THE FIRE ACADEMY
The Ultimate Guide
You're thinking about becoming a firefighter.
Good for you!
And you wanna know more about the fire academy.
Understandable. You want to know more stuff like:
- How long is the fire academy?
- How much does the fire academy cost?
- What are the fire academy requirements?
- Can I attend the fire academy online?
- How to prepare for fire academy?
I can relate, because I had some of the same questions as you do before I went to the firefighter academy.
What if I could tell you insanely detailed answers to those questions and more?
All of your uncertainty and doubt would vanish in an instant.
This is crazy...
I'm going to answer all of your questions and you'll know exactly everything you need to know about the firefighter training academy.
Let's start off with why you need to go to firefighter school.
This will earn you your firefighter certification.
If you've haven't learned already, it's what's required to become a firefighter. You can learn more about how to become a firefighter here in this post.
Each state has regulations, laws, rules, whatever you want to call them.
Well, each state has basic fire fighting training requirements.
You have to pass the state testing process in order to be a fireman.
In order to sit for the state test, you gotta pass firefighting school.
It's like once an attorney passes graduate school, they then have to take the state Bar exam to practice law in that state.
Don't know why I mentioned attorneys... what do you call 1,000 attorneys at the bottom of the ocean?
Sorry, I'll get back on track...
The firefighting academy teaches you the state fire training requirements.
It's usually regulated through the State Fire Marshall with the state fire training manual.
Once you have your state fire training, passed the state exam, and have your firefighter certification, you can then start applying for firefighter jobs.
That's why it's such an important step in becoming a firefighter.
Okay, we've talked about why you need firefighter school completed and passing the state exam.
But what exactly is this certification?
Here's the deal...
The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) makes recommendations to fire departments on firefighter requirements.
They recommend a sort of national firefighter certification through a rule called NFPA 1001 Standard for Fire Fighter Professional Qualifications.
It covers the minimum job performance requirements for career and volunteer fire fighters whose duties are primarily structural (buildings) in nature.
Wooh, the human resources manager just came out of me with that sentence!
There are actually two certifications that most states mandate:
- Firefighter 1 certification
- Firefighter 2 certification
You might be wondering...
What are the firefighter 1 certification requirements?
Here's what the Firefighter I certification requirements are:
- Basic firefighting skills and knowledge
- National Incident Management System (NIMS) - ICS 100 & ICS 700
- Wildland firefighter training
- Total contact hours - approximately 300 hours
Basically, firefighter I certification teaches you the bare minimum firefighting training.
So then what's the Firefighter II certification requirements you ask?
- Advanced firefighting skills and knowledge
- EMS First Responder (basic first aid)
- Total contact hours - approximately 300 hours
It get's worse...
I'm sorry to confuse you, but I gotta cover this.
Some states don't have the firefighter one certification, only firefighter two certification.
When you attend fire school in these states, firefighter one is all incorporated into the firefighter two certification training.
A few states, like California, will be doing away with the fire fighter 1 and firefighter 2 in 2017.
They will make it easier for everyone and just have one firefighter certification titled Fire Firefighter Certification.
When you go down and talk to the admissions staff of the fire academy, they have all the details on which certification you'll get.
You can also search Google for your state firefighter training requirements.
Some states have an agreement with Pro Board.
When you pass the state firefighter test, you'll also earn your Pro Board firefighter certification.
Now that we've covered that, let's get into the fire academy requirements to get in.
There are two sets of requirements to attend fire fighting academy.
One is the state and the other is the academy's.
Each state has their own set of minimum requirements.
For the sake of discussion, I'll review Florida's.
- 18 years of age or older
- Be a high school graduate or possess a high school General Equivalency Diploma (GED)
- Submit to a background investigation as prescribed by the state of Florida to determine an applicants moral character
- Pass a medical exam to evidence acceptable physical condition
- Certification as an Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) or Paramedic (EMTP)
- Valid drivers license
These are very common for all states.
Some states do not require EMT or EMTP certification prior to the fire academy, but it's good to have if you want to get hired by a fire department.
The non-tobacco use is for the state's Heart and Lung Bill.
While the majority of states have this requirement, it's also just healthier not to use tobacco products if you want to be a firefighter.
You can check your states minimum requirements by Googling it or check with your local fire academy.
Not only do you have to meet the states requirements, you'll have to meet the firefighter school requirements as well.
To continue with Florida, I'll use Hillsborough Community College (HCC) requirements for an example. It's located in Tampa in case you were wondering.
- Comply with state of Florida requirements
- Submit a completed HCC fire academy application
- Submit copies of transcripts from all academic institutions attended
- Successfully pass a physical abilities test (PAT) consisting of the following:
- Completing 30 sit-ups within 1 minute
- Completing 25 push-ups within 1 minute
- Completing a 1 1/2 mile run within 15 minutes and 54 seconds
I have to mention that the PAT is not the same as the CPAT.
The PAT is strictly for entrance into the academy while the CPAT is for hiring purposes.
Also, it's common that you must first apply to the community college or technical school before applying to the academy.
Now that you know what the requirements are, let's talk about how long is firefighter academy.
I get this question.
You got a life. Maybe kids and a spouse too.
You want to change careers and need to do it before you go crazy.
Or, you just graduated high school and your parents are on your case.
They are constantly telling you to do something with your life instead of playing video games all day long.
Here's the crazy part...
Fire academy length will depend on you!
You can attend part time or full time.
For those of you that don't have to worry about a full time job, going to the fireman academy full time may be a good option.
I'm going to stay with Hillsborough Community College fire academy for illustration purposes.
Going full time is 16 weeks.
That's Monday through Thursday, 0700 to 1600 hours.
At least you'll get a three day weekend!
For those that need to work full time or have other strong time commitments, attending part time will take you 22 weeks to complete.
You'll go Monday and Wednesday from 1800 to 2300 hours. And Saturday from 0800 to 1900 hours.
Not too bad for those of you working Monday through Friday.
So now this gives you a good insight into how long fire academy training is.
Moving on to firefighter school cost.
Is this going to break the bank?
It's an important thing to plan for.
So let's get right to it, how much does the fire academy cost?
You guessed it, HCC again...
Here's their cost breakdown:
- Tuition $2,945
- Textbooks $208
- Uniform $85
- Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) with SCBA Facepiece Rental $680
- State application fee $50
- Fingerprint processing fee $50
- Total cost: $3,998
It's not cheap.
But considering what it costs for a Bachelors degree and getting a job, it's not bad in comparison.
You can save some money by volunteering at a local department. Then you don't have to pay the PP rental fee.
Also, you can buy the books somewhere else and not at their expensive bookstore. Online sites are a good option.
So you can save a few bucks here and there if you want.
Some institutions have different types of financial aid, it's worth checking into if need be.
Next is reviewing the curriculum that you'll learn.
Your fire academy training will cover three main parts...
- Firefighter physical training
- Firefighter knowledge training
- Firefighter training drills
Let's talk about each on in detail.
If you haven't already realized, you gotta be in some sort of decent physical shape.
That minimum physical ability test is very minimal.
Most fire departments will require you passing a more intense physical test to get hired.
It's called the CPAT.
If you want to pass the Candidate Physical Ability Test (CPAT), you're going to have to do some firefighter physical training.
While the fire school will not teach you how to pass the CPAT, it'll help you prepare in doing some physical exercises.
- Walking up stairs with PPE and firefighting equipment
- Raising ground ladders
- Pulling charged hose lines
What's the bottom line?
Get in excellent physical shape!
This is where you'll gain the formal education on the basics of firefighting.
You might be wondering...
What will I learn?
These are some of the topics that you'll learn:
- Fire Service Orientation and culture
- Fire chemistry
- Building construction
- Firefighter safety
- Methods of fire control and suppression
- Use and construction of fire hose and appliances
- Use and construction of fire service ladders and application
- Fire department communications
- Rescue operations
- Fire prevention initiatives
Here's the deal...
This is just like being back in high school.
You'll have firefighter training videos to watch.
You'll have written tests.
Homework and plenty of reading is required.
There are firefighter 1 study guides that'll help during school.
That goes for firefighter 2 study guides too.
This is the fun part!
Starting at the very basic individual skills in the beginning, you'll progress to company (team) skills.
Individual skills include tying knots, how to use your SCBA (breathing equipment), and how to throw ladders.
Gradually, you'll transition to company operations.
These firefighter training drills include stretching hose lines to upper floors of buildings.
At the end, you'll be doing skills with several companies operating at the same time.
But here's the kicker...
There's plenty of realistic fire training with smoke and fire.
Academies these days have some pretty amazing firefighting training props.
The fire fighter academy will absolutely prepare you for the job!
Okay, you're still interested if not excited to start. What's next...
I'll cover the application process next.
There are two routes that you can take.
If you want to join a large department like Los Angeles, getting in the fire academy is a different route than most fire departments.
You first have to get hired with LAFD and then they send you to their own academy.
To apply, you'll have to take these steps:
Meet Minimum Requirements
- Be at least 18 years old
- Graduate from high school or have a GED
- Passing score on the Firefighter Candidate Assessment (CFA)
- Pass the Candidate Physical Abilities Test (CPAT)
- Valid California Driver's License
- Valid EMT certificate
Complete Online City Application
- Make sure you apply during their open application period
Complete an Interview
- Behavior based interview on your personal history
- Must pass with at least a 70%, the higher the better your chances of getting in
Pass a Background Investigation
- Attend the background appointment
- Pass the field investigation
- Pass the records check
Pass a Review of Qualifications
- Completed by representatives from the fire department
- May interview again (training, experience, personal qualifications)
Pass a Medical and Psychological Evaluation
So that's what it's like to apply to a very large department.
Now for the others and most common process...
The majority of fire academies will not follow that detailed and lengthy application process.
You might be wondering what that process is...
I'll continue with the HCC application process:
- Apply to Hillsborough Community College
- Provide transcripts of all college transcripts
- Provide a copy of high school diploma or GED
- Contact an advisor
- Take and pass the Physical Abilities Test (PAT)
- Take the Test of Adult Basic Education (TABE)
- Take the Post-secondary Education Readiness Test (PERT)
- Apply for state certification
- Provide copy of EMT or EMTP certificate
- Register for the Fire Academy
So there you have it.
Two ways to get into the firefighting training academy.
Just remember that it takes follow through by getting all those required items.
Don't give up, you can do it!
But can you obtain online fire certifications?
There are some states that approve online firefighting classes.
I know this is crazy...
You can even attend an online fire academy and EMT training.
How does the fire academy online work?
Let's get into the details.
It's almost the same process as going to a 'normal' fire academy.
The requirements, classes, hours, material, ect.
The only difference is that you take the classroom portion online.
Some organizations give you up to a year to complete the online portion.
You can even work at your pace.
Once the online portion is completed, you'll then travel to their training site.
There, you'll complete the training drills.
This is typically for a couple of weeks.
Some organizations give you up to six months after completing the online phase to complete the hands on training phase.
For planning purposes, it could take you up to 18 months to complete the entire program.
But here's the kicker...
Make sure your state recognizes the training site.
You may even attend online at another state and transfer you firefighter certification to your home state.
Make sure your home state has reciprocity for the training state though.
In other words, will they honor that academy's state training?
If not, you just wasted a lot of money and time.
To find out, you can Google it or check with your State Fire Marshall's office.
Don't rely on the online institution to say 'yeah, it's not a problem... sign up now!'
This post is getting pretty long, so I'll finish it up with some fire academy tips.
You're motivated to become a fire fighter, just read this post, and now want to find your nearest fire academy.
Who offers the fire training academy?
Your local community college, technical or vocational school, and your state fire college provide this training.
Google it and check out the results.
I can't tell you which one is the best.
But what's the bottom line?
Make sure the institution is recognized (approved training site) by your state.
Otherwise, it's just a waste of time, money, and effort.
Once you're accepted in the academy, you'll most likely attend an orientation held by the academy.
Their, they will tell you specific details like:
- What books are required
- The proper uniform
- Reporting time and location
- Proper instructor communication
- Any additional equipment needed (ropes, notebooks, journal, ect.)
The primary thing you can do to prepare yourself for fire fighting school is getting in shape.
Start jogging, doing sit-ups and push-ups. Physical exercise and eating healthy is a good start.
The fire academy experience is amazing!
You'll make some great friends that'll last your entire fire service career.
Just keep in mind that you're there to learn, so make the best of it.
Don't think when you're done with fire fighting training in the academy that you're done training.
During your career, you'll spend countless hours training. It's a crucial part of being a firefighter.
Starting out as a fire recruit in a fire department will require dedication and motivation to train.
Learn to love it!
Remember, even though you attained the firefighter certification requirements, you still have to go to work learning the job every shift.
Lives depend upon it!
Want to know the best part?
You've just learned everything there is to know about firefighters school!
I hope you learned some things that'll help you.
If you could do me a favor and share this with your friends...
I'd appreciate it!
And let me know what you think by leaving a comment.
Any suggestions, feedback, and thoughts are welcome.
Thanks for all you support!