This is me (I'm on the right) about two years ago. All I had to my career of firefighting was a Utah EMT-Basic and a job offer for ski patrol. These two steps are some of the biggest that I have made towards working as a professional firefighter.
I was told time and time again that the process for becoming a firefighter was nothing short of daunting, but I persevered and told myself there was no way I would ever quit till I got the job, and I stand by that today. At the same time, I wish that I had a little bit better of an idea about exactly how hard it was to be able to get anywhere in the world of firefighting.
So I lucked out and got the first EMT job I applied for, and that luck was stronger than I could have ever hoped because I landed myself a ski patrol job in the land of the dirty hippies where terrible facial hair is revered (pictured above).
Let me tell you though, ski patrol has a very miniscule overlap with the world of firefighting and there will always be someone out there to remind you of that. Just being on ski patrol is not enough to say, "I have experience as an EMT," not in my opinion anyway. It's a great starting point, and will probably be enough experience to get you a low level ambulance job, and if you don't like the idea of medical response as a part of your job duties in firefighting you should try a different career, like wildland firefighting.
Pretty cool right?
Ski Patrol was really hard work and a complete blast, I would trade my time there for anything in the world. If it were a year-round job, without having to move from Utah to Australia and back, I would do it forever. I don't feel like being nomadic though, so I'm trying to settle into a structure firefighting job.
The whole time I was on ski patrol, and all the time between, I was putting out applications for fire jobs all over the area. I began noticing a trend that is more and more prominent every day. People don't want to hire someone who is just a firefighter, or just an EMT Basic, they want the full package. "ACCEPTING APPLICATIONS FOR FIREFIGHTER/PARAMEDIC," is what you will begin to see more and more.
I have spend a lot of my time, and I mean A LOT, filling out applications and driving to different departments to test for jobs. I have spent a lot of money, and many miles on the road. My point being, I have put a lot of time out there and I'm not even close to the highest ranked candidate out there. I think that I should be, and that I have a lot of potential to be a great asset to any department that would take me. But until I achieve that level of training that is exactly all that it is, potential. What I have learned is that fire departments don't to invest in potential, they want you to show them what you can do with it.
Go out, and show them what you can do. Get all of your certifications and a Degree if you can. I would say the only thing you benefit from taking tests before you have your certs is the practice of taking the actual tests. Chances are pretty high that you aren't going to make it without a highly decorated resume.
The most important thing I would say that has kept me going is just knowing that I am going to do it. You have to believe in yourself or you will never make it. It is a long haul to become a firefighter, get ready to bear down and plug away till you get there, and NEVER stop once you do. Just because you are a firefighter does not give you the right to complacency, there are thousands of guys gunning for your job and don't you ever forget it.