF2. get your hazmat tech. those are what is going to make you valuable to a company. A 4 year degree is worthwhile, but only if you use it. most departments aren't requiring them. some departments will even pay for you to attend college courses. yes, it helps if you want to become an officer or a chief officer. but your going for entry level. your going to have to pass the physical, pass the psych test, pass the written, and pass the oral board.

                Focus on your goal and don't let anything get in your way until you get it.

                "Nothing counts 'til you have the badge . . . Nothing!"

                More Tips on getting hired and promoted by Firehouse Contributing Author Fire “Captain Bob” Articles here:

                Fire "Captain Bob"



                • #9
                  It would definitely benefit you to get your medic before getting hired. Obviously you would want to take a job if it’s offered to you, but monetarily medic school is a great investment. On my department you receive a 10% differential for being a medic. If you were hired at 25 and worked until 55 that would be an extra $249,000 over your career, and that 10% also goes into retirement.

                  We have a program on our computer at work that calculates retirement benefits. I ran the numbers on two different people.

                  The first was hired at age 22 and worked until 55. The second was hired four years latter at 26, and also worked until 55. They both left with 500 hrs sick leave on the books. We have one year of vacation count towards retirement, because the younger guy had been on longer he would leave with 60 more hrs.

                  The younger guy would leave with 13.5% more retirement pay. For a firefighter receiving top step pay at the salary we make now that would be a difference of $1,062.75 per month, that’s $12,750 per year, and if you lived to be 90 that would be a difference of $446,335 over your retirement.

                  While money isn’t the only reason you would make a decision regarding your career choices, it does play a part. Getting hired younger doesn’t mean you can’t continue you education, I would say we have about 30-40 people on my department that have gotten a four year degree or higher in the last five years.

                  Good Luck, Captain Rob
                  Good Luck, Capt Rob


                  • #10
                    Ok so I lied - "all I want to do is be a FF." What I should have said is all I want to do is be in the fire service. I did not get my degree and I am not using it to help me get on as a FF. But I know that one day in the future (10-20 yrs) I will want to move up and be an officer. I know you can go to school while you're working but I did that my last semester and it was a lot harder, so I just thought I might as well get as much out of the way now while I did not have a family or anything. Like I said I was planning on going to medic school but that's another 1 1/2 yrs to wait to become a FF. There are several dept's that I want to work for that are BLS dept's (Fort Worth, Denver, Amarillo, etc) and I don't think they care if you are a medic or not. Then I started thinking well if they are only BLS then why spend the time and the money if I can get on without it. Maybe I'm wrong - as I said it's been a very tough decision and I keep second guessing myself.


                    • #11
                      Get the JOB first!


                      With all due respect, none of this counts unless you get the job first. Trying to go to school full time and work can be difficult.

                      Being a firefighter working 10 days a month and going to school is not the same thing. How much education do you think you can acquire in 5-10-15 or 20 years once you get on? Many department will pay for you to go.
                      Last edited by CaptBob; 12-10-2005, 06:18 PM.

                      "Nothing counts 'til you have the badge . . . Nothing!"

                      More Tips on getting hired and promoted by Firehouse Contributing Author Fire “Captain Bob” Articles here:

                      Fire "Captain Bob"



                      • #12
                        STAY IN SCHOOL. Don't get sucked in to believeing that you have to become a paramedic. There are plenty of jobs out there for people without a PM license. I attended my department's recruit graduation today. Out of 19 that graduated, only 3 were medics. Yes, people will tell you that many departments require a PM license to test, I will tell you that the MAJOR departments do not require it.
                        Trust me, you'll be better off in the LONG RUN with your degree.
                        Paul Lepore
                        Battalion Chief


                        • #13
                          I fit into the computer program you just mentioned. I turned 22 in the recruit academy. My department has 3% at 50. I'm 41 and will retire at 50 with close to 90% plus a 9% PERS enhancement. Translated: I will retire in 8 1/2 years with well over 90% salary the rest of my life.
                          I would have traded it all in to go to college, earn an education and not get hired until I was 25.
                          The fire department will always be there and there will always be jobs out there for QUALIFIED people. People with 4-year degrees do well in the testing process. People with a basketful of fire science classes and no direction struggle in the process.
                          STAY IN SCHOOL!
                          Last edited by BCLepore; 12-10-2005, 06:00 PM.
                          Paul Lepore
                          Battalion Chief


                          • #14
                            Which Way?

                            Two friends, Dave and Scott were volunteers in their city. Dave had been convinced that he needed to get a degree in order to be hired. Scott told him to stay, become a medic and they would get on. Dave went off for six years, got his BA degree in business and still couldn’t get hired.

                            Scott became a medic and was hired by his volunteer department. He now has 6 years seniority, made more than $100,000 each year with OT ($140,000 last year---that’s real money) and enjoys the good life, more toys than you could imagine and has traveled everywhere.

                            Guess what? Dave finally figured out he needed to become a medic (yes, he enjoys the medic side) to get hired. He just got hired. Where you ask? The department he was a volunteer for. But he had to figure something else out first.

                            Dave’s dad is one of the guys I work out with at the gym with. Dave had been trying to get a fire job. He has all the usual credentials. Firefighter 1, BA degree, 3 seasons with CDF, rode ambulance yada, yada, yada.

                            He has been testing for over 6 years. His dad gave him a coaching session just prior to his oral for his dream department. Dave had been practicing with a tape recorder. During the coaching session, Dave expressed his burning desire, passion, “my life won't be complete until I get a badge” compassionate longing, agonizing story.

                            One problem. Dave sucked big time! Even after testing for 6 years, he wasn't ready for any oral board. His answers were garbage. This should be no surprise, because most candidates are not ready either. Coaching usually takes about an hour. We ended at 2 hours. His closing was a dog and pony show (I wished this candidate would just end and get out of the room) pathetic mess.

                            I asked Dave how he expected to get a badge when he hadn't spent the time to get ready for an oral. He said, like most candidates, (a big clue here), he thought he was. This is what most candidates think. Does this sound like you? Captain Bill Long is an oral board rater. He said you knew which candidates were really prepared. Those prepared candidates caused you to straighten up in your chair.

                            The important point to realize is it doesn't take much to improve your situation and separate yourself from the clone candidates. Dave only had a couple of days to review his coaching tape and redial his approach.

                            He called me the day after his interview. He sounded like he didn't step on any land mines, wasn't stumped and was able to put it together to make a real good presentation.

                            A few days later, there was a message on my recorder. A guy was yelling, Captain Bob, you are the man. It was Dave. He had just received the call that he was going to the Chief’s Oral. His first in the six years he had been testing. Not only was he going to the Chief’s Oral. He was number . . . 2! They were interviewing 30 candidates for 5 jobs. How do you like those odds?

                            When you are going for all the marbles, you want to make sure you’re riding the winning pony!

                            As my son Rob says, “There's an oral board in your future, you just don’t know when.” Do you want to be telling yourself ‘I suck’ coming out of your next oral and you will do better next time. Or, have that feeling that you knew ‘I smoked it’ and it was going to get you that badge?”

                            Dave got the job. His dad pinned his badge at graduation. Lots of tears.

                            Everyone has an opinion on what you need to do to get hired. There are exceptions, more than one road to a badge and there are no guarantees in life which ever path you take.

                            You have to decide which path you’re going to hitch your wagon to in achieving your badge. Because in the months and years ahead there will be some who will succeed in gaining their badges and sadly many that won’t.

                            "Nothing counts 'til you have the badge . . . Nothing!"

                            More Tips on getting hired and promoted by Firehouse Contributing Author Fire “Captain Bob” Articles here:

                            Fire "Captain Bob"



                            • #15
                              Think about where you want to be in 10, 15, 25, 30 years. Do you need a degree to get hired as a firefighter or paramedic? Not in most places. Will you make Lt., Capt., or Chief in today's world with out the sheepskin? Not easily for the first two ranks, and not very likely anywhere for the top one. You need to balance the start with the end game in your choice. Either way will work out fine in the end, one just might make it easier than the other.
                              Be for Peace, but don't be for the Enemy!
                              -Big Russ

                              Learn from the mistakes of others; you won't live long enough to make them all yourself.

                              Originally posted by nyckftbl
                              LOL....dont you people have anything else to do besides b*tch about our b*tching?


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