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Public Sector & Defence careers

Emergency Services: Land, Air & Coastal

Why get involved with the emergency services?

It really goes without saying that the amazing people who work in the UK’s emergency services have some of the most incredibly important careers out there.

These guys save lives, ensure public safety and help us when we’re in an absolute pickle. If you want an exciting, challenging, adrenaline-soaked career that really makes a profound practical difference to people’s lives, then why not pursue a career in the emergency services?

Without these guys, people would die, society would be overrun with criminals, people would get swept away to sea, burning buildings would never be extinguished and if television has taught us anything, cats would be forever stuck up trees!

What careers are available in the emergency services?

Everyone knows the big players in the emergency services world: the police force, fire and rescue services, and ambulance services. Police officers, firefighters and paramedics are at the true core of the UK’s emergency services.

However, some careers are available within other specialist emergency services too, such as the coastguard and animal control and welfare services.

Another important thing to consider is that not all careers in this area are about working on the front line. You can pursue a vital career in the emergency services without all the sirens and the danger. For instance, emergency planning officers and emergency services control room operators are essential cogs in the emergency services wheel.

In each different emergency services career, you will receive specialist training, but everyone who wants to work in this area has one thing in common: they want to make a difference! If this sounds like you, then keep reading to find out which route is right for you.

What's each service like?

Fire & Rescue

Fire and rescue services provide an essential emergency service that involves rescuing people from burning buildings and extinguishing fires.

However, that’s not all; these guys also play a valuable role in saving people from road traffic accidents, other transport related incidents, industrial accidents, chemical spills, as well as rescuing people trapped as a result of floods and other natural disasters.

The fire service might also provide valuable support in bomb incidents and the rare occurrence of devastating terrorist attacks.

However, it’s not all about towering infernos, cutting people out of cars and holding a big hose. The brave people that work in the fire and rescue service also have wider community responsibilities. Indeed, they play an important part in building relationships with the community, educating the public and promoting fire safety by giving talks and visiting people’s homes.

Working as part of the fire service’s operational staff (i.e. as a firefighter) can be physically strenuous and dangerous. Part of the continuous training process will involve extensive physical training and high intensity drills.

In order to get in you will, therefore, need to be physically fit. You will also need good eyesight and must be over the age of 18 to apply. There are no longer any height restrictions, and men and women can both join the service. You will have to go through a series of written and physical tests too.

Many non-operational careers are also available in administrative, HR, media liaison, equality and diversity officer and community fire safety advocate positions. The work of these people is just as important to running the fire service and saving lives as that of the frontline employees.

There are real opportunities for career progression in the fire service; you might eventually become a station manager, group manager, or perhaps even a chief fire officer on £94,000 per annum.

The fire service is now also operating a Fast Track Scheme, where candidates can get promoted to Station Manager in just four years.

The main thing to remember when you are applying is that each fire and rescue service recruits independently, as the service is provided by its local authority and not a central government department. So find your local station and apply directly to them.

Police Force

Working for the police force is all about reducing crime and reducing fear of crime. It’s not all about boys in blue and truncheons though; there are so many different careers available in the police force. For more information check out the Crime Prevention, Policing & Counter Terrorism subsector now!

Ambulance Service

Working as part of the ambulance service is incredibly rewarding. It’s all about providing emergency response medical care, saving lives and making a real difference. However, it’s not all about sirens and CPR; there are loads of different career options in the ambulance service. For more information check out the Paramedic & Ambulance Services subsector now!


Want to live by the sea? Want to make a difference? Then why not work as a coastguard? The heroic people that work for Her Majesty’s Coastguard Service play an integral role in performing the search and rescue activities (using boats, helicopters etc.) that respond to incidents where people are in distress at sea, or are in danger on the cliffs and shores of the UK.

These guys work on behalf of the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) and provide rapid response and assistance for people in perilous situations in the maritime environment.

Coastguards also collaborate with the MCA’s Counter-Pollution and Response Branch to respond to threats of maritime pollution.

Coastguard officers also provide community education for school children, students and mariners of all kinds.

All Coastguard Rescue Officers are voluntary staff who give up part of their spare time to save lives. Therefore, your paid career with the coastguard might start as a Coastguard Watch Assistant, providing administrative support and working in operations rooms.

You might then progress to work as a Coastguard Watch Officer. These guys keep a watch over coastal activities and coordinate the appropriate emergency response teams when incidents occur. These people will work in one of 19 Maritime Rescue Coordination Centres around the UK’s coastlines and need great communication skills, leadership skills and the ability to stay calm under pressure.

An interest in maritime activity and safety issues would also be a great bonus. There are no specific academic qualifications, but you will need strong literacy, numeracy and I.T. skills.

Animal Control & Welfare

Animal control and welfare services in the UK are restricted to Dog Warden Services. People who pursue careers as a dog warden are responsible for the collection, kenneling and re-homing of stray dogs.

They will also play an important part in dog fouling enforcement and excessive barking incidents.

As well as these operational activities, dog wardens engage with the community and provide essential guidance and education on animal care, welfare and control.

For more information on pursuing a career in this area, it is best to contact your local authority to find out about opportunities.

Emergency Planning

As we mentioned earlier, one of the most important jobs in the emergency services arena is that of an emergency planning officer. These guys are the ones that coordinate the different emergency services in the event of a major crisis.

Emergency planning officers work alongside the different emergency services and make sure that the right plans, procedures and strategies are put in place so that emergencies can be responded to in an efficient and collaborative way.

Their jobs are all about prevention as well as responsive assistance. There are no specific academic entry requirements for these careers; however, you will need excellent communication skills, organisational abilities and the capacity to remain calm under extreme pressure.

Control Room Operators

If you call 999, you will be speaking to an emergency services control room operator. These guys deal with emergency telephone calls, take down and record the necessary information, provide initial advice and then dispatch the appropriate emergency services.

These guys will work for one of the various emergency services and are the first point of contact in emergency situations.

Consequently, they are vital for prioritising which incidents are handled first and ensuring that people are helped quickly and efficiently.

To work in one of these careers, you are going to need to be patient, calm under pressure, decisive and have excellent speaking and listening skills. No specific academic qualifications are required and you might eventually be promoted into supervisor and team leader positions.

So, can you function under immense pressure? Do you reckon you have what it takes, both physically and mentally, to save lives and keep the country from running into anarchy and destruction (okay, maybe that’s a tad dramatic – but you get the picture)? If so, then perhaps you should consider a career in the emergency services!

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