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Zach Sprys Tellner ’17 and Ryan Kerry ‘10 Discuss Firefighting and Paramedics Career With Students

On Monday, April 22, 2024, Zach Sprys Tellner ‘17 and Ryan Kerry ‘10 discussed the benefits of becoming a firefighter and paramedic with Catholic Central students as part of the school’s career speaker series.  

“Our job is to make sure people are safe and get discharged to go home. We really are like a mobile ER. Our ambulances carry thousands of dollars of medical equipment. We can do just about anything the ER can, minus imaging and bloodwork,” stated Tellner.  

During their presentation, Tellner and Kerry discussed the different types of fire they fight and how they are started. They also discussed what it’s like to respond to 911 calls.  

Although Tellner and Kerry respond to a wide variety of calls, 88 percent of the call volume in Metro Detroit is medical related.  

They also discussed the types of certifications a firefighter and paramedic must have, including EMT, paramedic license, CPR, ACLS, and PALS certifications.  

The two explained that most firefighters work a rotating Kelly schedule that is department specific. They discussed the benefits of working 24-hour shifts, which are from 8 a.m. to 8 a.m. at their current department.  

“We only work 10 days (about 1 and a half weeks) a month. You don’t have to drive into work every day and there is lots of time to bond and hang out with shift mates. You also have time to go back to school or seek secondary employment,” stated Kerry.  

They also discussed what their daily schedule looks like as well as special teams students can become part of, such as the Wayne County Hazmat, SWAT, and USAR, swift water and ice rescue teams, specialized units, and Detroit Fire Boat and Airport ARFF units. They noted that most specialized units require employees to be on call 24/7, 365.  

You must also be in good physical shape. “If you guys like physical training, this is an ideal job,” stated Kerry.  

Also, during the presentation, the pair discussed compensation and benefits, explaining that the average top out salary is $80,000 to $110,000 as a basic firefighter or medic and increases with promotions that range up to $150,000. 

“One of the greatest things about being a firefighter is the retirement benefits you get. This helps set your future up for you and your family, while making a competitive wage. I can personally retire at 46 and if something happens to me, that pension gets passed on to my wife,” stated Tellner. “There is also retiree health care for you and your family or retirement savings plans as well as paid continued education. Northville pays for up to a master's degree.”  

Tellner and Kerry discussed the path students can take to become firefighters. Tellner explained that he went to Schoolcraft college and his program only took 2.5 years. He graduated with minimal to no debt and was fully certified for the job.  

Kerry obtained his bachelor's degree, which offers more in-depth education, but comes with student debt in some cases. “Obtaining a BA degree offers many benefits, but it’s not required. You can still make a good salary without going to college,” stated Kerry.  

“Do your homework. Some programs will sponsor you and pay for your schooling,” added Tellner.  

The two wrapped up their discussion by explaining why students should pick firefighting as their career and how Catholic Central helped prepare them. 

Both reiterated that competitive pay and benefits that set you up for life with minimal school required were among the top reasons to pick this career field.  

The job also offers a fast-paced work environment with no day being the same, appreciation from the community, freedom to make your own schedule, and helping others in their time of need.  

“There is a common misconception with police officers who are there to get you in trouble, but not us. We show up and people love us. Being a firefighter also helps shape you into a well-rounded individual and creates a bond with your coworkers that is unmatched. You’re treated like family,” explained Tellner.  

“The way you’re being prepared as young men at CC is unmatched. It truly does show the type of people that come out of CC. At the end of the day, CC taught us the high levels of education we needed to excel. It taught us to be professional and excel in the workplace setting. It taught us life skills that make us successful in our careers, such as time management, study skills, communication skills, teamwork, and how to work well with others. But most importantly, CC taught us brotherhood, a pillar at CC and in the fire service.” 

“If you’re interested, be proactive. Reach out and find mentors, ask questions, and educate yourself on what path and department is the best for you. Do a ride along and buy into the process. If you don’t buy into it, you won’t succeed,” advised Terry. 

The two explained that now is the perfect time to become a firefighter because there is a shortage of people applying for these positions.  

“It’s a buyer’s market when it comes to employment in the fire service, all due to lack of education on the job and the benefits it offers. When I was at CC, everyone was preaching about becoming a doctor or lawyer. This is a great job that offers you a lot of benefits. Get your certificates and you can go wherever you want,” stated Kerry and Tellner.  

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