What should I study at uni for a career in the emergency services?
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You don’t necessarily need to be a graduate to have a career in the emergency services, though depending on the area you choose to work in, a degree may be either a requirement or an advantage.
If you want to work as a paramedic you’ll need either to get a student paramedic position with an ambulance service trust or to do an approved course in paramedic science at university. Student paramedic posts are increasingly rare, so university study is more likely to be your way in. Find out more about student paramedic positions from our advice on getting into working for the emergency services without a degree.
Course entry requirements vary, but you’re likely to need at least five GSCEs, including English, maths and/or a science, plus at least two A levels. You’ll also need a full manual driving licence. The minimum level of qualification you’ll need to work unsupervised as a paramedic is a diploma in higher education, but many courses are foundation or BSc degrees. Some can be taken part-time and all include plenty of work experience. You can find out more about what you need to do to become a paramedic from our advice on how to get into a career with the emergency services.
Students on full-time courses in paramedic science are not eligible for financial support from the NHS student bursary scheme, which provides means-tested grants and pays tuition fees for students on approved courses in medicine, dentistry and healthcare. However, the NHS has local funding arrangements for paramedic science students with some universities. You can find out whether funding is available for the courses you are interested in by contacting universities directly.
There are no specific subject requirements for either the national Fast Track programme run by the College of Policing or for graduate schemes run by invidividual forces such as the Metropolitan Police. The recruitment process for these programmes is designed to establish whether you have the necessary leadership ability rather than focusing on your degree.
If you apply to the police as a graduate, you are likely to need a 2.1 honours degree to succeed, so if this is your plan, make sure you choose a subject you can do well in. You might be interested in subjects such as law, criminology or sociology, but as long as you meet the criteria, your choice of course won’t make a difference to your chance of success. There are also some specific policing degrees available, though these do not guarantee entry to the force.
You don’t need to be a graduate to become a firefighter, so if you’re planning to go to university and want to join the fire and rescue service afterwards, you don’t need to take account of any recruitment requirements when choosing your course.
There are some relevant degree courses available that have been devised in partnership with local fire services. However, these do not guarantee you a job in the fire and rescue service.
If you want a career in emergency planning, you’re likely to need either a relevant degree or substantial experience in a related area such as the fire or ambulance service. University courses vary in focus and go by different names, covering areas such as disaster management, civil protection, business continuity and resilience as well as emergency planning. You may find that studying geography and/or a science subject at A level will help you to get a university place. Postgraduate qualifications are also available.