Hi! My name is Alyssa, I'm 17 years old and a high school junior. I've been a OCFA fire explorer for the past 2-3 years and 200% positive I will be pursuing a career in the fire service. Since I'll be a senior next year, I need to start making some decisions on education and training. There are so many paths to getting hired, but I'm not sure which to take. Should I attend a 4 year college or dive into an academy right out of high school? How did you become hired? What training/education should I take? Any advice? Thank you!

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If you wish to stay in the SoCal area, the best advice would be given by the members of your own departments, as well as neighboring departments.

Every region of the country is different in terms of what they expect in terms of preparation for testing. As an example, some may give points for college credit and some may not.

Use the resources you have at hand to develop a plan if you are planning to stay in that area.
the advuce i would give you is to take some courses that the fire department that you belong to offer's you. My fire department or county pays for you college courses. you only have to come up with the money first and if you complete college then they reinburst you for money. you have a better chance of getting hired if you have cert's and experience in the fire service. i send the best of luck. just follow your dreams!!! don't give up!
simply my opinion on your situation...
I work at a refinery in the midwest currently, but also am a member of a paid on call dept., so I kind of know where ur at... I would go after those weekend classes or one night a week certifications for your particular state, and get a cert. behind your name first. The academy, where I am from, cost several thousand dollars, so its kind of one of them things where you need to be sponsored by a dept, or employed to be able to attend. No matter what you set your mind to, always have a back up plan or something else in your pocket to go to or rely upon.
I to started the hiring process in a few larger city dept.'s while I was going through school, and decided then that the fire service just couldn't offer me what I have today... financially... its one of them you gotta do whats just best for you...
I'm not familiar with your circumstances, but, like Jace, I would probably get certified first, then pursue the degree on days off after getting that first job. You should get tuition reimbursement or at least tuition assistance. If you can get a fire science or administration degree the sky's the limit. Good luck. Never give up.
My advice first and foremost is don't forget to be a kid. You are going into your senior year and the time will go fast, don't become so focused on worrying about becoming a firefighter you forget to enjoy your last year of high school. So what I mean here is if there are some fire classes available, don't feel compelled to take them and subsequently miss out on being a kid.

Yes, there are avenues to pursue to land a job, but are you so set on just firefighting that you won't consider anything else? What other interests do you have? Is a 4 year college a better move or would a tech school be better? What about paramedic? Have you considered other options like the military? What type of goals do you have AFTER you may get hired? Where do you see yourself 5, 10, 20 years down the road? These are questions you should look into as well.

So college or academy? Well, which one will give you more options? Are you sure the academy certs would transfer around the country if you sought employment elsewhere? Is a college degree considered a requirement if looking to promote or even get preference points? How about paramedic?

If you can see, my advice here is not about telling you what to do, but instead to look inside yourself to make the decision on your own. You need to weigh the pros and cons. A college degree will help with promotion, shows you are dedicated to completing something, and can give preference points for a job. You are typically on your own for those few years and should be more mature when seeking a job. One can also obtain fire certs while attending college, but a degree can open more doors than certs alone. The military route shows you are willing to serve and also shows you can understand discipline, chain of command, etc, which is why most vets stand above other candidates. Paramedic is a huge cert to have and many depts are asking for this or giving preference to medics.

If you truly want to be a firefighter, you should understand you may have to go somewhere besides the hometown dept. I have seen many who would hold out for one dept and never get hired.

For me, I looked into a Co-Op job during my senior year where I would get HS credits for working. The job I had was full time and I did miss out on my senior year. At the time I didn't think it would matter and was looking ahead, but I found I did regret missing out. I pursued the military route and did 5 years in the Navy as a firefighter. I got out and worked a year for a fire equipment distributor waiting for a spot to open at a tech school. I went to college the next fall doing an academy while working on my associates degree. I also interned as a firefighter/EMT as a live in intern for a local dept. After graduation I worked towards other certs to help my resume and pursued my paramedic cert. During schooling I applied to numerous depts and tested all over and gained testing experience. In the end I was offered several jobs.
Most paid fire departments require 60 credit hours in any area to take the exam. And most cities require residency for over a year to get hired on. If you were to go for LAFD, live there for a year before the exam. Personally, I am suggesting you get an A.S. in one of the Homeland Security areas.
Usually most fire departments will be sending you through their own accademy. Your priority should be taking some EMS classes, start with EMT-B and if possible, get your paramedic. I belive most california depts hire paramedics over anyone else. The fire portion can be taught by any academy and is generally shorter time frame than paramedic. You will have already picked up some firefighter knowledge with your explorer experience and when your 18 maybe they will let you volunteer there and get you some certificates. As far as knowledge, there are several websites to get you up on some things you want to know. There is a thread on this website about online courses. FEMA and National Fire Academy have many courses that will help you in your journey. Good luck!
thanks everybody!
The academy is the right way to go. I mean go to college either online if you want to get your degree in fire science, but if you want to fight fires then you don't need to go to college for that. Take as many classes that you can take right now, even if you don't get credit or all you can do is sit there and watch. I have a Cadet and he goes to every class, but doesn't get credit for it, that way when he turns 18 and takes the class he can whiz right threw it. Oh and speaking girl to girl buck up and take things with a grain of salt. You are fixing to enter a forbidden zone and you must be strong and sometimes hard headed.

Hey Alyssa, I just started a blog to help women pursuing a fire career. It is still a work in progress but maybe itll be of some help. You can e-mail me too if you want and I can give you some advice. The blog is FIREWOMENINFO.WORDPRESS.COM and my email is mtmriss@hotmail.com. Hope to hear from you and good luck!

See if you can find a department that caters to college students.  Internships are common with several suburbs of Madison Wisconsin. Some internships include: 

http://www.city.fitchburg.wi.us/departments/cityHall/humanResources...  http://www.mapleblufffire.com/internship-Program  http://www.firerecruit.com/job/1348799-FIREFIGHTER-PARAMEDIC-INTERN...

I was in your shoes a few years ago. What I would do is this.

Go get your Paramedic. Even if you don't know if you would like it.

Then go get your FF I/II/Hazmat ops/tech and then continue with your degree after that. As soon as your a medic and have your basic FF classes you can start to test. I recommend testing everywhere you can. Even if you don't want to work for that city. You can practice that way and get your test scores up.

Work on your interview skills and stay in great physical shape. Be ready to get hired and gointo a academy with the physical skills needed to make it through the 12-16 week academy.

You sound like you have the drive, so don't get discuraged if you don't get a job right away. It took me 6 years to finally land a great job! But before that I worked on a voly and worked in a large metro area as a medic gaining great expierence in the years I was testing for a job. 


Good Luck!

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