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10 Steps to Becoming a Firefighter - For Military Service Members

10 Steps to Becoming a Firefighter - For Military Service Members

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Step 2: Your Transition Timeline

Believe it or not, you ought to begin planning your transition up to a year before separation. Keeping yourself organized and focused will prevent stress and ensure a smooth shift into civilian life. Bookmark this page and keep the following time line handy as a general guide to what you ought to be focusing on at each step of the way.

One Year Before Separation

• Check out the Reserve and Guard programs – you could earn pay, benefits, and a pension.

• Begin researching your relocation, benefits, job boards, etc. This should include researching fire department hiring schedules in all areas you are considering relocating to. This will cut down on wait time once you leave the service as some departments only hire every few years.

• Contact your Education or Transition Office to take a Job Skills and Interest assessment, to determine the best civilian career field.

• Check out the Career Fields that interest you.

• Start attending Job Fairs to begin networking.

• Meet thousands of firefighters who are former vets on FireLink.

• Contact your TAP or personnel division office for information about your services terminal leave and precede time policies. Note: You can actually check out from your present unit, move, and begin working a new job months before you are officially separated from the service.

• Plan your terminal leave and proceed time to determine how soon you can begin working your new job.

• Join a professional organization or union in your career field.

• Actively pursue using your Military Education and Training Benefits to improve your qualifications.

• Start using’s Resume Builder to develop your resume.

• Contact your medical department to begin scheduling any required physicals.

• Look into mentoring programs such as “Boots to Boots” in the Pacific Northwest, a program where experienced firefighters were asked to step up and help young veterans interested in fire service careers

• Read through the FireLink “”">5 Steps to Becoming a Firefighter" Guide to get up to speed with what civilians need to know about becoming a firefighter.

Eight Months Before Separation

• Contact the fire departments that interest you. Find out what their hiring schedule is and when they run their fire academies (if applicable). Get the name and number of the personnel with whom you spoke.

• Pickup applications and start filling them out. This will take several weeks, since there will be a lot of personal information and history you will need to track down.

• Use the Federal Resume Handbook if you’re planning to apply for a federal job.

Six Months Before Separation

• Contact your Transition Assistance Office for help in beginning the pre-separation process, developing your personal transition plan, filling out the required forms.

• Begin making copies of your medical records – make sure you get the copies certified by your medical office or they will be considered worthless.

• Begin posting your e-resume but be make sure to include your actual date of availability.

• Attend a TAP seminar.

• Continue to attend any job-fairs, seminars and training available in your area.

• Submit your applications to the fire departments you want to apply to (if they are in a hiring cycle).


Photo courtesy of the USAF.

Five Months Before Separation

• Actively research the job market in your chosen geographic area, and career field.

• Make sure you have budgeted and saved enough to get you through your transition.

• Continue to attend job fairs, career fairs, and any TAP related events.

Four Months Before Separation

• Make sure your Verification Education and Training Records (DD2586) are in order.

• Contact your personnel office for assistance with planning your relocation and visit for your free Moving Kit and up to date relocation information.

• Schedule your Separation Physical Exam

• Continue to build your network on FireLink

• Contact your military housing office to begin planning your check-out.

Three Months Before Separation

• If you haven’t already, start putting together your civilian wardrobe.

• Contact your Personnel Office to start the paperwork for your separation and arranging the shipment of your household goods (HHG).

• Contact your base Personal Property Office to schedule an appointment for counseling on your shipment of HHG.

• Work closely with your TAP office and continue to attend any available TAP events.

• Contact a Vet Employment Rep in the area you will be living.

• (Retirees Only – Required by Law) Complete your Survivor Benefit Plan (SBP) paperwork.

Two Months Before Separation

• Continue to actively hunt for job opportunities and send out resumes.
• Verify your DD214. Your DD 214 is the most important document you will ever take away from the military. Any inaccuracies that go un-fixed may cause you to be ineligible for VA benefits, or worse.

• Make sure your DD214 reflects all awards, citations, and MOS information.

• Apply for permissive orders to go house hunting in the area you are planning to move to.

• Make sure your departure physical is correct.

One Month Before Separation

• If you have completed this checklist you should be able to spend the last 30 days taking care of your packing, checking out and getting settled into your new life.

• Remember: Within the first 120 days after separation many of your benefits (Life Insurance, Health Insurance, etc.) expire, so you should check out your options for replacing these benefits ASAP.

Step 3: GI Bill, Education, and Certifications >>

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