What do students have to say about the program?
CRC Fire Technology student Jaymie Perrin currently works for the Wilton Fire Department. She is also applying for the CRC Elk Grove CSD Firefighter Internship Program for Fall 07. She offered the following comments:
When asked how and why she got into Fire Technology, Jaymie replied “I get bored and don’t want to do the same thing over and over. I came from Elk Grove High where I did ROP (firefighting) classes.”
Asked about her opinions on the classes and professors in the CRC Fire Technology program she had this to say, “I have never heard anyone say ‘I hate that class’, it’s voluntary and not something that you go into half-hearted.” The teachers are all very good, very understanding…the Building Construction (FT 303) was toughest for me because I didn’t have any background like some of the guys.” I was AG in high school though and did well in equipment, (FT 302).”
As for being a woman in a male-dominated occupation, Jaymie replied that “I am the one for ‘confined’ spaces (because of her smaller size). We had a roll-over yesterday and I was the only one who could get in (in the vehicle)!”
Scott is a current CRC Fire Technology student, close to graduation and has completed the Firefighter Internship program.
When asked about the rigor of the EMT 100 class, he had this to say: “You can’t just ‘wing’ it. We had a study group that met and practiced the skills.”
Scott says about the Cooperative Work Experience Firefighter Internship: For me, I learn best ‘hands-on’ so it was a good way to see the day-to-day operation (at a station). The first semester was the busiest with Friday for classroom and tests while Saturday was all training. The second term was just one day per week and you get to pick it.”
What did he get out of the internship? Scott is now actively seeking employment as a firefighter and he said that he is competitive now. “2500 people applied for the Modesto Fire Department and I made it to the interview!” He also feels that it was valuable to take a good number of Fire Technology classes before entering the internship because he knew that much more than if he had entered with minimum qualifications.
Firefighter jobs are seen as very desirable so competition for entry-level positions is stiff. Sacramento Metropolitan Fire Department recently had one thousand applicants for twenty positions. One key to getting hired as a firefighter is to have as many certifications as possible.
Of course, one needs the EMT 1 as a minimum. They should then seek Firefighter 1 through the CRC Firefighter Internship or through another agency’s academy. If they can obtain a paramedic certification on top of this, then they are “ahead of 99% of applicants” according to Professor McHugh. This is because most departments seek to fill their firefighter positions with applicants with the “P card” (paramedic). This way, they do not have to send them to American River College for the paramedic program (a big cost to the department when they do it under contract with ARC).
Professor Gruenberg says that many applicants need help with the oral board preparation. Most boards consist of three to five people ranging from captains to chiefs in rank. He is asked to sit on many boards so is very familiar with the process and covers this preparation in his FT 300 class.
The physical tests and demands of the profession require good upper body strength so students might want to put in some gym time or hire a trainer to help them prepare. Women can and do pass these physical tests. Elk Grove has five or six currently working in the Department.
Beginning firefighter/EMTs in this part of California earn between $40,000 to $70,000 yearly. Many departments have more resources than others and pay at the higher range. Roseville, El Dorado Hills, Elk Grove (CSD) pay well, but West Sacramento, Woodland and Davis not as well. State-wide, the California Employment Development 2006 wage data showed the average hourly wage to be $27.49 and the top 25% of wages to be $36.34 per hour. If the firefighter has the paramedic card, they will another 6 to 15% bonus over EMT pay and additional education can bring another 2 ½%. Pay for firefighters is based on monthly or yearly because they work 56 hour weeks but only get paid for 40 hours. This is a highly unionized occupation so when a contract results in higher wages elsewhere, other districts are likely going to follow suit.
EMT and Paramedic
The California Employment Development Department salary survey shows the 2006 wage average to be $14.25 per hour and the top 25% of wage earners at $17.14. In Sacramento private companies are paying starting EMTs - $11 – $14 per hour and Paramedics - $ 15 to $18 per hour. The pay varies drastically across the state and county. Private employers generally have weaker benefits then civil service firefighters do with CALPERS.
Firefighters can rise through the ranks, lieutenant and captain at the station level and up to the “executive” levels of chief. The executive officers operate from administration buildings rather than fire stations. Promotional opportunities will typically be enhanced through additional education at the Bachelors level. Management coursework would be very helpful and it doesn’t need to be in Fire Administration either.
Other possible occupations made possible by training and experience include those in hazardous materials, building inspection, safety inspection and adjuster positions with the insurance industry and private fire investigation. Firefighters can take classes in fire investigation and law enforcement to enhance such opportunities. Attorneys will sometimes hire experts with this background. Paramedics have many opportunities available to them including Physician’s Assistant.