Becoming a Firefighter

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How to Become a Firefighter


Welcome to your opening, early steps on the way to becoming a firefighter in America.  Just consider that this is a career that can give you:

  • Self-fulfilment and self-esteem – you are not just “working for money” but helping people, sometimes profoundly, often daily.  Firefighters are in return also highly esteemed by the community
  • A good, reliable salary
  • Exceedingly high job-security in this day and age
  • Camaraderie and a sense of working with a team of committed friends
  • Actually looking forward to going to work daily: virtually all firefighters do.  This is not a mundane profession with endless routine days – far from it!

So what are you waiting for?  Well, this is where the How to become a firefighter pages can help you.  It is necessary to be real, practical and committed about entering this profession.  Did you know that over half of people seeking this profession give up along the way?  This is usually because they were unprepared for the steps they needed to take, which aren’t all easy or quick.  So, at the outset, balance the rewards of being a firefighter with accurate knowledge of what you need to get there:

  • Mentally check yourself: are you prepared for a fairly long-haul effort, and to work at getting the required certifications?
  • Are you, or can you be, fit enough?
  • Will you go the extra mile to become a firefighter?  Not only getting to the basic standards, but visiting stations, perhaps volunteering, and doing your own research on local firefighting standards and needs.  Competition is tough:  Taking such extra steps, and persisting, are the keys to your success.

 What To Do Next 

Here are ten basic requirements of must-know information, or must-do things on how to become a firefighter, as well as other steps to help you stand out from the pack.  Each is a clickable link:

  1. What are the basic requirements?  Age, citizenship, background.
  2. Working where, and doing what?  Determine where you want to work, deciding at least provisionally for now. Near your present home, or are you flexible?  And at least get some idea of the kind of service you’d like to begin working for – Local city?  County level (more rural)?  State level?  Of course you can be flexible later on, but it’s worth having an opening plan, as the requirements for your success in applying for each may differ.
  3. Take a Community College Associate’s Degree in fire science or fire engineering.  Also known as a post-secondary non-degree award.  Usually a two-year course to obtain this certification, local Associate’s Degrees are often geared to the needs of your local community or area.  In some parts of the USA this is virtually always a requirement to successfully apply to be a firefighter.  In other areas, since competition is strong, it is still highly advantageous and advisable.  If there’s a Community College offering such a course near you, you’ll be able to take a campus Associate’s Degree without leaving home or paying for the accommodation.  Online courses in fire science are also available.  If you’d like to improve your chances in this career even more and would like the career-boosting opportunities a full bachelor’s degree in fire science will give you, these are also available.How to choose which college or online course suits you best?  Use our handy College Finder panel.  Research each institution to determine their educational quality, and to compare their course content.
  4. How physically fit are you?  There are essential physical requirements for this career.  Check out this page for what they are.  And to prepare to be as fit as you need to be.
  5. Aim for an Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) certification, or beyond to Paramedic license.  Most vacancies for recruit firefighters require an EMT certificate.  Put quite simply, a firefighting career is not only about putting out fires.  Your saving lives or assisting with injury is an inherent part of the job.  Many call-outs are not to fires at all, but to more general medical emergencies.  In searching for an Associate’s Degree in fire technology (point 3 above), check how much each course allows you to pursue medical life-saving training.
  6. Where to find out about firefighter vacancies.
  7. Know the hiring process for firefighters, and how to apply.  You need to understand this process locally, as it differs over regions, career paths, and even individual stations.
  8. What is the examination and selection process?  You’ve applied and you’re going to be seen. When you get to this stage, it’s crucial that you are highly prepared.  There’ll be (1) a written examination;  (2)  a fitness and physical ability examination;  (3)  a medical examination;  (4)  possibly a psychological test;  and  (5)  an oral interview.
  9. Visit your local fire stations.  Preferably more than one.  Get a feel for the places.  How do they differ?  Talk to firefighters there – you can pick up great tips, especially about local requirements.  Ask for their personal advice on how to become a firefighter locally.
  10. Volunteer.  In the fields of community service and helping people.  It may or may not be within the field of firefighting.  It’s a superb leg-up in the selection process, and if you do it well can provide great references.  But do it because you genuinely also want to.
  11. Other Tips.  Yes, let’s go one better than 10.  It’s the extras that can help lead you to a successful application in your firefighting career.

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