How to become a search and rescue worker
You can get into this work through:
- a college course
- an apprenticeship
- applying directly
You can do a college course in outdoor education, rock climbing or first aid to learn some of the skills you'll need to join a rescue team.
You'll still need experience in hill walking and map reading if you want to volunteer for a team after completing your course.
Entry requirements for these courses vary.
You could do a level 4 Specialist rescue operative apprenticeship. This would give you some of the skills needed to work in rescue operations at height or underground, in workplaces like mines, water and power stations.
There are no set entry requirements but it may help you to get in if you have:
- 4 or 5 GCSEs at grades 9 to 4 (A* to C) and A levels, or equivalent, for a higher or degree apprenticeship
You can gain relevant experience via voluntary search and rescue teams such as Mountain Rescue England and Wales or British Cave Rescue Council. Mountain Rescue England and Wales hold recruitment days during the year, which involve going out with team members who assess your suitability for training.
You'll be expected to have experience in hill walking, reading maps and using a compass. You'll also need knowledge of the rescue team's operational area. Other skills like climbing and first aid will be useful, though not essential.
If you're selected, you'll be given training over a 12-month probationary period. It will include:
- search and rescue skills
- first aid
- casualty and stretcher handling
- survival techniques
- navigation, GPS and radio communications
- working with helicopter teams
After 12 months, your colleagues will decide whether you're ready to join them as a full team member.
You may be able to apply directly to specialist rescue worker roles if you've got a lot of experience of search and rescue work, for example from serving in the armed forces, the emergency services or as a voluntary search and rescue worker.
Industries which employ specialist rescue workers include construction, mining, petrochemical, water and energy
For the voluntary search and rescue work you'll be expected to commit a certain amount of your time each month to training and call-outs.
You'll also have to supply most of your own equipment, which must meet the rescue team's safety standards.