Career Trends for Firefighter and Police Officer Jobs

Career trends for firefighters and police officers are similar because opportunities will increase, there will be competition for available positions, and candidates will face increases in required education to gain admission to employment opportunities.

Nationwide Labor Projections for Police Officers and Firefighters

As of 2008, there were approximately 830,000 police officers and detectives in the nation, while there were 365,000 firefighters in the U.S. According to the SimplyHired Job Trends for police officers, there was an 103 percent increase in job postings for police officers since October 2008, while numbers of job postings for firefighters increased by 41 percent in the same period.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the number of opportunities for police officers will grow about as fast as average, or increase by 7 to 13 percent between 2008 and 2018. For firefighters, job opportunities are expected to increase faster than the average, or by 14 to 19 percent, between 2008 and 2018. So in the recent past and based on long-term projections, the job outlook for both occupations appears to be strong. For additional career trends in the law enforcement and emergency services industries, read the various career trends articles available on CVTips.

Strong Competition for Positions

For both police officers and firefighters, there is a tendency for the public to romanticize the jobs as heroic, rather than stressful, dangerous and occasionally thankless. Romanticism does work in favor of agencies that recruit police officers and firefighters, since the occupations are well-known and usually well-respected, a fact which can lead to an excess of candidates. While some candidates may be highly unqualified or will not successfully complete the psychological and physical testing, most applicants to these fields will be excellent and high-achieving, so agencies that hire police officers and firefighters can be choosy about their applicants.

Be More than the Minimum

The minimum requirements for becoming either a firefighter or police officer usually mean completing high school and being 21 years of age or older. You must successfully complete the minimum physical or health standards. Meeting this minimum is hardly enough: Many police officers and firefighters are attending college, at least community college, and completing additional training to qualify for a place in training.

Aspiring police officers may spend 2 or more years at college and often complete an undergraduate degree. Undergraduate degree options include criminology, sociology, psychology or police studies, though most hiring agencies will consider any 4-year degree.

For firefighters, exceeding the minimum may include completing training in fire science or fire protection engineering. Some prospective firefighters may also consider apprenticing to a trade, such as electrician or plumber, since these skills will be useful later in dealing with a fire event and its aftermath. Other potential firefighters will assume a health care route and work as EMTs or paramedics before they apply to become firefighters.

There may also be a preference for selecting former military for admissions to police and firefighter academies. Applicants with language skills, such as strong oral and written communication skills in English, plus an additional language, are usually given a higher rank for admissions. Most applicants think Spanish is the only language to study; however, there is an enormous need in policing and emergency services for any of the languages spoken in Asia, from Arabic to Urdu, and a less common language may be an asset when applying.

For both police officers and firefighters, the job opportunities are available and will steadily increase, but applicants need to meet, and often far exceed, the minimums for entrance into these occupations.



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