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I want FF as a career, how's this 4 a start...

Hi, I?m 22 and I currently live in the Los Angeles area, and I'm looking to have a long career as a Firefighter. I have read here and there, Captain Bob has a lot of great info to give, although I never personally talked to him. Anyways, I have a rough idea on what my foundation is going to be, and here it is...

On August 30th I will start an accelerated EMT-I course at School of EMT in Long Beach. The course is exactly a month long and will hopefully soon after be working as an EMT-I. Anybody attend School of EMT? How was it? What was the difficulty level?

And than 6 months down the road I plan to apply to UCLA's prehosptial paramedic program, which will take about 7 to 8 months.

After this I have no clue on where to start my career as a FF. The city that I live in (Glendale) has a Cadet program, I don't know whether to start there or go straight to an accredited academy or just straight out apply for FF and go to the academy through them. Which is easier said than done I know, but I'm talking as if I have already done my research and work for the interview process and have been accepted to there academy. I?m not sure if there is anything I can do right now to start the process besides the EMT-I an EMT-P part. Is there anything else I can start myself of with? I?m really ambitious and I?m ready to get my self on the right track to be a firefighter. I am in need of advice and guidance, thanks a head of time.

Nader E. K.
This message was edited by NaderEK on 8-10-04 @ 12:14 PM

Why did you choose the the EMT program in Long Beach vs local programs at GCC or PCC? Just curious. Also, though you might be eligble for paramedic school at Daniel Freeman in 6 months, you probably won't be able to get in without 12-18 months of experience (there are a lot of applicants). You need to start taking fire science classes and any cadet/reserve program would be helpful. Start testing now to get used to the process. If you browse this website you will find lots of useful information for the aspiring FF.

I didn't want to spend a lot of time trying to get my EMT cert. As far as DF, that changes a lot of things I guess. In some ways its a good thing, because I would have been starting at Arroyo Academy at the same time. My only complaint about Arroyo is that it's a year long, but it's one of the best. I guess in the mean time I will apply for the Cadet position, get my experiance in as an EMT, and take as many fire classes as I can at GCC or PCC. Anybody have a preference between the two schools? If anybody else has any wise words to throw my way please feel free, thanks.

Nader E. K.
This message was edited by NaderEK on 8-10-04 @ 12:24 PM

NaderEK, let me offer my two cents. You stated "I didn't want to spend a lot of time trying to get my EMT cert." Something to ponder, especially since you want to go to paramedic school within 6 months. One of the reasons people fail medic school is because of lack of EMT experience on an ambulance. Also, how do you expect to even be just an average paramedic when you never had the chance to be an excellent EMT (something which can take years to happen)?

Additionally, in my experience, many students who go through accelerated EMT programs don't turn out to be awesome EMT's. Some do, but the odds are against you - trying to digest all of the information in 3 weeks, versus a full semester (when you say accelerated, I'm assuming you mean a 3 week program).

Many fire departments are now putting paramedic skills assessment stations in their testing process to check on someone's skill level. These skills stations typically fail a number of candidates. Plus, many fire departments have no problem terminating paramedics on probation because either they don't pass their "5-call" or they don't have that great of a skill or knowledge base. I'm not saying you have to be an EMT for 10 years working on an ambulance to be a great paramedic; however, I'm just saying that the odds are stacked against you.

Regarding your other questions, here are some other suggestions:

1. Do focus on getting your EMT done as soon as possible because many departments require that to take their test. In the process, try to learn as much as you can.

2. Once you complete your EMT program, attempt to get a job working on an ambulance running 9-1-1 calls so that you can get experience for paramedic school.

3. Try to get into a successful medic school such as Daniel Freeman.

4. Start taking EVERY fire test you qualify for NOW to get experience and to start seeing what is expected of you.

5. Start taking fire classes at a junior college, particularly one with an EMT program and a firefighter 1 accredited academy (by taking all the classes at the same school, you help build up your units quicker, and they all go toward your degree) and work towards your two year degree in fire technology.

6. If you can get on as a cadet somewhere, especially in your home town - GO FOR IT! The experience is valuable, plus you can start proving that you have a track record of community service (which most departments are looking for). Even if the department you get picked up as a cadet offers an academy, I would suggest you still take a firefighter academy through a college.

Why? Because in my experience, most college academies are tougher than most departments' volunteer/reserve/and even sometimes paid academies. It will provide you with an awesome foundation. Even though you might get hired by a department who will put you through their own academy, it will make that academy hopefully go easier for you.

Also, many cadet programs require you to already have your EMT and firefighter 1 academy certificates.

7. Start volunteering your time in non-fire service related areas. It helps show that you are "well-rounded." Doing something for free, even if it is only 2 hours a month (on a regular monthly basis) is better than nothing.

8. Looking for additional skills? Learn a second language. Face it, California is very diverse, and just getting more diverse. Last time I checked, the Santa Ana F.D. requires you to not only have your EMT and academy to take their test, but to also be bilingual! The writing is on the wall.....

Hope that helps!
Steve Prziborowski, Captain


I agree with everything you said. Like I was saying before, guidance is what I'm looking for. I understand now that I shouldn't be jumping the gun towards the badge. I have already filled out my application to become a Cadet. I don't know what there selection process is, but hopefully it'll be my foundation to my dream. CF, I don?t mind taking fire classes, but is it worth it to get the degree? That might sound like a question from a lazy ass, but my understanding is the only difference is that you have to take GE classes along side your fire classes. That was my understanding, but please correct me if I'm wrong. Oh I do know a 2nd language; I was originally born in Egypt. I was very young when I came to America but I still retained how to speak and understand it, I just don't know how to read and write in Arabic. Would I still be considered bilingual? Thanks for the replies so far, all these comments have been an asset to me.

Nader E. K.
This message was edited by NaderEK on 8-10-04 @ 3:43 PM

Regarding whether it would be worth it to get a degree, look at it this way.......

Many of your competitors will already have two year degrees (if not four year degrees). What sounds better, a two year degree in something (such as fire) or just having some fire science units, but not a degree? The degree does. Just like a four year degree sounds better than a four year degree. Doesn't necessarly make you a better person as much as it shows that you finish what you start and that you can see things to the end (both traits that we look for when we hire firefighters.....).

So, you can stick out in a positive way (having at least a two year degree), or you can stick out in a negative way (just my opinion), having a bunch (or none) of fire science units. Plus, even though you might not want a degree now, think about your future. If there is any, any chance you desire to promote (even if you don't now, there is a good chance you will in the next 30 years), many departments are already requiring at least a two year degree to promote to captain, if not chief officer. More will continue to require formal education for promotional positions. Don't just be "reactive," think "proactive."

Plus, at many colleges, by the time you finish their EMT and fire academy classes, there are not that many other classes typically required for the two year degree. At our college, by the time you've done your EMT and Firefighter 1 academy, you're already half way to getting your degree.

As for your second language skills, I would venture that you are not truly bilingual since you don't read and write the language (I may be wrong, I don't profess to be an expert in second languages). However, it doesn't mean you can't put it on your resume (as having a basic conversational understanding of Arabic) or discuss it during your interviews.

Beyond that, hoped that helped provide some additional thoughts to ponder....
Steve Prziborowski, Captain

My advice to you is test everywhere that you can. I took an emt class but have not taken my certification test. I finished the classes to get into Santa Ana's fire academy but turned it down because after testing for less than a year I got hired by a department in the midwest. I had no academy, no emt, no degree, but yesterday I started my training, and it was definately the right decision for me. It might cost you though. In that year of testing I spent over $3,000 in airline tickets alone. Whatever you decide be persistant and stay positive. Good luck.

What does the EMT program at Long Beach cost? If you want to attend a local program PCC's starts 8/30 at 1800 hrs. The class is full but if you are there an hour early I'll add you.


I might just take you up on that... for some reason my PM isn't working to well. But if you can email me at How long does the semster run at PCC and is it too late to register?

OKIRIS, I hope you kept all those travel receipts and records(airfare, hotel, car rentals, and gas) because if you didn't already know, "job hunting" expenses are a tax write-off. Check with your tax person. Just wanted to give you a heads up!
This message was edited by fyrho on 10-3-04 @ 7:55 PM

Nader EK,

I just wanted to toss in my 2 cents. While I didn't attend School of EMT, I used to teach there as a skills instructor. My experience is that students in that program (as in any program) get out of it what they put into it. The pace is extremely fast and if you don't have good study skills going into it, you will struggle. Personally, I did an accelerated EMT program through UCLA's Center for Prehospital Care (same umbrella that Daniel Freeman is under) and it was challenging to digest that amount of information in 3 weeks. I will say that the pace of the accelerated programs is very similar to Paramedic school, so that can be seen as a bonus.

While I agree with much that has been said here, I would point out that all EMT schools are required to teach the same basic curriculum. If you are a good student and pass the class as well as your county accreditation test, your real education will begin. Once you start working as an EMT, you will have to put what you've learned into practice. This is the real challenge. If you want to go to PM school, especially Daniel Freeman (my alma mater), focus on your job as an EMT. Don't complain about transporting grandma from the con home to dialysis. That's your opportunity to get really good at taking a B/P in the back of a moving ambulance. It's also your chance to listen to lung sounds. Do it on every patient. You'd be amazed at how many patients in con homes have chronic rales/ronchi/wheezes. Read the charts on all of your patients. You'll learn what meds go with what disease processes.

Once you get onto a 911 rig, resist the temptation to see yourself as a "gurney jockey" just because the firefighters don't let you do much. Ask questions. Jump in and take the vitals, hook up the monitor, hold c-spine, strip a line. Learn to recognize what the medics will want next even if you don't understand why. Anticipate what they will want and have it ready. This will make you stand out in their eyes.

While you're riding into the hospital, ask the medic to explain the EKG, county protocols and meds. Don't be alarmed if they can't give a good explanation--many medics know what they're looking for, but couldn't tell you why. These are "cookbook medics." Learn to recognize them and you will see what you don't want to be. You will find a few that are eager to help and are good at teaching. Take advantage of their help. Use your questions as an entry into going by to do station visits.

Hope that helps. Feel free to PM me with any questions.


Hey TonyP, I finished up School of EMT last week... passed. Just went to Westmed/Mccormick for there written, skills, physical, and interview... passed. All that's left is the county test tomorrow and I'm done. School of EMT was a real good expericance the teachers are always ready to help anytime of day, they all give out there cell numbers. While they do teach you the academics, they also teach you there 2 cents on how it differs when your actually in the field. The class was fast, but it was well worth it in my opinion. Thanks to all the teachers there.


Congrats on passing the class! From what I've heard, McCormick/Westmed is a good company to work for in the LA area. It's been a while since I've been down in LA, but I think they still have a few 911 contracts. Bust your butt to get onto one of those 911 rigs and you'll get some good experience. Obviously, you could always go the AMR route. You'd have to wait a while to get 911, but they have a lot of the County contracts...

Anyhow, good luck and if you're interested in Daniel Freeman, you can do a search on my user name to see my advice about getting into Freeman's program.


Tony P-

As I am sure you are also a fellow medic, I do not agree with your statement regarding "cookbook medics". Just because a paramedic cannot explain everything about an EKG, drugs, or recite county protocols verbatim, does not mean this is a paramedic you do not want to be.

You will learn throughout your career as a PM, things tend to fade as time goes on, however your reactions, treatments and patient rapport go up in amazing increments. Some of the Firefighter/ Paramedics I work with are 20 plus year medics. Their experience in the field is amazing. I learn more from these guys than I ever could from a one year "boot" medic who can recite drug dosages. I strive to be as good a Firefighter/ Paramedic as they are every day I am at work.

The old timers would often say, what do I need to know everything about that for, I got you!!! (I am only a three year medic myself).

Remember, just because a paramedic cannot recite what YOU think a medic should know, does not make them a cookbook medic.

I would recommend to Nader to listen to ALL paramedics. Each one has his strengths in certain areas. Some may be able to tell you everything about a drug, some may be able to talk about MANY situations in which they actually used it. Just something to consider.

You can learn something from everybody.

By the way I went to Freeman too, so I know the whole game in regards to PM education/ training and "cookbook medic" idea.

Just my thoughts....


Agreed. Not everyone that can recite obscure medical trivia is a good medic. Field experience (as I suggested to NaderEK) is where you learn how to really do the job. My point is that there are a fair number of medics out there that couldn't tell a heart block from a paced rhythm and use their protocols as a crutch. Maybe you've heard the old saying that half of the doctors out there graduated in the bottom half of their class. Same goes for medics...

That said, I certainly don't hold myself up as the example of a great medic. Just one who is constantly trying to improve.



One thing I forgot to mention is that the medics that I personally find most impressive are not the ones that can rattle off data. They are the ones that can forget about the ball game on back at station and patiently hold an old lady's hand and calmly talk her into going to the hospital even though she's worried about who will feed her parrot. They are also the ones that NaderEK will find as his mentors because they are willing to take the time to pass on what they've learned.