Community Forum

Forum Home  /  Ask Firecareers!  /  What would you do?

What would you do?

I am 34 yrs old, been regrettably working in the high tech corporate world for the past 10 years and testing in WA State for the FD for the past 2 years. I have three weeks left for my EMT B certification and am very eager to do whatever else I can to make myself more marketable in the Fire service. I am looking for advice/opinions on a few things: 1) Am I kidding myself at 34 to be just getting into this as a career? 2) While continuing to work in the corporate world to pay the bills? what else can I do to increase my odds of being hired (besides the obvious of continuing to increase my score on the written and preparing for Orals etc? And finally, I hear contradicting information from friends and acquaintances in the Fire service regarding whether or not I should try to volunteer somewhere while I continue to test. Some say don?t worry about it? while others indicate do whatever you have to get involved. I am extremely focused on making this career change (but as I am sure many of us do, I have a full time ?regular? job and family with 2 kids that require the majority of any free time I have that I don?t use for studying or testing. I know I made a mistake 10 years ago when I decided to go the corporate route for the $$$... now the $$$ is there but my desire and dedication to the job is not. I know in my heart that being a FF is my true calling. I would gladly give up the $$ for the opportunity at a career that I am passionate about and one where I will actually feel like I am contributing something more substantial to the betterment of society.

Any advice, opinions or similar stories out there?

Your Feedback is Greatly Appreciated!



You should not regret what you have spent 10 years doing rather you should be thankful you have a good job then take what you have learned over the years in said job and see if it offers anything you might take into the job you truly want.

High Tech Corporate,lets see.

Above average education.(High written test scores)
Professional appearance.(Oral interviews)
Comfortable in a suit,dealing with people.(Oral Interviews)

Looks like you got some things in your favor,but can you do whats required on scene,under pressure on an MVA 0200 cold rain 75Ft down the side of a mountain you and another FF waiting for an extended response from your ALS transport provider. Five occupants 2 fatal,2 critical including an infant and the driver so bombed all he is concearned about is having a smoke. Thats one of the first calls I ran as a Volunteer it was ugly and brutal but it been six years and Im still at it and loving every minute.

I dont know how you could make such a drastic career move with a family and all the responsibility that comes with it unless your sure you can take what comes with the job. Please find a department to volunteer with, there are plenty in your area and with your EMT you will be in demand. If you do get hired continue your volunteer service,you will have much to offer your department.

Dont worry about your age, at 34 your still well into the game,do a search in the open forum and you will find many examples of guys as old as 40 plus getting the call. Dont wait to long once you hit 40, time and responsibilty will make it much harder to compete,trust me. I come up to your area several times a week with my job and know allot of the rural areas East and South of you are volunteer,here is a site that has a link to a very large list of WA departments including several in your area. Good luck!


Yeah thats a real gun in that gun rack, no I dont have a permit for it, do you have a permit for asking stupid questions?


My dad went to the fire academy at age 34. You are already further ahead in the game than he was. 19 years later, he has risen through the ranks to become Chief of a municipal department in CA. Also a friend of mine is 33 and testing and scoring in the top of each test he takes. I know of a department that recently hired someone who was 41. You are not kidding yourself. Your motivation sounds genuine. Life is short, it's never too late to make changes. Good luck!

Thanks for the response! The encouragement is much appreciated. I agree there are many skills I can take from my current profession into the fire service. I suppose my regrets have more to do with wishing I had done things a little sooner. I also agree that ensuring I can mentally handle the bad along with the good of the job is critial, given my family situation. I am doing ride-along's and have pulled a shift at Harborview to get as much exposure to EMS as possible (and plan to continue).

I will definitely check out the link you sent, thanks for the tip.



I am in a similar boat. I spent a long time working jobs that seemed completely unrelated to my current profession (paramedic) and my future profession (firefighter/paramedic). I'm 34 and will start a community college fire academy in January.

I have to say that the one thing that allows me to keep going is the support of my very understanding and supportive wife. If she weren't on board, I never would have gotten this far.

I spent almost a year working as an EMT and made very little money. Put myself through paramedic school and made NO money. Now I do ok as a paramedic, but may have to go part time to make the academy work out. Luckily my wife works and she wants to see me succeed almost as much as I want it myself.

This path requires a lot of sacrifices, but for me it has been worth it. Even if I never get a badge.


Brian_15 and Tony P

People accomplish amazing things in all stages of life so dont ever think its to late. Allow me to mentor for just a bit.

In my humble opinion its never impossible to achieve what you want out of life,with that said let me tell you time is of the essence when it comes to the Fireservice. Not only do you need to be a the most qualified (Certs,academy,advanced schooling depending on the position.) but you must also be physically as well as mentally fit for the position you seek. You must also be in the position to aggressively seek out and take on each and every opportunity to test and test and test. This is where time is your true enemy.

My love of toys and fun for myself as well as my family, including but not limited to boats,bikes 4x4 trucks and Mexico vacations makes it hard to take even a short term cut in pay,most positions start below my needs. Taking time to get more than my EMT cert is also difficult partly because I wont make a commitment unless I can give 110% and with all I have on my plate now its hard to fit more on. Your planning needs to include the financial strain you may inflict on your current standard of living. I know its the greatest job in the world and some guys would give thier left testicle to ride the big red truck but bills are bills and responsibilities are responsibilities so bottom line,stay as lean as possible in the budget department but never ever deny your family, they come first no matter what, never forget that.

You both seem to be well ahead of the others I have tested with. The odds arent so bad really when you look at the basic requirements, I think some of these guys never took the time to see whats going to be required just to get thru the testing process(Backround comes to mind) so you can knock at least 50% right off the top. Another 25% or so wont make it past the agility let alone the oral interview even with all the help available on this site alone. Take the last City of Portland test which I believe was in the area of 4000 people,knock 75% off the top and the numbers look much more favorable and thats a big test. My last test with the City Of Gresham,OR was only offered to 300 people,knock 75% off that and your odds of making the cut are even better. Many tests are not in the 1000+ category so there is a very good chance guys such as yourselves could soon be riding on the big red truck and getting paid for it. The numbers may not be exact but thier close.

I only offer this up as food for thought so get going and be the best you can be. Keep us posted and as always good luck!

Yeah thats a real gun in that gun rack, no I dont have a permit for it, do you have a permit for asking stupid questions?

I would stay with your current employer, and look for a volunteer position somewhere near your residence. You don't want to give up what you already have for a firefighter job that is not being offered to you yet. In other words, don't quit unless you're offered the badge.

We have a boot fireman at our station who's about 35 who gave up his $750,000 a year job at a local television network to come work for us. When I asked him why he left that career, he said he wasn't happy, and the stress level was way up. He says he now has to carefully balance his check book, and can't take trips with the wife and kids like he used to, but he is much happier, and likes to go to work.

Hope this helps.


Tony P, LMFBM, Personnel7-47, firemandave:

Thank you all for your feedback and encouragement! I appreciate the honesty and optimism!

As you said firemandave... I do plan to continue working in my current profession while I also push hard to get into a volunteer or resident program ( I cant afford to give that up until the badge is in hand). I am lucky that my wife is totally in support of the career move and so are my kids which really helps to keep me driving forward towards the badge. Of course, I know and so does my wife, that what we are signing up for is a big life change, but we are both in the frame of mind that life is too short to do something you are not passionate about... when we spend so much time these days outside the home at work... it sure makes sense to be happy and proud of where you spend a lot of your time.

Tony P GOOD LUCK to you and please keep me posted on your progress! There are a lot of great people with great insight on this site and I for one am thankful for having such a great resource and "sounding board".

Thanks again to all, stay safe everyone!