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Helping you find a career in the Emergency services industry

The emergency services is a category which includes the ambulance service, fire & rescue service, police force and emergency planning. The emergency services offer an extremely wide range of career options – both for school leavers and university graduates. Increasingly, emergency services agencies have been recruiting university graduates (for instance, paramedics).

All emergency services focus on keeping the public safe and reacting to emergency situations. Roles can be both physically and emotionally demanding, but also can be extremely rewarding – emergency services have counselling and chaplaincy services available to their staff to help them deal with the aftermath of difficult situations. While most emergency services positions are involved in the frontline delivery of those services, there are also more office-based positions (for example emergency medical dispatchers / emergency planning). Most emergency services positions require shift work, so hours can be quite variable.

Emergency planning is the least well-known of the four emergency services areas, it revolves around developing procedures to plan for threats such as terrorist incidents, industrial accidents and severe weather. There is also an element of training and guidance for businesses and other organisations.

Most positions in the emergency services are recruited for on a local basis – for instance, paramedics are recruited by their local ambulance service NHS Trust (e.g. London Ambulance Service NHS Trust / East Midlands Ambulance Service NHS Trust) – the best approach is to check your local ambulance service NHS Trust’s website for details of how to apply.

The police force has both general recruitment schemes for the 43 local forces (https://www.police.uk/forces/) and also a graduate-specific programme (Police Now).

If you are looking to apply for a role in the fire & rescue service, you should check your local fire & rescue service’s website for details on how to apply. You can find your local service by checking the National Fire Chief’s Council listing.


Skills & interests required for a career in Emergency services
Frontline roles in the emergency services will involve constant interaction with the public during difficult or crisis moments. You will need to be confident at dealing with people and able to be calm and clear under significant amounts of pressure. In the police force and fire & rescue service you will also need to pass stringent physical fitness tests during the applications process for frontline positions. Many police forces will insist that you possess a driving licence (although London’s Metropolitan Police does not).

Paramedics will need to have a keen interest in human health and physiology. Police Constables are going to have to be highly observant and attention to detail will be very important.
Graduate schemes & other typical career progression routes in Emergency services
All emergency services employees work in the public sector, and progression to different pay bands / grades is based on regular assessment of technical skills and experience.

Police force:

  • All trainee Police Constables in England & Wales will study the 2-year Initial Police Learning and Development Programme (IPLDP) as part of the initial training process. In Scotland you will study the 2-year Probationer Training Programme. In Northern Ireland you will complete the 23-week Student Officer Training Programme (SOTP).
  • Once you have completed the various training programmes, you will be a fully-fledged Police Constable. From then on there is a sequence of ranks from Constable up to Chief Constable, and will be able to specialise in different disciplines (e.g. Criminal Investigations Department – CID).
  • In England, Northern Ireland and Wales there is the High Potential Development Scheme (HPDS) which is designed to spot officers who have the right capabilities for senior roles.
Ambulance service:

  • All trainee paramedics must be registered with the Health & Care Professions Council, which will be directed through your employer ambulance service NHS Trust. There will be Continuous Professional Development (CPD) opportunities throughout your career, which might entail attending a variety of short courses and conferences.
  • Once qualified, a paramedic can progress up to senior paramedic and emergency services team leader while remaining a hands-on paramedic. Further progression might include taking a management role in a control room. On the other hand, you might be able to become an emergency care practitioner – based at a specific GP surgery, healthcare centre or hospital A&E department.
Fire & rescue service:

  • Basic firefighter training can take between 12-18 weeks before you will be moved onto a 2-year probationary programme which will involve additional training as well as getting hands-on experience as a member of a firefighting crew. After completion and as you continue your career as a firefighter you will still have opportunities to develop your knowledge and understanding through a mixture of Continuous Professional Development opportunities for short courses.
  • Progression within the fire & rescue service is based on individual assessment of skill-set and experience. Typically, as you progress you will gain responsibility for managing crews, stations and brigades successively.
Tips for getting into the field
  • Speak to your careers department to discuss your interest in working in the emergency services department. They will be able to offer you advice based on your personal skill-set and can potentially suggest specific resources which you can access about your local area’s emergency services.
  • Consider a period of work shadowing or volunteering. For instance there are a number of voluntary caring positions which can give you helpful skills to bring to an application for the ambulance service (e.g. St. John Ambulance or working in a care home).
  • Try to get First Aid trained – this will be a vital skill across the emergency services and will also display your commitment to your application.
How much can graduates earn in Emergency services?
All emergency services positions will operate a system of pay scales based on Bands.

Ambulance Service:

  • A trainee paramedic will start as NHS Band 5 (£21,000 to £28,500). Senior paramedics will be in Band 6 (£26,000 to £35,000). A senior-level consultant paramedic will be in Band 8c (£56,000 to £68,500).
Police Force:

  • Police Constables in England, Wales and Northern Ireland have a starting salary between £19,971 and £23,124. In Scotland, Police Constables starting salaries are £24,204.
  • If you join via the Police Now graduate scheme, your starting salary will be £23,124. Depending on which force you are allocated to you could also receive location allowances of up to £6,735.
  • As a Police Constable your salary can progress up to £38,382 plus allowances. In more senior management positions, such as Inspector you can earn between £49,176 to £53,340.
Fire & Rescue Service:

  • A trainee firefighter will start on £22,017. Once you have fully qualified, this rises to £29,345. With several years’ experience you can progress to station manager, earning between £37,842 and £41,737. Throughout your time as a firefighter you will be able to increase your earnings through taking overtime work.
What qualifications do I need for a career in Emergency services?
You can apply for any of the emergency services without an undergraduate degree, although particularly for paramedics an HND or degree in an HCPC Registered Course is becoming essential.

To enter the Police Now programme, you will need to have (or be on the way to attaining) a 2:1 undergraduate degree (although there is no preference for different subjects).
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