Tell us about your work -- what do you do? I am employed by the City of Tallahassee Fire Department . I hold the position of Fire Captain. For the past seventeen years, I have worked a twenty-four hours on duty, forty- eight hours off schedule. Recently, I accepted a position as head of Special Operations. I now work a "normal" forty hour week with nights and weekends off: While on line (active fire fighting duty) I began as a fire fighter on the back of a fire engine. I progressed to the Rescue Squad , and then drove the squad for several years. I was promoted to the position of Fire Lieutenant , a supervisory position, or a 'front-line" fire officer. I commanded a fire engine, aerial truck or rescue unit for these years. I was then promoted to the position of Fire Captain , where I not only commanded my own fire engine, but also was responsible for a quadrant of the city and it's fire-fighting equipment, stations and personnel. When I accepted the position of Captain of Special Operations, I became a "desk-jockey" and I am now responsible for coordination of the Hazardous Materials Team , the Technical Rescue Team , The Airport Rescue Fire Fighting Companies , Hose Testing, Hydrant Inspections and anything else that comes across my desk. What skills are needed? To be considered for employment by any State of Florida Fire Department you must complete Fire Training Standards and pass a rigorous mental and physical skills assessment performed by the Florida State Fire College . In addition to this basic requirement, most Fire Departments throughout the state require applicants to be a minimum of Certified Emergency Medical Technician if not a Certified Paramedic . At the time I was hired by the Tallahassee Fire Department, I was not required to have any of the above certifications. I was hired, put on the payroll and run through four hundred and eighty hours of training by the city, then took my state certification test for continued employment. How did you get started in your career? I had been in the building industry all my life, following in my father and grandfather's footsteps. I, at one time, owned half of a statewide general contracting firm. In my mid- thirties, I had a "career crisis" and decided to pursue other types of employment. I went to Florida State University's Career Counseling Center and took a battery of tests to determine which areas I should pursue. The profession of fire fighting kept coming up, so I put in an application with the City of Tallahassee and was, to my surprise, hired. What experience do you need in this job? Many larger municipal fire departments do not require experience, but it normally helps an applicant stand above the competition. Experience (after becoming certified) can sometimes be obtained by working for a smaller, rural fire department. In my position, I have the experience of twenty years of building and seventeen years of fire service. Describe your "typical" workday: My typical work day consists of answering e-mail requests, scheduling and coordinating training for the special operations teams, coordinating the move of the haz-mat team to a new station on the other side of town, compiling lists of hydrants to be tested, maintaining files for ISO purposes and anything else that needs doing! What is the hardest aspect of your job? The hardest aspect of my job has changed from dealing with the "blood and screams" trauma of the streets to dealing with other personalities in supervisory positions. I think the most difficult thing, however, that I have to accomplish is self-motivation. What is the most rewarding aspect of your job? The most rewarding aspect of my job is having the respect of the other people I work with and for. This is accomplished by being honest, forthright and fair in my dealings with everyone. (Even when working "on-the-line" one of the biggest challenges for a manager is dealing with various people, be it your peers or customers.) What are your suggestions for someone considering this field? I would suggest that anyone considering a career in the fire service should talk to some of their local fire-fighters and officers for an insider's view of the profession. Some departments have mentoring, ride-along, citizen fire academy , station tours and fire explorer programs. Get out there, talk to people, and learn all you can before investing a lot of your time and energy in to something that may not suit you. (Yes, firemen bite, but not hard!) Making a career decision is difficult at best, but the more you know and are exposed to, the more educated a decision you will make. Good luck!