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Getting Started

How is it going? I was wondering if anyone had any info about getting started. I am currently a senior at the University of North Carolina and I am majoring in Political Science. I am also an officer in the Army National Guard. I was wondering if these can help me in the hiring process. I was also told that to have a seroius chance of being hired, I should have my FF1 certification, my EMT cert and my Paramedic Cert. I am moving back to the Los Angeles area after I graduate in May and I was wondering who offers these courses and how long these courses usually take to complete. Any info would be great. Thanks.

It sounds like you've got just enough information to have an idea of what is going to be expected of you. In `order`, you should probably work on your EMT first (since it is usually the quickest to get - anywhere from 3 weeks to 5 months, depending on the school), simultaneously start working on getting your firefighter 1 (in California you have to have the education portion which is usually obtained by going through an academy and having the FF1 packet signed off AND then completing your experience portion either through 6 months of paid experience or 12 months of volunteer experience) and getting your Paramedic license.

Most paramedic schools require you to have some type of EMT experience, so after you get out of EMT training, attempt to get a job on an ambulance. Simultaneously you can be working on your Firefighter 1 requirements while getting prepared for or going to paramedic school. Also, shoot for getting a 2 year degree in Fire Technology as well. Since you'll already be completing most of the requirements for your 2 year degree anyway (EMT, firefighter academy, etc.), take the extra classes to get that degree. Now you're probably wondering why you need to get a 2 year degree when you'll have your 4 degree. Because it will make you more marketable while also proving that you're committed to the fire service. Now at most colleges, the only difference between a 2 year degree and a certificate of achievement in Fire Technology is the General Education units. I bet if you talk to a counselor, most of your G.E. should transfer in, only leaving you with maybe a class or two to take to complete your G.E. requirements. Thus for you it might only be a one or two class difference between a Certificate and a 2-year degree? A 2 year degree sounds better than a Certificate of Achievement.

For more information on schools around California that offer EMT, Paramedic, Firefighter 1 academies, 2 year degrees, go to the Chabot College Fire Technology Web site at and click on the LINKS page - I have a good portion of the schools (besides ours) that offer programs in the LA area listed there so you can shop around.

Also, while you're there, feel free to click on the Fire & EMS newsletters page and view the present issue and the back issues of the Chabot College Fire & EMS News. Each issue has testing tips, information on what's going around the fire service, basically info that can help you in your pursuit. Best of all, its free of charge!

Just a start, but that's about all the time I have right now. Hope that helps. Good luck!

To whichever firefighter I'd like concern from,
Hello! First, thanks for putting up this great website for the people who most desperately want answers to our questions. I am finishing my 2 years at a Junior College named Las Positas in Livermore, and so far I have achieved 2 AA's in Liberal Arts and Speech- I'm also certified as an EMT in Alameda County. My career goal is to be a paramedic fireman for a county fire department, but I'm not sure about how to go about it.

The "hype" that I do know is that:
I "need" to get either a fire service AA or/and into the fire academy. Could you specify which? Also, is it necessary for me to get another 2 year degree when I already have 1? Should I get a 4 year/BA in Fire Service, or does my 2 year AA in Speech qualify me for the fire academy?

Could you tell me, in the long-run and in the short-run, what are the benefits of a 4-year degree over a two-year degree? Would it be more to my benefit for me to stay with a 2-year degree in speech and get in a fire program, or would it be better for me to get my BA and then get in a fire program? Does lack of a BA limit my chances of being hired? I'm 21 years old, and if I extend my education by 2 years to include a BA or a degree in fire service, I'll be 23 years old. When is the best time for someone like me to apply? Is the rumor true that by 2005 the window for hiring in California will be shut?

Are there any such positions for public relation officers in the fire departments?

So many questions, and I thank you for taking a look at them and answering them.

God Bless,

Eyeonprize: READ what Chabot has already stated. Chabot knows what he speaks of. A big part of testing and being a firefighter is following directions.
The fastest way to a fire job in California is by being a Paramedic. Be aware that the bar is rising for Paramedics attempting to enter the Fire Service. Departments are now starting to require Firefighting experience and a few certifications. While lots of retirements are in progress and expected for the next few years, there is no "window" to speak of.
Since you have a few AA/AS degrees already and you are 21, that is an indicator that you are concentrating on education. Have you any work experience? You need only Fire Science classes and you do not need to do any futher General Ed requirements unless something has changed at the college where you intend to take classes. Get yourself into the counseling/transfer center and discuss this with the folks in those offices. You need to have fire Science classes in order to be accepted into a fire academy. Check that out with the academy you have in mind. Hold off on that four year degree until you have some time on the apparatus floor under your belt. (See the "Outside Hiring" thread about that subject).
The best time to apply for firefighter is now and with any and all agencies you can apply and test with. As to how you go about it, sign on with PFC for starters. Don't limit yourself to just applying to County Fire Departments. Not every county in California has a fire department. CDF&FP does contract with many counties for fire protection.
Public relation officers do not exist in many departments in California. Rather, Public Information Officers (PIO) handle the press and most of community relations with strong support from the Fire Prevention section of most departments. PIO's come up through the ranks usually and usually are appointed by the Chief of the deparment. Best wishes.

This message was edited by tomdeltazulu on 11-26-02 @ 7:44 PM

eyeonprize - work on getting into a fire academy first. Once that is done, I would try and get my AA in fire technology. You say you already haev 2 AA's - well, do you know what the difference between an AA and a certificate of achievement in fire technology is? They are the same except that the AA requires 18 G.E. units (at least at Chabot that is the case). Most of your G.E. should transfer in from LPC. What sounds better - an AA in Fire Technology or a Certificate of Achievement - I would think the AA since it is higher.

I wouldn't get a four year degree in fire technology unless you really want to. I think a four year degree is a great idea - and you should strive for it. Just not in fire technology. Why? Because it is limiting. If you get your AA in fire technology, that should be enough. Get that four year degree in something you could "fall back on" if you ever get injured as a firefighter and can never work as a firefighter anymore. Get it in a "marketable skill."

As for getting into an academy, your AA in speech will not get you in. Most academies require you to have certain fire technology classes first as prerequisites. At Chabot/LPC, you first have to have your EMT, then Fire Technology 50, 51, 52, and 53.

You asked about the differences in the short-run and long-run and benefits of having a 4 year degree over a 2 year degree. Well, besides the obvious (you can never go wrong with more education). I know more people that wish they had more education, and I don't know of anyone that says they wish they weren't so educated.

Really, to get hired as a firefighter, a 2 year degree is fine - and not even a requirement in the majority of departments. If you're thinking of promoting once you're on the job, then many departments are requiring at least a 2 year degree to make Captain and a 4 year degree to make BC or higher.The BA doesn't limit your chances of being hired unless you make it limit yourself. Don't oversell it or shove it down people's throats. The BA doesn't make you a better candidate - it just shows you understand commitment, and can start something you finish. Don't wait to finish your fire classes - I would do them prior to getting your BA or at the same time. Since you already are an EMT, you should be working at getting your firefighter 1 academy and fire degree taken care of, just so you can compete out there with the real world candidates.


I have never heard of a rumor that by 2005 the window to getting hired will be shut. If you believe everything you hear, you're going to drive yourself crazy. EVERY DEPARTMENT IS DIFFERENT! My department is not even going to be doing a huge amount of hiring until at least 2005 because 3 at 50 won't really hit us until the next 5 to 10 years.

Also, listen to what tomdeltazulu has to say - he also hits the nail on the head. At some point you need experience. Do you even have a job? Do you even have any volunteer experience? You're 23, and you need some "life experience under your belt". Don't take that the wrong way, it is just reality.

Have you put in applications to work as an EMT on an ambulance? Did you put in for the Alameda County Volunteer Firefighter recruitment that went on last month? Have you applied to Livermore-Pleasanton Fire as a Reserver (I'm assuming you live there since you go to LPC). All of the above are valuable ideas.

Hope that helps, good luck!