Requirements to Become a Firefighter

Firefighters like the police are the first responders who protect life and property. A highly regulated profession, firefighting requires meeting minimum educational and training requirements for entry level positions. If you are thinking of becoming a firefighter then be prepared to spend a considerable amount of time in trying to get into this field.

First things first, you must meet minimum requirements to have a chance at getting hired as a firefighter.

Requirements to Become a Firefighter
Requirements to Become a Firefighter

Minimum Requirements

  • Must be 18 years old or older at the time of application
  • Must hold a high school diploma or GED at the time of application
  • Must hold a valid driver’s license at the time of application
  • Must be drug free for the past 12 months (time requirement may vary from employer to employer)

The above mentioned are some of the very basic requirements to becoming a firefighter; meeting these alone do not guarantee that you’ll become one. This is just the start. If you fulfill these requirements then follow the upcoming steps/requirements.

Education and Qualifications

As mentioned earlier, you must hold a high school diploma or GED in order to apply for the firefighter’s job. However, be mindful of the fact that new firefighter’s jobs are expected to grow at the rate of 7% from 2016 to 2026. This roughly translates into 23,500 new jobs. So, you are essentially looking at a stiff competition and therefore you must stand out amongst your peers to get selected. How do you do that?

Tips:

Take a course or two in fire science at your local community college. Plus, get CPR certified. Once you get hired, your employer will get you EMT certified and perhaps even paramedic certified, but if you have some background in emergency medical services before you apply, it will increase your chances of getting selected manifold.

There is one more thing you can do to maximize your chances of getting selected and that is doing volunteer work at your local fire station. Fire stations offer such opportunities and you should avail them if you want to become a firefighter one day.

Once you have fulfilled all the requirements, it is time to apply for the job. However be mindful of the fact that hiring process and duration will differ from county to county and state to state. Therefore treat the following information as a general guideline:

Requirements of the Application Process 

Application

will require all questions to be answered completely.

Residency requirements

some employers may have this requirement; others may not.

Psychological Profile Evaluation

this step consists of several written tests and an interview to assess a candidate’s psychological suitability for a career in firefighting.

Medical Examination

this examination is conducted by a licensed physician and the candidate must get an “A” classification in order to pass this exam and continue in the selection process.

Polygraph Test

this test is conducted by a certified polygraph examiner and may take up to four hours to complete. The test is conducted to measure the accuracy of information provided in the application.

Written Exam

this will have reading comprehension, grammar, physics and basic math multiple-choice questions. You will be asked to complete this exam in the allotted time. In order to be considered for the job, you will have to obtain a passing score.

Candidate Physical Abilities Test (CPAT) Preparation

If you are asked to take this test then you will be given an opportunity to familiarize yourself with this test first.

Personal History Statement and Documents Review

the Personal History Statement must be notarized and mailed as one packet along with all required documents. The Personal History Statement must not be incomplete, misleading or untruthful and inaccurate or you will be disqualified from the application process.

The application process is a lengthy one and therefore you can expect it to take up to a year or more.

If you are hired, you will be asked to report at a particular fire academy for training.

Training

The time you spend at a fire academy under training varies from academy to academy. On the whole, you can expect to be trained for a few months (unless you want to become a wildland firefighter). However, what all academies do is that they teach you firefighting and fire prevention techniques both in class and on field. You would also get EMT certified and depending upon your employer, paramedic certified.

In addition to getting you trained on modern technology, you would also be taught how to fight fire with more traditional means like axes, chain saws, ladders and fire extinguishers.

If you are training to become a wildland firefighter then your apprenticeship may last for up to 4 years. Wildland firefighter’s apprenticeship programs combine on-the-job training with theoretical instructions imparted under the supervision of experienced firefighters.

Once you have graduated from your fire academy, you start serving your probationary period.