Make this page my home page
  1. Drag the home icon in this panel and drop it onto the "house icon" in the tool bar for the browser

  2. Select "Yes" from the popup window and you're done!

Recruitment and Retention

Fire Service Exploring - Locate a Program in Your Area Firefighters Bookstore: Firefighter books, videos and software The Burning Issue National Fire Service Magazine
All Links

Featured Product Categories

EMS Supplies Tools WMD Equipment Vehicle Graphics Headsets
View All Categories
Recruitment and Retention Tips
Beware of the animals Protecting the radio Finding work as a wildland fire contractor Key considerations for diversity recruitment and retention
More tips
Mini-doc spotlights importance of volunteer firefighters Minn. fire department recruiting inner-city teens Volunteer firefighter shortage plagues Idaho towns Viral video shows soldiers beating new firefighter recruits Profiles in Bravery: Firefighter Alexander Martinez
More Videos

Print Comment RSS

Career plan: How to succeed after probation

Set career goals, seek training and use these steps to achieve those goals

By Robert Avsec

Congratulations! You’ve completed your probationary period with your organization and with it all the training and development activities prescribed by your department.

You’re now, no doubt, chomping on the bit to advance in your chosen career, but where do you start?

You may be part of an organization that has numerous opportunities with various career paths outlined, or your department — particularly if it’s a smaller department — may be more limited in what it has to offer for your career development.

Regardless of your situation, it is your responsibility to handle your professional development. If there’s a program in place, great, learn all you can about it and get going.

If not, here's how you can create your own plan for professional development.

You and tour team
Before you get too far ahead of yourself, talk about your career aspirations with those closest to you. It may be your spouse or significant other, and maybe your children. Why? Because time spent on professional development, whether it’s time spent attending a class or time spent working on a class paper in the spare bedroom upstairs, is time that you can’t give to those important people in your life. And that’s already an issue, what with you being on duty and away from home for your 24-hour shifts.

Be proactive and take the time to not only discuss where you want to go, but how you’re going to get there.

For example, you want to become a driver operator and there’s a course coming up that’s being presented by your state’s fire training agency. By all means get all the information necessary to enroll in the course, but talk it over with the rest of your team before you take action and enroll.

You, and they, need to understand that you’re all in this for the long haul and that there is going to be equal give and take on everyone’s part. You can also use this time to your advantage as a parent because you won't just be telling your children about the importance of studying and getting a good education, you can be their role model. You can also be their role model for being a life-long learner, a skill that will benefit them in the future as well.

Identify your options
If your department does not have a specific program for professional development to follow, you’ll need to do some research up front before you get started.

Start by identifying what positions are available for your career path and what are the requirements to attain those positions. Is there specific training required? Are there any prerequisites such as a formal education degree — like an associates or a bachelors degree — or time in grade that you must satisfy?

A good place to start your search is at the National Fire Academy’s Fire Service Higher Education (FSHE) website. There you’ll find a wealth of information regarding the program’s goals and objectives, degree programs applicable to the fire and emergency services community, contact information for institution of higher education partners, and a useful model to assist you in your career development planning efforts.

Contact the organizations in your state that provide firefighter and other emergency-services training — these might be the state fire marshal’s office, the department of fire programs, or the office of EMS — to obtain information for training programs that you will need to pursue your goals. Many of these organizations and agencies have become more proactive in developing model curriculums and resources that can aid you in developing your individual career development program.

The National Fire Academy and various state fire training programs have collaborated for many years on a program dedicated to enhancing career development opportunities for firefighters. NFA offers a two-day program for fire and rescue personnel from specific states. These courses strengthen a state's fire service community through education, personal networking, and a shared collegial experience. 

State fire training agencies sponsor the two-day program in cooperation with NFA. The state agency selects the courses and recruits and enrolls the students according to established student selection criteria. NFA hosts the program and provides the instruction and course materials. 

Course materials and lodging are provided at no cost to participants from career or volunteer departments. Meal costs and transportation expenses are the responsibility of the individual participants or the sponsoring agencies

This is a really great program that I went through early in my career. First, you get a taste of the National Fire Academy campus and the wonderful staff that's there to assist you in your professional development (be sure to take a tour of the Learning Resource Center). Second, you'll have an opportunity to start developing your own professional network by meeting other firefighters from your state. You'll likely wind up making some fire service friendships that will last your entire career.

Make your plan
If you want to get somewhere, you have to have directions. And reaching your professional development goals is no different. You can increase your chances for success by using short-term goals that you can realistically achieve thereby giving you opportunities for success that you can build upon.

For example, one of your short-term goals may be to become a paramedic. Here’s how you can create a map to get you there using the SMART model. 

  • Specific: Become a Nationally Registered Paramedic.
  • Measureable: Obtain certification as a paramedic through your state’s certifying agency.
  • Action Oriented: Complete paramedic training and clinical rotations through the local community college system.
  • Realistic: Attend paramedic training and clinical rotations using 24 hours of off-duty time weekly.
  • Timely: Complete the training program and certification process by January of 2014.

Congratulations again on completing the first step in your career development, the completion of your probationary period. You’ve chosen what can be a wonderful and rewarding career, and it’s a career with an ever expanding body of knowledge that will challenge you in different ways every day.

You will greatly enhance your abilities to meet those challenges by taking action to become a life-long learner and your first step should be to map out your course. Good luck!

The comments below are member-generated and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of or its staff. If you cannot see comments, try disabling privacy and ad blocking plugins in your browser. All comments must comply with our Member Commenting Policy.

FireRescue1 Offers

Back to previous page