Press release

Ryan Murray's path to firefighting with Colchester Institute's support

Ryan Murray Grays Firefighter Wholetime

An Essex firefighter has shared some advice to anyone who doesn’t meet the academic qualifications for the role, ahead of applications opening again this summer.

Before applying to become a wholetime firefighter, applicants must have a GCSE pass at grade C or 4 (or above),or have attained Functional Skills (Level 2) in Maths and English.

Firefighter Ryan Murray from Grays Fire Station didn’t have the required grades so signed up with Colchester Institute to help him achieve a C in Maths. 

Much like the job itself, Ryan credits the course with the benefits of being able to fit around having a family. 

Ryan said: “What I enjoyed most about the classes was the flexibility. I have a family so I was able to work around school pick up times for my little boy, while also being able to do the course.

“There is a lot of work to do, but the homework is not like your old school scary homework. It was a maximum one or two pages that you had to complete before the next lesson.

“I was a little bit worried coming up to my exam day that I’d forget everything that I learned. So, I requested a two-day crash course, and my tutor kindly arranged for me to have this so that all the stuff I learned was fresh in my head, ready for the exam.”

Firefighters need a good level of Maths for many different reasons, including understanding heights and angles for pitching ladders, calculating the amount of time they can wear breathing apparatus sets for and working out how much water they have at an incident. 

Ryan recommends anyone wanting to become a wholetime firefighter who might be put off by not having the qualifications to sign up to Colchester Institute.

He said: “It’s a short amount of time, and it’s not as hard as you think it’s going to be. It’s really accommodating to your needs.

“Times have changed and it’s not like the lessons you remember at school. And even if you’ve just come out of school, the classes are really tailored to your learning style.”

To be eligible to apply to be a wholetime firefighter at Essex County Fire and Rescue Service, applicants must:

  • be eligible to work in the UK   
  • be 18 years old on 1 February 2025
  • have a full UK driving licence (manual)   
  • have a GCSE pass at grade C or 4 (or above), or have attained Functional Skills (Level 2) in Maths and English.

Essex County Fire and Rescue Service will be recruiting wholetime firefighters this summer. To find out more about getting the qualifications through Colchester Institute visit:

Colchester Institute takes applications from Essex residents only. Anyone not living in Essex should check with their local college for further details on fees. 

Ryan's story

Hear from Ryan about his experience of getting his qualifications with Colchester Institute

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