Working for the emergency services

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Each day, you are likely to see many of the people doing the jobs featured here – police officers on the beat or in cars and fire officers travelling to an emergency. If you live near the sea, you may see coastguards staffing ships, lighthouses and co-ordinating coastal rescue operations.

However, behind the public face of these services there are thousands of other people doing essential support jobs. They may be in uniform and instantly recognisable or they may be civilians working for the services in a variety of specialist roles. These include accountants, engineers, IT specialists, mechanics, human resources and recruitment specialists, medical staff and those in general administrative jobs.

The Police Service in England and Wales is made up of 43 police forces. Similarly, there are 50 local fire and rescue services, each under the command of a chief fire officer. The Maritime and Coastguard Agency is one of many rescue services who safeguard our wellbeing and deal with emergency situations. There are similar services covering Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

How can I join one of these services?

Simply contact your local police, fire or coastguard headquarters. Vacancies may also be advertised in the local press.

I don't have many GCSEs or other qualifications. Can I still join?

Yes. There are no minimum educational standards specified for many of the jobs beyond a reasonable standard of secondary education. This is to ensure that you can benefit from the training and cope with the part of the job that requires writing reports and understanding instructions.

What about training?

Once you pass the initial assessment, which will include a medical for uniformed positions, you will undertake basic training. For instance, in the police, all entrants have to complete basic training at one of the training schools and pass their probationary period before they can start applying for specialist departments, such as in traffic or special investigation work.

I have a degree. Are there schemes for graduates?

Yes. Graduates entering the emergency services are recruited and trained like all other officers. The police service operates a high potential development scheme to fast track suitable applicants. Specialist staff such as accountants, engineers or forensic experts are recruited at any age and do not have to undergo basic training. Other administrative jobs are available where a degree might be useful or even essential.

Would I have to wear a uniform?

Personnel whose job brings them into contact with the public are usually in the uniformed branch. This enables them to be easily recognisable and provides them with visual authority. In the police, some work in plain clothes either as CID or special branch officers or when on special duties. Civilian employees do not usually wear uniform.

How do I get a civilian job in one of these services?

The same way. Apply to your local police station, coastguard station, fire station or regional authority or watch for advertisements in the local press. Tell them what you would like to do and what experience you have to offer.

Modified: 16 June 2013

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