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When to start job search & testing

I am currently enrolled in a Fire Academy that I will complete in April 2009 and will be taking my EMT basic testing in the beginning of December 2008.

When should I start applying & testing for firefighter jobs? If a department wants to hire me, will they wait until I graduate?


Your question would probably get more responses in the regular forum.

It is never too early or soon to start testing, assuming you are at the minimum age to hire of 18. It's also never too early to start looking to see who is testing. Knowing that and figuring out where you want to be when you do start is important too. You can shotgun tests and take them everywhere that is testing, but tests do tend to cost money and travel.

If you can fit it into your schedule, start looking and testing. As for a department that wants to hire you and whether or not they'll wait until you graduate 4/09:

Don't worry about that. Most hiring processes are slow. More than likely, you'll be long graduated before you are in any hiring process or hired for that matter.

Good luck,
This message was edited by bambam on 11-23-08 @ 10:51 AM

Personally you should have already started testing, and have a few under your belt by this point. I did, and it definitely helped get me aware of the process and what to expect.

Too many candidates don't start testing until they finish their degree or their academy. At that point, you're at least 1 to 2 or more years into the process (from the moment you told yourself you were going to go for the position of firefighter). Some candidates say they're going to wait until those classes are complete because they're not "ready."

Using that logic, you'll never be ready. Realize you'll probably fail your first written test, maybe your first oral interview, or maybe your first physical ability test. Why not fail them now?

The good part about failing is that you hopefully learn from your mistakes, and more importantly start learning your strengths and your weaknesses.

If a department wants to hire you, they're probably not going to wait until you graduate. Nobody is that important or special. And for that matter, why would you wait? If you got the job offer, drop out of the academy or EMT unless they make the job offer contingent on both of those things.

Plus, it's not uncommon for a department hiring process to take up to a year, or for departments to keep lists for a few years (I've seen lists last for five or more years) due to budget crunches, number of qualified candidates, etc.

While it is true there are not as many testing opportunities for folks without EMT or firefighter 1 academy certificates, there are some that are out there if you look hard enough.

What are you waiting for? If you see a test that you qualify for, go for it! What's the worst that could happen - they offer you a job? Isn't that what your goal is?

Now, for those that are going to say it's stupid to take a test for a department you don't want to work for, or just take every test you qualify for, let me offer my two cents:

- When you first start out testing, I encourage you to take every test you qualify for, to see what the process entails, to start seeing where your strengths and weaknesses are, and to start the ball rolling.

Now, when you find yourself starting to score in the high 90 percentile on every written test and oral interview, and starting to get chief's interviews and passing every physical ability test, then it's time to start throttling down and just focus on a few select departments you really want to work for. Then start spending quality time researching them, building relationships with the personnel, and getting involved in that community.

You can't do those things when you're taking every test and in it for the quantity. But, before you get to the quality, you need to do some quantity to see how well you're doing and to practice your skills and get your feet wet in the process.

Plus, how do you know what your "dream" department is? Most think a department is their dream department when in fact it may not be or they may not be a good fit for that department. You may not even realize your dream department until they offer you a job when you weren't expecting it.

Lastly, one of the easiest ways to get a job in the fire service is by already working in the fire service; if you've passed probation and are in good standing in a department, you're a proven commodity so to speak.

Now I'm not advocating leaving a department for another (since that one department who hired you wants you to preferably spend your entire career there due to the costs and energy spent training you), but you must do what you must do for your family and your career goals. For that matter, you may like the department enough to stay there, who knows?

Just some thoughts, hope they help. And yes, try the regular forum as bambam suggested.
Steve Prziborowski
Battalion Chief