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Should I switch careers to firefighting

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  • Should I switch careers to firefighting

    I am thinking of changing careers and would like some feedback. I have a very long list of things against me to make this an uphill battle but I am a very strong willed determined persistent person. I am a 42 year old female with no career experience with anything besides a corporate exec job. I have a college degree in business and currently own and run a few locations of a well known franchise. I am also a mom to 4 kids from elementary age all the way to high school.

    A friend that has been a firefighter for many many years recently gave me a tour of his station. That planted a seed in my head about a profession I knew little about. Seeing the inner-workings of the firehouse and talking here and there with him about the profession and the ups and downs of day to day scenarios gave me a strong desire to find out as much as I could about the profession, what it takes to get your foot in the door etc.

    I am very aware of how far-fetched this would be for most "normal" 42 year old females, but back full circle to how strong willed and determined I am. If I want something I will do the work it takes to make it happen, IF it's in the realm of possibility, which is where I am at this point. Is this something that is realistically achievable for me? From the info I am seeing, the education and preparation alone is a very lengthy process. I have no problem doing the program at the fire academy and taking whatever EMT classes I need to take degrees I need to earn. Both of these things go beyond piquing my interest to a level that I want to be a part of it. I want to learn everything I can about it. I want to do this for many reasons beyond "I want to save people". Life experiences have changed my entire outlook on life, people, and precious time. I am at a different point where I once was young and invincible, I now want to be part of a team where each person doing their part is how the job gets done. I am a very high energy person and it doesn't take me much, if any time, to be "on". I am most productive when I have to fly by the seat of my pants.

    Assuming I am able to pass the fitness exam (working out is not an issue, training to be at the fitness level of the test requirements is not a worry or an issue), how crazy is this plan? What are the chances any department will want to hire me? How can I consciously go into this knowing I am just not physically able to ever match the strength of most of the men on the squad that just naturally have more muscle mass and as a result are stronger, regardless of how long and how hard I train in the gym? How long realistically would it take to get started in a department (volunteer is an option at a few departments around me)?

    Is my age a factor? Is my gender a factor? Is my experience (lack of) a factor? I would be appreciative to anyone that can offer candid advice. I do not want advice that is sugar coated or politically correct, I want the honest truth.

  • #2
    Go for it

    What state are you in???

    If you can go through a fire academy without being hired. That might give you an idea if you really want the job.

    Any volunteer departments that you could join to get a feel got the job?

    I would say your main problem would be "where" you get hired. What I mean by that is that you might not get on a department near you. So it is either commute or move, and have you thought about that?

    Have you researched some if the departments in your state to see if there is an age limit ???


    • #3
      I am in St Louis. I do not know I there are any age limits but its a good point I will look into. What is the difference in a volunteer and a reserve ff?


      • #4
        I am also a business owner. I get my firefighting fix by volunteering. I would most definitely seek out an opportunity at a local volunteer hall that would give you a chance to try fighting fire without pulling up your career's tent stakes at age 42. Volunteering would let you see if you are able to do the job. Firefighting (especially interior ops) isn't for everyone. I've seen firefighters I thought were tough completely lose their minds and come undone in different training scenarios. (claustrophobia, etc) I've seen them lose it on the fire ground as well. And I am not typing in a "big me, little you/them" tone. Working in high heat with zero visibility breathing air from an air pack strapped to your back isn't something that just anyone can do.

        Regarding your physical strength....if you are in good physical condition, there isn't a job on the fire ground you couldn't do. Train your *** off, go the extra mile and be someone your fellow firefighters want to have on scene with them.

        You seem cool. I wish you the best of luck.


        • #5
          One departments idea of reserve:::


          Sometimes they are paid

          Sometimes they are alerted and respond to fires

          Depends on the department


          • #6
            You might also look at Illinois requirements for firefighter since you are close


            • #7
              I am under the impression that most paid departments have a maximum age limit, at least for firefighters. Possibly not so for EMT/Paramedic positions. You will be challenged by distance issues. How many hours are you willing to commute?
              You already have a successful business. Can you continue that if you get on a department and can you take the financial hit if not? If you keep it the business may suffer. What if it doesn't work out or you change your mind?
              Are you prepared to be away from your kids for 24 hours at a time (or several nights a week at least)? Are they prepared for that? Not to mention Christmas morning, Halloween, Independence Day, birthdays, etc. Can you afford child care if so? (We don't generally make a lot of money.)
              It appears to me that gender and age should be the least of your concerns. These are the questions any candidate considering the fire service needs to honestly address before committing.
              Good Luck with your decision.


              • #8

                Sounds to me like you have the most important element for being a firefighter; a strong will of accomplishment. I am from Tennessee and our commission will not let you test unless you are in a fire department. So, I would suggest get with a volunteer department for two reasons; 1. experience and 2. be able to achieve certifications. The EMT or Paramedic would be a plus as well. There are many options to consider in the fire service; i.e. EMS, fire suppression, fire prevention, etc. My suggestion would be go for it. If you don’t, you will regret it the rest of your life. I’ve been in the fire service for 33 years. The last 28 have been full time, and the only regret I have is that I did not start sooner. Greatest family in the world. God bless and good luck.


                • #9
                  Defiantly look into age requirements for your area.. In indiana if you are to be on a career department that has state pension you have to be hired before your 36th birthday, some exceptions for active military. BUT if a department here is NOT PERF (state pension) it is up to said department.. Volunteer is defiantly a way to get a foot in the door and see if you even like it. But the difference between volly, part time, and career are so, so different.. I've been lucky and been all 3 with joining a career service last year.. Also think that this is such a competitive job.. Average time of ppl i kno that have been hired full time is 4-6 yrs! Now there are obviously exceptions to that but that is abt average here in Indiana! Here depending on the dept past fire exp. is not an issue, but some want you to already to have state certs! Gender isn't an issue either.. But all my exp is here in indiana.. So looks like you have some research to do!! Lol I hope you get great advice here and good luck!!
                  Last edited by BackSteppin; 09-16-2013, 01:03 PM.


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