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Career advice, ER firemen / engineer
Old 01-12-2014, 02:20 AM   #1
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Career advice, ER firemen / engineer

So for some reason I either feel I have this calling to be a firemen, or get into that "brotherhood" of people.

I am currently an engineer and have worked in IT for seven years. I have had 31 jobs in my life, but I feel like you don't mess around with firemen, for me I would want to commit to this in some long-term way.

The idea of switching careers both excites and scares the hell out of me. Financially I don't know if I could afford to glide the fireman's training and entry-level firemen jobs. I am curious if anyone has ER'd who is a firemen and if so I would love to hear some more information.

I have always felt my IT engineering job is simply the means to an end, vs actually being truly fulfilling by really giving back the value I feel I have as a person. I am ex-military, an ex-business owner (residential window install and resto), I have integrity and I am reliable and dependable and feel I am an excellent problem solver and team member. I am also in great physical shape.

I realize this industry is completely different than I.T. and I would want to definitely be on a truck. I realize there is a ton of training that goes with this.

I am 32 and the guy I spoke to at the station today was 36. He seems to be enjoying himself and he walked me through a lot of the on-board equipment of there main Engine 14 and surprisingly none of it intimidated me but only intrigued me more. Next time I swing by he is going to walk me through Ladder 14 equipment. In the meantime I submit an application, and wait for classroom to be available (at least for Maui County).

My questions are kind of more in terms of financial benefits and feasibility in regards to ER and long-term sustainability within the industry vs say my IT career. I make close to six figures currently and understand by making such a lateral career move, this could very well be a different career earning potential than I might realize in that it could be a lot lower, but then again the opportunities and experiences are hard to value with a dollar.

Since this is an ER forum it would be great if I have any people in the industry whom could provide insight. Is it possible to ER being on a truck? Do I need to do it in a metropolitan area, or will being a county firefighter suffice? Is the desk job the only thing that will get me to ER or does say a captain or someone else who might arrive on scene make a high enough wage to ER.

What kind of long-term financial benefits like pension and retirement savings have you realized or are participating in?

What other perks, perhaps not money related have you realized, for instance the brotherhood.
I understand it is all relative but I gave you some good data to run with. Regards!
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Old 01-12-2014, 02:26 AM   #2
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I learned a lot today, KED, hydraulic equipment, 24hour shift, some training that is needed, how it is front-loaded training meant to weed out the weak early, lots of cool stuff I learned.
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Old 01-12-2014, 02:42 AM   #3
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Oh and, mentally and PTSD-wise, how did you maintain sanity. Although I see there can be a lot of good in being a firemen, I can imagine you see a lot of tragedy as well.
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Old 01-12-2014, 08:25 AM   #4
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While I didn't serve in the fire service I was a police officer for 29 years so there are some parallels. Look at their retirement plan carefully - those can vary all over the map from subsistence living to comfortable, and in a very few cases, very comfortable. The latter are getting scarce and for good reason.

Keep your disability insurance paid up. It requires a high level of physical fitness and a non-service-connected injury or illness can put you out of work. That happens a lot. And for that matter, what happens if you do have a line-of-duty disabling injury? What will your income be then? Is it COLA'd? What are the strings if you find other work later on?

I started a week before turning 23 and stayed 29 years. "Normal" retirement there is now 20 years (was 25 when I started) and there is good reason for that. It is physically demanding and the rotating shifts wear you down more than most people realize, especially after about ten years.

But it can be rewarding. I wrote a post about that a few years ago here.
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Old 01-12-2014, 08:28 AM   #5
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31 jobs at age 32?
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Old 01-12-2014, 10:16 AM   #6
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Originally Posted by kgtest View Post
So for some reason I either feel I have this calling to be a firemen, or get into that "brotherhood" of people.

I am currently an engineer and have worked in IT for seven years. I have had 31 jobs in my life, but I feel like you don't mess around with firemen, for me I would want to commit to this in some long-term way.

The idea of switching careers both excites and scares the hell out of me. Financially I don't know if I could afford to glide the fireman's training and entry-level firemen jobs. I am curious if anyone has ER'd who is a firemen and if so I would love to hear some more information.

I have always felt my IT engineering job is simply the means to an end, vs actually being truly fulfilling by really giving back the value I feel I have as a person. I am ex-military, an ex-business owner (residential window install and resto), I have integrity and I am reliable and dependable and feel I am an excellent problem solver and team member. I am also in great physical shape.
While I'm all for following a passion you have...as Marty mentions, the fact that you say you had 31 jobs and you're only 32 says a lot. Sure, some of those were having a lemonade stand when you were 8, and don't really "count"....but when you say you had been in the military, are currently in IT, former business owner with window installations, etc., it makes me really uneasy to tell you to jump in with both feet.

Yes, I know, you didn't post asking for advice or opinions...but by your very statements of

Quote:
So for some reason I either feel I have this calling to be a firemen, or get into that "brotherhood" of people.
Quote:
The idea of switching careers both excites and scares the hell out of me.
Quote:
but I feel like you don't mess around with firemen,
It just makes me wonder what your real attraction is to the Fire Department. Did you have this similar "feeling" to being self-employed as a window installer, or to the military? Or IT? Given your job-hopping history, I'd be very careful about doing something like walking from your current fiscally-rewarding career and simply jumping in because you have spent a few hours looking at a pumper truck. There are opportunity costs to this career switch (lost IT career wages, having to find job #33 if you leave the Fire Department).

I have neither served in the military nor in the Fire Department, but from first glance, it appears there are some similarities with both - there is a chain of command, and definitely a "team" element to it. What did/didn't you like about the military? Was it an IT position in the military? Have you considered an IT position in the military, to combine both your experience and the "team element" that you mention you're looking for? Or are you just enticed by the sexiness of something "new"?

I would strongly suggest thinking long and hard about what precisely draws you to the Fire Department, because from your comments above, I would definitely ask you think twice and three times about the type of position you're looking for....because it doesn't precisely sound like you have a clear vision of what you're looking for.
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Old 01-12-2014, 10:42 AM   #7
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In the current political climate, I would not advise anyone enter public safety. If you want to go play fireman, earn a bunch of money in the private sector and join a volunteer fire department.
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Old 01-12-2014, 10:48 AM   #8
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Old 01-12-2014, 12:25 PM   #9
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31 jobs at age 32?
Yes. If you tally up some temporary jobs. I have yet to find a career that will stick.

I don't know if civil services is it either but I owe it to myself to explore it at least since it seems to be nagging me.

I have thought about the damand it would take...and the length of time that demand can really wear a person down. These guys are running in while everyone else is running out which kind of excites me but also puts things into a real perspective. Danger.
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Old 01-12-2014, 12:27 PM   #10
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Do you look like this? Attachment 17936

Pretty close I work out a lot. If I did this full time I would push myself to be in even better shape, and the guy I spoke with at the station did admit I would need to lift some more weights. I have some work to do but I am extremely physically fit.

Ex-military, I took classes in high-school on nutrition and fitness, and had a lot of good "coaches" so I have been blessed in that regard.

HealthIsWealth is my motto.
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Old 01-12-2014, 12:31 PM   #11
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In the current political climate, I would not advise anyone enter public safety. If you want to go play fireman, earn a bunch of money in the private sector and join a volunteer fire department.
I can appreciate this viewpoint...as that is also a very realistic opinion of the situation. I am not quite a millionaire and the DH would have to "pick up the slack" which is asking a lot especially when I try to be a gentlemen. That would be tough for me...not being the "bread winner" but it is a reality...at least for a while.

I do feel if a person put in 5years they would begin to have some rank, lateral career growth and broader financial opportunity within the civil services arean but perhaps that perception is wrong as well.

"Playing fire fighter" sounds cool, but then again so did "playing air-force" and I don't regret that. Had I known what I knew now I may have stayed in the USAF longer but the cards were different for me back then.
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Old 01-12-2014, 12:41 PM   #12
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While I'm all for following a passion you have...as Marty mentions, the fact that you say you had 31 jobs and you're only 32 says a lot. Sure, some of those were having a lemonade stand when you were 8, and don't really "count"....but when you say you had been in the military, are currently in IT, former business owner with window installations, etc., it makes me really uneasy to tell you to jump in with both feet.

Yes, I know, you didn't post asking for advice or opinions...but by your very statements of






It just makes me wonder what your real attraction is to the Fire Department. Did you have this similar "feeling" to being self-employed as a window installer, or to the military? Or IT? Given your job-hopping history, I'd be very careful about doing something like walking from your current fiscally-rewarding career and simply jumping in because you have spent a few hours looking at a pumper truck. There are opportunity costs to this career switch (lost IT career wages, having to find job #33 if you leave the Fire Department).

I have neither served in the military nor in the Fire Department, but from first glance, it appears there are some similarities with both - there is a chain of command, and definitely a "team" element to it. What did/didn't you like about the military? Was it an IT position in the military? Have you considered an IT position in the military, to combine both your experience and the "team element" that you mention you're looking for? Or are you just enticed by the sexiness of something "new"?

I would strongly suggest thinking long and hard about what precisely draws you to the Fire Department, because from your comments above, I would definitely ask you think twice and three times about the type of position you're looking for....because it doesn't precisely sound like you have a clear vision of what you're looking for.
The brotherhood excites me. I do have some good friends from the Military and as I find myself getting older I am realizing the people and friends I meet are very nice, but they are missing that serious "brotherhood" trait. I would love to work in a great team environment like that. I realize not all stations will have this brotherhood.

The realm of possibility interests me a little. I am worried that I would get bored in 5years of the civil industry but I suppose it's better to be aware of this today rather than jumping all in not realizing it.

With anything I am trying to understand perception from reality. I am out on an island right now and thought maybe it is because I have not had any friends around me in a few months...well good true friends...brothers. Then I thought to myself I felt like I wanted to join the station by my old place in MN, I was within 1minute of that station as well. Back in Minnesota everyone knows who I am already and I have tons of brothers there, but just not like I think you would get in a station. Perhaps

I would want to put as much into the career as I could, and I do feel I have a lot to offer. Almost like a higher calling. I have tons and tons of experience with these 31 jobs I have held in my life and just walking through the equipment on the engine, and discussing safety with my new fire friend and what-not I felt like I could jump in some boots and hop on the rig today.

I pride myself in integrity, doing the right thing even when nobody is watching me, and really feel this could be a better thing for me than a 9-5 desk job in terms of "self-worth".

Perhaps volunteering is the way to start out. As always, I am not just taking what the guy on the internet says and running with it, I am covering all bases, talking to real fire-fighters, my cousin was a fire-fighter with the USAF so I am talking to her, and watching youtube extradition and firefighting training videos etc.

When I rolled up to the station and it was completely spotless, all those rigs spotless, the weights were all on there proper racks and the basketballs were packed away neatly, the jams in the background echoing through the bays of the station and the calls beeping through as people took pride in even the littlest tasks like shining a piece of chrome, or cleaning the glass of a helmet.
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Old 01-12-2014, 12:41 PM   #13
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Yes. If you tally up some temporary jobs. I have yet to find a career that will stick.

I don't know if civil services is it either but I owe it to myself to explore it at least since it seems to be nagging me.
You mentioned in an earlier post that the training is designed to weed out weak candidates early in the process. There is more than one kind of "weak" candidate. While you may be physically fit and strong (according to your own standards, anyway) you have had 31 jobs so far. This track record does not indicate that you have ever fully committed to any kind of job/career, let alone one as physically, mentally, and emotionally demanding as firefighting.

You are 32 now, and based on your posts you want to "try out" being a fireman and "explore it." I don't have personal experience, but my guess is that the training for firefighters will weed out anyone who isn't absolutely passionate about the profession - someone who doesn't possess the right temperament, and the total commitment required to make it through the training program, let alone be successful in the profession.

Just my two cents.
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Old 01-12-2014, 12:56 PM   #14
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Any volunteer FD's in your area? Even some large cities have volunteer based departments. Or maybe an auxiliary program?

btw, the 31 jobs thing is irrelevant these days, nobody stays with a 1 or 2 jobs until they retire now.
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Old 01-12-2014, 01:37 PM   #15
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The more and more I talk to folks close to this idea, the more I realize I will begin by volunteering and donating my time to understand if this is a full on switch I want to make.
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Old 01-12-2014, 01:49 PM   #16
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I hear that there are just not that many fires anymore, so a fire fighter might end-up being more of an EMT (most pro firefighters are qualified EMT's as I understand it, but could be wrong). Apparently that career has a risk of just encoutering a lot of people that are in really rough shape (dead/dying). It takes a special kind of individual to be able to take that aspect of the job. My mom is a hospice nurse, but she just loves people and doesn't mind crying when she needs to. So, if you think you can manage that bit, then yeah, go for it!
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Old 01-12-2014, 01:50 PM   #17
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Any volunteer FD's in your area? Even some large cities have volunteer based departments. Or maybe an auxiliary program?

btw, the 31 jobs thing is irrelevant these days, nobody stays with a 1 or 2 jobs until they retire now.

I will tell you I was only fired once too. I was fired from a cart-attendant job back when I was 16. I worked for a temporary employment agency for about 2.5 years and that's where I got a lot of those jobs.

I was everything from a grain analyst (probed grain trucks for quality and content and sent them to the lifts to be dumped/loaded onto the barges sitting on the Mississippi) to discarding old milk for Kemps (it's not the cows). I also had a job as a die-operator, making printing labels for resale. That was actually a fun 2.5 years of my life. Otherwise my longest stint to date would be 5years as a window glazier / construction laborer. The second longest stint was 4. and then a couple of 3yrs and some half years. It does all add up eventually as I have been working since I was 14 and I know it seems like a lot, but for my generation I did what I had to do to continually work and keep a decent wage. I will admit I haven't been the best at saving it but I have had one helluva run at life. I could/ and may write a book about it someday.

If anyone needs advice on how to get a job I will tell you, pure determination... that's how I get all of mine and how I approach every problem I encounter.
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Old 01-12-2014, 02:05 PM   #18
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In the current political climate, I would not advise anyone enter public safety. If you want to go play fireman, earn a bunch of money in the private sector and join a volunteer fire department.
As a 24 year police officer who will be retiring in almost exactly one year, I would like to know what this statement means. What is it about the current political climate that would make a person not want to enter public safety? This is one of the dumbest statements Ive heard in a long time. Who exactly is going to put out the fire when your house is burning? Who is going to stop your wife from getting raped? Who is going to save your kid when hes playing in a field and gets impaled by a piece of rebar? Personally, I'm certainly glad there are people selfless enough to enter public service even in whatever horrible political climate we are in.
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Old 01-12-2014, 02:13 PM   #19
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As a 24 year police officer who will be retiring in almost exactly one year, I would like to know what this statement means. What is it about the current political climate that would make a person not want to enter public safety?
I took it as a statement about pressures on city budgets and increased pressures toward changing the pension and retiree health care deals that public safety officers will receive moving forward. In other words, don't just do it for the pension and retiree health care deals because there's increasing pressure on watering those deals down, especially for new/newer hires.
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Old 01-12-2014, 02:23 PM   #20
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Thats true Ziggy, but anyone getting into public service just for the pension is probably not the person we want doing it anyway.
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