HOW TO BECOME A FIREFIGHTER
5 Must Know Steps
So, you want to be a firefighter.
Searching the internet to find out how to become a firefighter is an excellent first step.
But here's the kicker...
You're asking yourself one if not many of these questions:
- What do you have to do to become a firefighter?
- How long does it take to become a firefighter?
- Is it hard to become a firefighter?
- What are the requirements to become a firefighter?
- What do I need to do to become a firefighter?
- What do firefighters do?
- How do you become a firefighter?
- What does it take to be a firefighter?
- What do you need to be a firefighter?
- Is education needed to become a firefighter?
You're not sure where to start.
I get it, I was there once too.
What if I could give you a step-by-step process?
It would answer all your questions and provide you with a solid and proven process.
Want to know the best part?
I'm going to give it to you with ridiculously detailed information.
Read on my friend...
Becoming a firefighter is not easy.
You tell people "I want to be a firefighter" because you've always wanted to be one since you were a kid.
A career firefighter is a great job.
There are no two days the same.
You'll never know what's the next call.
Not only is there the excitement, but there're also benefits of being a firefighter.
A firefighters salary is decent, but you won't become rich from it.
The retirement is pretty good considering what the private sector gets.
And lots of days off, as most firefighters work a 24 hour shift with days off in between.
A firefighter career is a an honorable calling.
Not everyone can run into burning buildings while everyone else is running out.
Serving your community and saving lives in the most physically and mentally challenging conditions is difficult.
Being a firefighter is a very rewarding career, definitely worth the effort.
Now that I gave you an overview of the career, let's get into the meat of the steps to becoming a firefighter
Minimum Firefighter Requirements
You must meet them!
So, what are the requirements to be a firefighter?
The minimum firefighter qualifications are...
You must be at least 18 years old. A few fire departments require you being at least 21, but it's not common.
Not much more explaining here, enough said.
This career is very physically demanding.
Try wearing an extra 60 to 80 pounds of weight.
Then perform very strenuous physical activity.
Like walking up several flights of stairs and then having to light weights.
Then imagine the stress and anxiety of being involved in urgent situations.
And don't forget the smoke and heat like you'd have at a fire.
You gotta be in good physical shape, period.
Yup, you read that right.
You must be a non-smoker. Some states even require non-tobacco use.
It gets worse for those smokers out there...
You must not smoke for at least one year prior to enrolling in the fire academy or getting hired.
This is so that the fire department can cover you under the Heart and Lung Bill.
What's that you ask?
It covers you for some heart and lung diseases that you may develop during and after your firefighter career.
Here's the deal...
They won't hire you - much less let you in the fire academy with serious medical conditions.
As long as you have decent health and good mobility, it won't be a problem.
Oh, I almost forgot...
You must pass the drug test.
I gotta ask you, do you really have what it take to become a firefighter?
This job isn't for everyone.
What I mean is this...
You must have some character traits that set you apart from everyone else.
The public has a strong regard for firefighters.
It must be maintained at all costs with a very strong work ethic and character.
Here's the bottom line...
Integrity, honest, trustworthy, reliable, and accountable.
You gotta admit, who else would let someone in their home, let them go into any part of the their house without question? And when they're not home too!
This is due to the trust the public has in us.
Therefore, you can't break that trust by stealing jewelry, wallets, or financial papers.
Dedication, passion, motivation, ambition, pride, and ownership
In this line of work, you can't get things wrong.
If you mess up or make a mistake, someone's life is at risk.
You must train often, study often, work out often, and strive to be the best.
This is something you can't be taught, you either have it or you don't.
Firefighters work in teams.
There is no self promotion or working by yourself.
Everyone has a specific role and responsibility on the fire ground, and they have to get done.
Working alone and by yourself won't cut it.
A willingness to work with others as a team is essential.
Mechanical aptitude and problem solving
You're going to be faced with problems that require some basic understanding of mechanics.
Not a car mechanic!
I'm talking about how to turn off the water to a home, or throw a breaker to the air conditioner.
Some ingenuity will help too.
Not all problems are the same and you gotta think on your feet.
Tolerance, compassion, thick-skin, and understanding
People call firefighters for anything. Yes, anything and everything.
You need to have to have some tolerance, especially for the elderly.
In your career, you could respond to the same person over and over again.
Sadly, you'll most likely see some pretty bad stuff.
Kids dying. Nothing hurts more than this.
The life in the fire house can be tough, especially for those that can't handle some joking around.
This is how we handle the stress of the job.
We like to have fun.
Pranks and jokes are played on everyone on the firehouse.
Working a 24 hour shift in a fire station can be like living with a brother or sister at home.
While most times are good, sometimes you just don't get along.
There's no leaving or hiding in your bedroom. You gotta learn to deal with it.
If you keep asking yourself "how do I become a firefighter?" after all this, you're the kind of person the fire service is looking for.
Or, I'll put it to you this way...
You need to become a firefighter if you have these character traits.
Okay, you've met the already mentioned minimum firefighter requirements.
Now, some fire departments require additional qualifications.
Unfortunately, I can't tell you exactly which one of these you'll need for the department you're trying to get hired with.
You'll have to check with them.
But, here's the kicker...
I can tell you what most departments like to see.
Emergency Medical Service Qualifications
Most fire departments provide Emergency Medical Services (EMS).
So, not only do you have to be a firefighter, you may also need to have some EMS certifications.
These typically include two types of certifications.
One is emergency medical technician (EMT) and the other is a paramedic (EMTP).
What's the difference you ask?
An EMT provides a basic level of emergency care while a paramedic provides advanced medical care.
Of course, there is a training difference between both certifications.
A few departments will only hire a firefighter paramedic while others will also hire firefighter EMT.
Fire Science Degrees
Progressive and competitive departments may require formal education in addition to the fire academy and EMS certifications.
It's becoming more and more common that departments require at least a two year degree.
It definitely helps if the major is in Fire Science.
A few require a Bachelor's degree.
Being a firefighter is really starting to become a respected profession among government officials.
Hence, formal education is becoming the norm.
You can find out more by reading this ridiculously detailed post.
Experience as a Volunteer Firefighter
While it's not a requirement, being a volunteer firefighter will help in the hiring process.
As a volunteer firefighter, you'll learn the trade and skills to become a firefighter.
The experience gained will be invaluable.
As more and more communities become diverse, being able to speak two languages is a plus.
Again, this is not a requirement, but it'll help set you apart from others during the hiring process.
Fire departments operate and manage in a paramilitary style.
Having a military background is a plus.
Also, you've earned some extra points during the hiring process.
Well deserved I might add!
A few departments require residency requirements.
That is, you must live within a certain distance from the city or county.
Some even give you residency points during the hiring process.
Definitely worth checking with the department you want to get hired with.
Clean Background Check
Cleaner the better!
At every step in the process, you'll have to go through various background checks.
- Fire Academy
- Application process
- Hiring process
- Even after you're a paid firefighter
This is to ensure that you have a positive public image and credibility.
Some of these may knock you out of the process and even disqualified.
It's better to know now than late in the process and wasted all that time and money.
So, you might be wondering, what are they?
You'll have to undergo a FBI fingerprint process.
This is required by almost every state.
They want to know what arrests you have and if you've been convicted as a felon in any state.
If you've got a felony conviction on your record, you can't be a firefighter.
It's all about public trust.
Some of the arrests and convictions that can raise fed flags are...
- Domestic violence
- Sexual battery / assault
- Battery / Assualt
The fire department that you apply with are going to do a drivers license check.
And they will look for everything.
This comes down to risk management.
In plain language, it means are you a liability for them?
Here's the deal...
They are going to look at these three criteria at a minimum:
Do you have any traffic tickets?
If so, what are they for?
- Seat belts
- Careless driving. This one is a huge red flag for the Risk Management Department. This one may eliminate you from the hiring process, but not entirely.
Are they your fault or not?
If they are, how bad was it? And what types and how many tickets did you get?
Everyone has accidents - it's just the severity of it.
And, how many.
One, two, maybe three are okay.
Five, six, seven, more...
Any you want to drive a fire truck with lights and sirens... really???
Yes, the department that you wanna work for will do some sort of personal background check.
Here's the common criteria they will look at:
Employment History. This goes without saying, but someone would complain that I didn't include it in the list.
So here it is. Common enough, I don't think I have to explain this one to you.
Education History. While some employers don't ask for this, it is common for governments to ask for every little detail about you.
So, they wanna know your education history to include every single school you went to, even for a single class.
Credit History. Huh?
It goes back to public trust.
The thought process is that if a firefighter is having and has had financial issues, you may (this is may) be prone to stealing.
Not sure if I agree with this philosophy or not, but some departments do check for this.
Especially as you move up the ranks, you have more access to very large sums of money.
Military History. Wait a minute, you already covered this.
This is crazy...
They want to know if you were honorably discharged or not.
Goes to credibility and reliability.
A department may still hire you, but not the ones that are very competitive to get hired.
Let the firefighter training begin!
If you want to be a firefighter, you're gonna have to learn to love to train.
This is where you'll get your solid foundation of firefighter training.
Things like how to raise a ladder, pull hose lines, tie knots, and learn about fire behavior.
Not rocket science, but important stuff.
This is important, you must check with the department or departments that you want to get hired with for their process.
A common internet search on the departments website will usually do the trick.
I'll say it again, you must check with them.
What's the bottom line...
You don't have to get fire certified on you own.
The majority of departments require you to go to the fire academy on your own.
Then you have to apply to fire departments to get hired.
If you're trying to get hired with those large departments, you'll go through a different hiring process than the others.
The reason is, you're not trained as a firefighter yet.
You'll have to take a Civil Service exam instead of the typical firefighters exam.
Okay, back to steps for the majority of us like myself.
Find a local fire academy.
They can be found at your local community college or technical school.
The process to get in is similar to getting in college.
You'll have to apply to the college.
Don't worry, you'll get in as long as you pay their fees...
They want your money!
Then you'll have to take some aptitude tests.
A good academy will require a medical and fitness exam as well.
They just want to make sure you can handle the physical training.
The academy will give you the following training:
- Physical Training (fitness)
- Firefighter skills training (pulling hose, raising ladders, ect)
- Firefighter knowledge training (fire behavior, radio communications, ect)
This is crazy...
Make sure the fire academy is recognized by your state!
This is because after you pass the fire academy, you'll have to take a state test.
This will earn you your Firefighter 1 and most likely your Firefighter 2 state certifications.
These certifications are required by the local departments and are a state requirement to be a career firefighter.
In a nut shell, the fire academy will teach you how to be a firefighter.
The cost is out of your pocket, not the departments that you'll work for.
I wish I could tell you how much it'll cost, but it varies state by state.
Several thousand dollars is common though.
Not cheap, not cheap at all.
Also, the length can vary if you go to a full time academy or part time.
The part time schedule is great for those of you that are working already.
Typically, it's one or two nights a week and all day on Saturday or Sunday.
Part time may take about six months.
Full time may take about two months.
You can read this post to find out ridiculously detailed stuff on this subject.
Okay, you now know how to be a fireman, what's the next step?
Becoming a career firefighter
Once you have the minimum firefighter requirements, you can start applying for firefighter jobs.
It's common that you'll go through four hiring phases.
But here's the kicker...
You must apply first!
Doesn't do any good if you don't apply to any department, whether it's city or county.
After looking over many prospective firefighter applications on hiring boards, an essential tip...
No peanut butter stains or crumpled applications!
Nothing says unprofessional than that!
I still can't believe someone would actually turn those in like that, but you'd be surprised!
Of course, you'd never do that! LOL
Now that you applied, what's the next step?
Exam time! Study, study, and study some more.
Basically, the departments can take two options.
Option one is to have themselves or their city/county administer the tests.
Option two is to have a private organization administer the tests.
I'll first cover the departments doing it themselves.
The first step is to take a written exam.
The fire department can do the exams themselves or have their Human Resources do it.
It's usually on firefighting and EMS material.
The second step is to take a fitness exam.
The physical agility test will most likely be what's called the Candidate Physical Ability Test (CPAT).
This test measures your physical ability to do the job as a firefighter.
Remember that physical fitness part earlier in this post?
You must be able to physically do the job.
The steps are not the same if a private organization does it.
You might be wondering...
They may have different written testing material.
This usually includes math, mechanical reasoning, reading and communication, and interpersonal skills.
They will even oversee the CPAT.
More detailed than the departments doing it themselves.
More and more departments don't perform the testing and are opting for the private administration.
As lawsuits become more prevalent, the fire service is not alone.
By having an outside evaluation process, it helps validate the process for both you and the department.
The National Testing Network is a prime example.
They will test you on several aptitudes to include...
- Human Relation Skills
- Human Behavior Skills
- Mechanical Aptitude
There is no firefighter exam as you've already taken a state approved exam during your state firefighter certification.
The departments will evaluate the test scores and create a pool of candidates for interviews.
The third step is the same regardless of the previous two steps to this point.
This may be with firefighters, line officers (Lieutenants or Captains), and Chief Officers.
One question that I can bet they will ask you in your interview is "why do you want to be a firefighter?"
Be prepared for it!
Yes, you can and should prepare for the interview.
Dress nice, be polite and say "sir" or "m'am," arrive early, have a resume, and follow up to say thank you afterwards.
You've worked hard to get this point, don't skimp on this step!
Typically, at this point the department will only ask you to undertake a medical exam if they are going to offer you the job.
The reason being is that they are expensive.
So, they will have a finalized eligibility list and select the top scores.d
They will then offer a job contingent on passing their medical exam.
This is at their cost, not yours.
If you pass this, you got the job. Awesome!!!
Review of Becoming a Firefighter
Let the journey begin!
I've told you how to become a fireman.
I've told you the requirements for firefighter.
I've told you how to get hired as a firefighter.
Do you still want to do it?
Do you have what it takes to be a firefighter?
This is crazy, but...
You've decided to do it, but you're still asking how long it takes to be a firefighter?
Short answer is, it depends.
I know, it's not the answer you're looking for.
I understand your motivation and drive, and you want it now! I get it.
Once you've gotten the fireman requirements, getting hired may take some time.
Currently with the economy getting better, governments are hiring again.
Also, a lot of firefighters are reaching retirement. So the prospects look good right now.
I just shared how to become firefighter.
Now it's up to you.
Finding an academy may take a few days to a few weeks depending on your time commitment.
Then, you have to apply and get in. There may be a waiting list.
Also, you'll have to decide to go full time or part time.
Once you're done with the academy, you must get certified by passing the state exam.
Once you've got your firefighter certification, you're now on the hunt for job openings.
This doesn't include any EMS certifications that may be required.
The firefighter process may take six months to a year, start to finish. Add time for any EMS certifications.
If you go for large departments, the hiring process may be longer.
They often have application processes that only open every few years.
Start preparing for them now, as it's very, very, competitive.
I'm talking about hundreds if not thousands of applicants for large organizations.
You wanna know the best part?
You've just read a very long post, pat yourself on your back!
It took awhile, but you just found out the best way to become a firefighter.
You've took a big step, good work!
Just follow the steps to become a firefighter and you won't have a problem getting the job!
Sorry for all the grammatical errors, I hate to write.
I hope you enjoyed learning how to become a fire fighter.
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Thanks and good luck...