Can I get into working for the emergency services without a degree?
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The emergency services offer better opportunities to bright, ambitious school leavers than many other professions. There are no national minimum educational requirements in some areas of the emergency services, but you’ll need to pass a series of tough tests and assessments and show that you have the right personal qualities to cope with the demands of the job. You can find out more about the recruitment process from our advice on how to get into a career in the emergency services.
In theory, you can train on the job as a student paramedic with an ambulance service trust, but increasingly these positions are few and far between. It is more likely that you’ll enter the profession by taking an approved course in paramedic science at university. Check with your local ambulance service trust for information about whether any student paramedic positions are available.
Other roles in the ambulance service do not require a degree. You could work as an emergency care assistant, supporting a paramedic within the ambulance team, or as an emergency call handler or emergency medical dispatcher. Emergency care assistants usually need a minimum of around three GSCEs or equivalent. Requirements for emergency medical dispatchers vary, but they typically need GCSEs in English, maths and a science, and may also need a good knowledge of local geography, typing skills and some understanding of medical terminology.
You do not have to be a graduate to join the police force and there are no set national minimum academic requirements. However, you will need to fulfil a range of other requirements, including a fitness test, written exercises and a numerical and verbal ability test. You’ll also need to pass background and security checks. Once you are a serving police constable progression is on merit, and you can apply for the same fast track programme that is open to graduates.
Different police forces have different entry requirements, so be sure to check the criteria for the force you are interested in. In recent years some forces have asked for applicants to have either the Certificate in Knowledge of Policing or experience of policing gained through volunteering, for example as a special constable. In summer 2015 the Metropolitan Police piloted a new requirement for applicants to be able to speak one of a specific list of languages in addition to English. You can find out more about these requirements from our advice on how to get into a career in the emergency services.
You don’t need to be a graduate to become a firefighter. Most services use the national firefighter selection tests. The first stage is a detailed application form assessed against the national criteria for recruitment, which cover qualities such as communication and teamwork. You’ll also need to pass physical tests and an interview. There are no set times when recruitment takes place. You’ll need to contact the service you want to work for and register your interest to find out about vacancies.
In theory you might be able to move into a career in emergency planning without a degree if you build up substantial experience in another area of the emergency services first. You might be able to move from a senior position in the fire or police service into an emergency planning role. However, if you want to be in a good position to apply for emergency planning roles sooner rather than later, you should consider studying for a relevant degree.