Uniformed career moves
We outline the transition process and what you can expect from roles in different services.
Service-leavers may still have an appetite for public service after their Forces career ends. The emergency services hold many parallels and the comfort of familiarity with modus operandi close to that found in Military careers. What’s more, there are many varied opportunities to help broaden your job search to include uniformed services such as coastguard, mountain rescue and prison officers.
By Gary Buswell
A good time to search for an emergency services career?
For those leaving the Armed Forces and looking for a new challenge, working in the emergency services sector can provide a quick and suitable transition. Not only does it offer ex-Forces personnel the chance to continue to perform vital and much needed work, the skill set required for emergency service work is closely aligned with that which Service-leavers have spent years developing.
If you decide to pursue an emergency services career, you will find a wealth of opportunities spread across several disciplines and suitable for all skill levels. Many roles offer flexibility so that you can fit around existing commitments, as well as enticing career progression opportunities. Jobs with police, ambulance and fire services can range from dog handlers to ambulance drivers, while from a broader ‘uniformed jobs’ perspective, there are also roles in mountain rescue, coastguard and prison service to consider.
The Covid-19 pandemic has put added pressure on some of our emergency services. The NHS continues to report shortages including ambulance and emergency call handler jobs, while fire service workers have found their roles extended to delivering emergency medical and food supplies in many areas. With the pandemic likely to continue to affect lives into 2021 and possibly beyond, this could be the perfect time for Service-leavers to step up to the challenge.
Current shortages in the emergency service sector
Shortages in emergency services tend to vary by region across the UK. The biggest overall shortages in recent years have been in ambulance services, with both ambulance drivers and emergency medical staff in high demand. The 2019/20 Prospects report on skills shortages in the UK identified medical staff shortages in almost every area of the UK. More recently, a report by the Nuffield Trust in May 2020 found that continued ambulance staff shortages were actually leading to increased response times.
Beyond ambulance services, opportunities can also be found in:
- police services – the Government’s recently announced drive to recruit an additional 20,000 police officers has opened up new vacancies across the country.
- fire services – shortages exist in some local regions, with areas such as Bedfordshire reporting a 12% drop in staffing levels due to Covid-19.
- prison services – shortages have been reported in different regions including London and in Edinburgh.
Why Service-leavers are well-suited to emergency services roles
Service-leavers provide a unique talent pool that greatly benefits the emergency services sector. In many ways they are ready-made candidates for a variety of roles. As a Service-leaver, you will be well used to the rigid structure of uniformed services and will have developed the ability to find that balance between following instructions within a chain of command and knowing when to exercise your own initiative.
Skills that are valued in the emergency services that Service-leavers are likely to excel in include:
- Teamwork – all emergency services positions require the ability to be a team player, fulfilling your own duties and supporting colleagues to work towards a common objective.
- Discipline and attention to detail – you need to be switched on at all times and focused on giving your best as, just as with your Forces duties, mistakes can be fatal.
- Communication and interpersonal skills – this includes the ability to communicate effectively with workmates as well as being able to reassure members of the public or diffuse problematic situations.
- Making decisions under pressure – your Forces experience will have equipped you with this essential skill for weighing up high-pressure situations and taking decisive action.
The following notes cover some of the civvy uniformed roles you might be suited to…
Careers in police services
Policing isn’t just about being a bobby on the beat. There is a wide range of police service jobs within the 50 regional police forces across the UK, as well as roles within specialist forces such as the British Transport Police.
Roles available: Entry level roles include police constable (PC), emergency call handler, dog handler, scenes of crime officer and enquiries officer. More senior level and specialist roles include police inspector, superintendent, counter-terrorism officer, crime scene investigator, and working for units such as fraud investigation or the drug squad.
Entry requirements: There is no standard entry level for police work and regional services are free to set their own requirements. Entry level PC roles can be accessed through a three year apprenticeship while graduates and those with relevant professional experience can apply for senior positions through the Police Now scheme.
Salary: The scale for PC jobs is around £20,000 – 38,000 per year. Inspector salaries are between £50,000 – 60,000. Superintendent salaries are £68,000 – 89,000. Emergency call handler salaries are around £20,000 – 25,000.
Career progression: Those who start off at entry level can rise through the ranks to senior and managerial roles or train for more specialist work.
How to apply: You can find information at Joining The Police: www.joiningthepolice.co.uk and the College of Policing: www.college.police.uk
Check Police Now:
www.policenow.org.uk for information on senior positions
Careers in the fire service
Work in the fire service involves tackling blazes, carrying out rescue services and giving fire safety presentations within the local community. Each area of the UK has its own fire service which deals internally with recruitment.
Roles available: The main entry level role is as a trainee firefighter. Some less populated rural areas employ retained firefighters, who perform the same role as ordinary firefighters but operate on an on-call basis and often have other jobs.
Entry requirements: There is no national minimum requirement to become a trainee firefighter. Some stations may ask for a minimum number of GCSEs. You will need to pass medical tests and complete an induction that lasts around 16 weeks. Some fire services offer fast-track schemes into senior and managerial posts for graduates and those with relevant experience.
Salary: Trainee firefighters start off on around £23,000 rising to £31,000 when fully trained and experienced. Station manager and area manager roles can pay between £40,000 – £60,000.
Career progression: Dedicated firefighters can progress to managerial positions including crew manager, watch manager, station manager and regional manager.
How to apply:
Careers in ambulance services
A role in the ambulance service can be very rewarding if you’re an effective communicator and can handle a high-pressure environment where quick thinking is paramount. Services are run by NHS trusts across the UK.
Roles available: Entry level roles include emergency care assistants (ECA) who drive ambulances and assist paramedics, patient transport service (PTS) drivers who provide non-emergency transport and emergency medical dispatchers who handle 999 calls. Senior roles include paramedics and emergency medical technicians who provide treatment in both emergency and non-emergency situations.
Entry requirements: All entry-level roles are open to applicants with a minimum of three GCSEs, with a clean driving licence needed for positions involving driving a vehicle. Paramedic roles require a degree-level qualification in paramedic science, which can be taken as part of an apprenticeship or on-the-job training.
Salary: Entry level job salaries currently range between £18,000 – 25,000. Paramedic and senior paramedic salaries range between £31,000 – 38,000.
Career progression: ECA and call-handler roles offer the chance to progress towards team leader or supervisor positions, or transition to paramedic roles with the necessary training. Paramedics and experienced medical technicians can look to progress to specialist medical care roles or working within the air ambulance division.
How to apply: Information is available on NHS websites such as: www.jobs.nhs.uk and
Step into Health
For Service-leavers interested in an NHS career, there is a tailored programme called Step into Health. This was launched in 2014 and is aimed at supporting Service-leavers to move into NHS employment by providing career development, job matching and job finding services to help ex-Forces staff make the best of their skills and find suitable roles.
Careers in the coastguard
Roles available: Coastguard watch officer, coastguard watch assistant.
Entry requirements: No formal qualifications or experience are required for entry level positions, although you may need basic literacy and numeracy skills and seagoing experience. It’s possible to start off in a voluntary capacity or as a watch assistant if you want to gain more experience.
Salary: £17,000 – 32,000.
Career progression: Opportunities for promotion are mainly into senior roles such as watch manager or sector manager. It’s also possible to progress into marine surveying work with the right training.
How to apply: You can find information on the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) at: www.gov.uk
Careers in the prison service
Roles available: Prison officer, prison support officer, probation officer, youth justice worker.
Entry requirements: Prison officer and youth justice worker roles are offered as entry level positions, although those with relevant qualifications or experience can apply for higher salary roles. Probation officers need either a qualification in probation work or be willing to undertake the Professional Qualification in Probation (PqiP).
Salary: Prison officer salaries are between £22,000 – 30,000. Youth justice worker salaries are between £23,000 – 31,000. Probation officer salaries are between £22,000 – 40,000.
Career progression: Prison service jobs offer the chance to progress into more senior and managerial roles with the right level of service and training. Salaries for these jobs are typically £50,000 or more.
How to apply:
Working in mountain rescue
Mountain rescue teams provide emergency rescue services across England, Scotland and Wales. Mountain rescue workers are volunteers who operate on an on-call basis supporting injured or stranded people on mountains, hills and moorlands. Volunteering as a mountain rescue worker is a great way of providing an essential service and gaining valuable experience if you are thinking of taking up paid work within the emergency services. Find more information at:
www.mountain.rescue.org.uk (England and Wales) and