Preparing for a Career in the Fire Service
Thank you for your interest in the Long Beach Fire Department. Earning a career in the Fire Service is not easy. It takes dedication, patience, and tenacity. Each of these traits builds character. Preparation and commitment are the keys to success. Listed below are suggestions to assist prospective candidates in their goal to become a firefighter. These recommendations are not in specific order. They should be worked on concurrently as time, finances, and opportunity present.
Earn your EMT certificate and successfully pass the national registry exam and earn your EMT license. Many departments use EMT licensure as a prerequisite for testing. Earning your EMT license will open more doors for you and increase your opportunities to test. For some departments this is simply a recommendation. However, typically, EMT is part of the academy and if you have it prior to the academy, this will be a significant benefit.
Field experience is extremely vaulable for prospective candidates. EMS plays a large role in your responsibility as a firefighter. Working as an EMT builds confidence, character, and develops good decision making skills. Volunteer in an Emergency Room (ER), work for a private ambulance company, or seek employment with the LBFD as an Ambulance Operator. The point is training and experience is a great way to show your value to your prospective employer.
Higher learning is very vaulable both personally and professionally for prospective firefighters. Typically, Fire Science classes are offered at your local community college. Work on your Bachelor's and/or Master's Degrees if you have already completed your Associate Degree. Earn Certificates in fire and/or emergency management field of studies. Classes that meet General Education requirements are also helpful. English, public speaking, human biology, anatomy and physiology, chemistry, economics, math, and political science all include elements related to the fire service.
Basic Firefighter Academies are also a great way to gain experience and exposure to the fire service. The Fire Academies provide hands-on experience and allows potential candidates the opportunity to see the fire service from a different perspective. The Academies teach personal discipline, the value of teamwork, and dedication. There are several junior colleges and private institutions that offer full-time and/or part-time academies. Graduating a Fire Academy is something to be proud of. Your academy experience will provide you with basic skills that are very relevant to the fire service. In addition, a Fire Academy certificate looks good on a resume. Often, graduates also earn multiple state-recognized training certificates during their academy experience.
If you’d like to expand on your EMT skills, Paramedic School is another level of schooling. Although expensive, this additional level of training is a highly sought skill in the fire service. It shows your level of commitment and is an added bonus to the department that hires you, as they don’t have to absorb that cost of your education. The investment you make in this effort will likely pay off.
Do something to increase your basic skills in Industrial Mechanics. To perform well as a firefighter, you must have a general understanding of tools and mechanical concepts. This includes basic tool skills, an understanding of building construction, and a grasp of basic mechanical concepts like internal combustion engines, electricity, and hydraulics. Some get a job in a trade while some do volunteer work for construction-based charities like Habitat for Humanity.
Improve your level of physical fitness. A regime of cardiovascular and weight training is a must before and after your first academy. If you are 18 you should take a CPAT or other subscription Physical Ability Test (PAT) often. The more you take the test the better your performance will be. It also gives you a good way to gauge if your physical fitness program is adequate.
This could be a service group or something to allow you to network about upcoming tests, job opportunities, and to help focus your efforts. Some examples are:
- Long Beach Search and Rescue – for young adults between 15 and 19
- The Long Beach Fire Museum – year round
- Long Beach Community Emergency Response Team (CERT)
- The LBFD “Spark of Love” Toy Drive – During December
- A fire department ambulance operator job (Long Beach, Huntington Beach, or Hermosa Beach for example)
- International Association of Women in Fire and Emergency Service, http://www.i-women.org/
Keep your background clean (DUI’s, misdemeanors, etc.). Obey all laws, help your neighbors, in general, be a good citizen. Don’t do just do this to get hired, it should be a basic component of your personality, if it is not, you might consider a different line of work.
If you need further information, contact your local fire department or visit a local fire station. You can also check out "A Day in the Life of a Firefighter” on YouTube. This and other videos are there to give you some insight into the job.
Good luck in your pursuit of a career in the Fire Service. Do not get frustrated if it doesn’t happen in a year or two. It can take several years to learn the “game of getting hired” and build your resume. This has to be a long-term commitment that will lead to a stable career worth keeping. You’ll need to be committed to your success. Perseverance will pay off.