Would a career in the emergency services suit me?
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If you can keep a calm head in a crisis, a career in the emergency services could be your calling. Whether you’re in the police or ambulance service, a trainee firefighter or an emergency planner, you’ll need to be a good team player who is capable of handling stress and making decisions under pressure. You’ll also be physically fit and emotionally resilient, with a can-do attitude and plenty of stamina.
Working in the emergency services tends to appeal to people who want variety, are happy dealing with the general public and don’t want the kind of office job that involves being tied to a desk. You’re also likely to need to be willing to work unsocial hours. For example, as a paramedic you will usually be expected to work some shifts on weekends and Bank Holidays, and at night. Police shift patterns vary between forces but you are usually expected to cover a range of shifts, including earlies, lates and nights.
A career in the emergency services offers job satisfaction, good prospects for promotion and progression and access to training and development opportunities. On the downside, it can be stressful and you may have to deal with distressing or dangerous situations. Most emergency services careers are in the public sector, at least to start with, so if you want to begin your career in a commercial environment in the private sector, this is not the most obvious career choice for you. You can find out more about the range of roles available from our advice on jobs and employers in the emergency services.
If you work as a paramedic or emergency care assistant you’ll be involved in responding to a range of situations where patients need care urgently, for example if they have potentially life-threatening injuries caused by a road accident. Here are some of the skills and qualities you’ll need:
- depending on your role, you might need driving skills
- calm, reassuring manner
- capable of using initiative and making sound decisions under pressure
- not squeamish
- good communicator and listener who is willing to work as a member of a team.
As a police officer, you’ll work to maintain law and order. This involves supporting crime prevention initiatives as well as investigating crime, gathering evidence and bringing offenders to court. You’ll need the following skills to succeed:
- capable of a firm but tactful approach
- willing to give and receive instructions and to respond quickly to a situation and take action
- resilience, honesty, confidence, common sense and a responsible attitude.
Firefighters protect and save people and property from fire and other dangers. They also advise and educate the general public about fire prevention. You’ll need the following strengths and characteristics to suit the work:
- able to remain calm in dangerous situations and to inspire confidence when dealing with members of the public
- able to take an assertive approach when needed if there are potential obstacles to your rescue work
- willing to work in very uncomfortable situations, for example, at heights or in enclosed buildings
- able to follow instructions and regulations and write accurate incident reports.
Emergency planners liaise with professionals from different emergency services to prepare plans and procedures to deal with major incidents. They also draw up plans to put preventative measures in place and help to coordinate the response to large-scale emergencies. You’ll need the following skills to be suited to this career path:
- excellent communication skills, as emergency planning often involves liaising with a range of agencies or departments
- capable of analysing complex problems and taking a strategic approach to planning potential solutions
- sound organisational, presentational and project management skills
- you’re also likely to have worked in another area of the emergency services before you move into a planning role.