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  • AAS, paramedic

    Okay, so I took the test for Chicao FD in May, and am currently in that waiting game.

    The more I think about making a career change, the more motivated I become in that I have started doing research regarding paramedic certification programs.

    I've found one at a local community college, and have begun the process to begin taking classes as soon as possible. I think it's Spring.


    I've decided that I would be happy with a career as a firefighter or a paramedic.

    I'm wondering about the process after finishing a paramedic program at community college.

    I understand that there are private companies and everything. But is the proces just the same as far as hiring lists and testing goes?

    Or can I apply to private ambulance companies, hospitals, etc. upon completion?

    Also understand that I haven't talked to anyone from the college yet regarding landing a position after finishing up. I just figured I'd start here since many of you are on the job already.

  • #2
    Do you have your EMT yet and the pre-requisites for medic school? You just
    can't show up.

    It's also better to get some street time as an EMT before you get into medic school.

    The community colleges get up to 250 applications for around 35 slots for their medic programs. If you're not selected you have lost up to a year.

    Take the poison early find a reputible medic school that can quarantee your intership. Yes it will cost more. Up to $10,000. I have yet to meet a candidate that put together a plan to go to medic school that a parent or grandparent didn't want to help them financially. There are also student loans:

    Student Loans

    Many institutions don’t list or qualify as eligible education institutions when it comes to federal financial aid or financially eligible/accredited programs or vocational schools (let them tell you no before making assumptions).

    Most private institutions do have a particular bank that is utilized by their students; you may want to get in contact with them. Although student loans though banks can be at a higher interest rate, they’re still at a lower rate than credit cards.

    One candidate wrote: I went through Wells Fargo PLATO loans. . I got a great rate and it was very east and quick to get the money. Of course, it all depends on your credit history. It’s also good to have your credit cards just in case since there are so many things you get nickel and dimed by in school.


    Another candidate wrote: I highly recommend trying FAFSA first it’s the cheapest route. By utilizing FAFSA I was able to get Pell grants, the BOG (waives tuition) and still use my GI Bill.

    Still more: If I had attended an eligible program, and received the appropriate 1098-T form at year's end, I could have deducted up to $4000 off of my 2005 Adjusted Gross Income tax filing.

    "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"



    • #3
      Becoming a Paramedic
      Instead of putting all of your efforts into getting paramedic school, I recommend that you first get your education in fire science courses. There are always plenty of firefighter openings that do not require a paramedic license. Getting your education and concentrating on becoming a firefighter, rather than a firefighter/paramedic will much better serve you.
      Many fire departments that are hiring “paramedics” also require that candidates have completed a basic fire academy prior to filling out an application. Even if the candidate has a paramedic license, he or she is often not eligible for hire if he or she has not completed a basic fire academy.
      If a candidate does manage to land a job as a firefighter paramedic prior to completing a basic fire academy, he or she is still going to be held to the firefighter standard. The candidate’s chances of completing the academy are not that good if he or she is touching hose and ladders for the first time. Most major departments have a 25-40% attrition rate in their entry-level academy. In other words, if a candidate has not completed a basic fire academy, his or her likelihood of completing the academy are greatly reduced.
      In order for a department to send a firefighter for paramedic, training the department has to cover the firefighter’s assignment for the 6 months while the firefighter is in school. This is usually accomplished by paying overtime to another willing firefighter. Multiply an average of 10 shifts per month times 6 months, and the department has paid time and one half (the overtime rate) for 60 shifts. This is above and beyond the $6 – $10,000 tuition for the cost of the schooling. Of course, there is no guarantee that the firefighter will successfully complete the rigors of paramedic training.
      Lastly, with the increasing demand for paramedics, there is no certainty that a fire department will be able to get a firefighter into impacted paramedic program. It is frequently the paramedics who promote up the ranks; so many departments are fighting a constant battle to keep enough certified paramedics on the roster.
      It is true that fire departments want to hire candidates who possess a paramedic license as it saves department thousands of dollars. However, I believe that many of the students who enter paramedic school have no idea what they are getting into. They have heard that once they complete training departments will line up to hire them. This is not entirely true. Although they will be able to compete with a more manageable number of applicants there is certainly no guarantee of a job offer. Fire departments will not compromise their standards just to hire a candidate with a paramedic license.
      Most paramedic schools require 6 – 12 months of field time as an EMT as a prerequisite to paramedic school. Many EMT’s get their field experience for paramedic school by transporting elderly patients to and from convalescent hospitals. While this is an admirable service they are providing, this is not preparing them for the rigors of a paramedic internship. It is extremely difficult for a paramedic trainee to be on top of his or her game when you are working on a shooting victim, extrication, or patient with severe shortness of breath or chest pain, when his or her prior EMT experience has been limited to being an IV pole (holding the IV bag), or transporting elderly patients to and from their doctors appointments.
      The first 12 weeks of paramedic school are called the didactic phase. Classes run from 0800 – 1700 daily. The days are packed full of in-depth information. Experts compare the plethora of information given during the first 12 weeks of paramedic school to the first year of medical school. Each day numerous different lecturers cover a variety of topics.
      Each evening the student has 3-4 hours of studying to prepare for the next morning’s exam. It is required that a student maintains a score of at least 75% to remain in the program. At the end of each week there is a block exam that covers all of the previous week’s information. Students must score at least 80% on the block exams. Removal from the program occurs when a student fails two of the daily quizzes or scores less than an 80% on a block exam.
      Emergency scene simulations are used to help students learn how to identify the patient’s chief complaint and determine the proper treatment. One student will exhibit common signs and symptoms of an ailment while the other, similar to a detective, will try to determine what is medically wrong with the patient.
      On weekends and weeknights paramedic students are expected to memorize their drug cards. A paramedic must know everything relating to the roughly 25 drugs that are carried on the paramedic unit. Since paramedics administer these drugs, it is expected that all students are able to recite each drug classification, indications for its use, contraindications (when not to use), expected effects, negative side effects, dosage for adults and children, and the proper administration rate. Just memorizing numerous facts about each drug is enough work in itself. Once you add it to the daily rigors of the overwhelming didactic responsibilities, you have your hands full.
      The next 4 weeks are clinical rotations where a student does rotating shifts in the local emergency room. Paramedic students complete patient assessments on literally hundreds of patients, become proficient starting IV’s, perform advanced airway maneuvers (intubate), and administer the drugs that are carried on a paramedic unit.
      During the next 2 months each paramedic trainee is assigned to a two-person paramedic team. The trainee is expected to perform as a competent paramedic by the 20th shift. The trainee must orchestrate each call, determining the patient’s chief complaint, selecting the proper drugs for the situation, and basically function independently.
      It can be overwhelming for a paramedic trainee to run a call. It is difficult to give directions to the firefighters on scene, and remember the medication and transportation protocols when seeing that type of call for the first time. If the paramedic trainee does not step up and take control, the firefighters will intervene and take over the run. It makes it even more difficult that on the majority of fire departments all of the engineers and captains are former paramedics who have promoted to the next position.
      Each call is critiqued and reviewed with the paramedic preceptors, and improvements will be suggested. It is not easy for a trainee to recover after a bad call when he or she is running 20 calls per shift.
      During the course of the paramedic internship, the trainee will be responsible for providing daily drills to the paramedic preceptors and firefighters on the crew. Drills may range from EKG interpretation to cardiac drug therapy. During the shift the trainee is barraged with job-related questions. He or she is expected to demonstrate 100% proficiency, since being correct 70% of the time means he or she does the wrong thing 30% of the time.
      If they have never seen the way the call is supposed to flow there is no way they can orchestrate all of the things that need to be done. The old adage of see one, do one show one has been fractured. There is no way they can do one if the never had a chance to see it done correctly!
      I feel this is the reason there is such a high attrition rate for paramedics. They are led to believe the training is not that difficult. I assure you the training is incredibly difficult. There is a great chance that a candidate will not make it.
      My advice to candidates is to get a fire science education. Take the prerequisites for the fire academy. Spend your efforts toward getting through the fire academy. In the fire academy you will learn how to throw ladders, pull hose, fight fire, and learn all aspects of being a firefighter.
      Most major departments are going to put you through their own fire academy, regardless of your prior experience. A department sponsored fire academy is certain to be much faster paced than the junior college fire academy. If you have learned at the basic fire academy, you will have a greater chance of making it through the academy. Depending on the department there is a 25-40% attrition rate.
      Even if a candidate has received their paramedic training (which may have been their ticket in the door), the recruit will he or she has not been through a basic fire academy. Being a paramedic does not help you when it comes to pulling hose and throwing ladders. The academies are extremely fast paced. If you are not on top of your game you will fail out.
      My advice to candidates would be to work toward an Associate degree in fire science. The next phase would be to put yourself through a basic fire academy. Upon graduation become a reserve firefighter so you can get experience, train, and maintain your skills. Ideally, the department will be an active one where you are able to see some fire, be involved in vehicle extrications and perform patient assessments. If not, it is imperative that you train on the skills you have learned in the academy. There is no substitute for having your hands on the equipment. It is impossible to learn and maintain the mechanical aspects of the job while reading a book in the fire station library. Pull the equipment out and train with it. It is also a great opportunity to learn from the experienced firefighters.
      The longer it has been since your academy graduation the more you forget your skills. It is imperative you do something to maintain your skills. Choose a job in the construction industry so you can see how buildings, apartments, or houses are put together as well as learn the operation of basic hand and power tools.
      Most importantly learn about the hiring process. Understand what the fire department is looking for in the oral interview process. Since most fire departments make the physical agility and the written tests pass or fail, the oral interview is weighted 100% of the overall score. If a candidate focuses on how to take an interview he or she will be miles ahead of the competition.
      If you are still having a difficult time getting hired you may want to consider getting experience on an ambulance. I would not waste my time doing interfacility transports (IFT’s), as you are not learning about how things work in the field. If you are not running first in 911 calls you are not getting the maximum exposure.
      As you are running medical calls as an EMT on an ambulance, introduce yourself to the paramedics and firefighters. Let them know that your goal is to become a firefighter (and ultimately a paramedic). Ask pertinent (and intelligent) questions. Most importantly keep your eyes and ears open to the rigors of the job.
      If you have been running 911 first in calls for a year and have not yet had a fire department job offer (and you have worked seriously on your interview skills), I would then consider going to paramedic school.
      Becoming a paramedic will greatly enhance your chances of getting hired. This fact is irrefutable. It is important to realize there is a wealth of information to learn to become a proficient firefighter. A rookie firefighter must be proficient on all of the tools and equipment carried on the engine, must be a competent EMT, demonstrate competency on: ventilation, ladders, hose lays, salvage and overhaul as well as the fire department policies and procedures. As you can see there is a tremendous amount expected from a rookie firefighter.
      A rookie firefighter/paramedic ahs all of the aforementioned responsibilities PLUS being proficient on the paramedic aspect of the job. The crew will not ignore the firefighter responsibilities since the rookie is already a paramedic, they will expect twice as much from the rookie firefighter/paramedic. The minimum job requirements for a rookie firefighter are tough enough. For a rookie firefighter/paramedic they are doubled.
      It has been my experience that candidates who try to get hired in the fire service never learn to take an interview. Instead of learning the basics, the candidates try to get more qualifications than the next person. First they try to take more fire science classes than the next candidate; next it’s the fire academy and becoming a reserve firefighter. During this time frame the average candidate is involved in the fire department testing process. The average candidate will usually not score very well because he or she has not learned much about the fire service but more importantly they have not learned how to take a fire department interview. Their interpretation of why they are not getting hired is because they did not have enough related classes. As they continue to gain more classes and related experience their interviews usually improve slightly, but not significantly certainly not high enough to land a job.
      Their oral interview skills never get any better because they are answering the questions the incorrectly. If they had learned how to take an interview they would have been offered a job months ago. It’s not about having more certifications and qualifications than the next candidate, it’s about being the person we want to have on our crew.
      Think about your friend or classmate who has landed a job. He or she has not had near the education, experience or training as many of the more “qualified” candidates. Most write it off, as the candidate was “lucky”. or rationalize that the department was looking for women or minorities or that the individual must have known someone. Whichever the rationale, the candidate rarely takes an introspective look at himself or herself. So they continue to stack their resume with qualifications instead of learning about the interview process.
      Now back to the candidate who is filling his resume with fire related stuff. He or she finally gets the word if they add a paramedic certificate to their arsenal they are assured a job. So they follow the course and 6 months later and a debt of $30,000, they are a paramedic. They take an interview for XYZ fire department that requires a fire academy and a paramedic certificate.
      The written and physical agility tests are pass or fail while the interview is weighted 100%. We know that our case study is a poor interviewer because he or she could not get a job as a firefighter (that’s why he or she went to paramedic school). Fortunately all of the other applicants are also poor interviewers (because they too had to go to paramedic school). The department is in a bind, they have to hire recruits and since they required a paramedic certificate and the fire academy the applicant pool in small. So, you guessed, it our case study is offered a job.
      The message you hear through the testing community is that I tested for 5 years, a total of 75 tests, and never had a job offer. I completed paramedic school and got a job within 6 months. The message he or she sends loud and clear is; BEG BORROW OR STEAL TO BECOME A PARAMEDIC. IT IS THE ONLY WAY TO GET A JOB.
      Now since this candidate has a job he or she believes they are qualified to give advice to aspiring candidates (and you all listen because the message is coming from a firefighter!).
      My take is a little different. Because he or she never learned to take an interview the candidate had to resort to going to paramedic school to minimize the competition. If he or she had learned to take an interview they would have had a job a long time ago!

      Paul Lepore
      Battalion Chief
      Paul Lepore
      Battalion Chief


      • #4
        Originally posted by CaptBob
        Do you have your EMT yet and the pre-requisites for medic school? You just
        can't show up.

        It's also better to get some street time as an EMT before you get into medic school.

        The community colleges get up to 250 applications for around 35 slots for their medic programs. If you're not selected you have lost up to a year.
        i haven't done all that since it is a prerequisite for the paramedic program. i guess i'm just thinking two steps ahead.


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