Should I Become a Firefighter in California?

The job duties of a firefighter entail a lot of risks, after all it is not easy to combat raging fires.

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According to the latest figures published by the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, 33,780 firefighters were working in California in 2019. This is the highest number for any state across the US.

Education RequiredAt least a high school diploma or a GED or a California High School Proficiency Examination certificate.
Licenses/CertificationsEMT and CRT Certification might be needed.
Key Skills/QualitiesStrong Decision making, Strong Critical Thinking, Physical Stamina, Patience, etc.
Annual Mean Salary (2019) – National$54,650
Job Outlook (2019-2029)6%
Annual Mean Salary (2019) – California$84,370

Source: US Bureau of Labor Statistics

Guide to Become a Firefighter in California

Firefighters are generally known to put out fires and respond to emergencies where life, property and the environment may be at risk. However, firefighters also perform a variety of other duties away from the public eye such as conducting fire drills, writing reports, etc. In short, a lot of what you would end up doing as a firefighter would depend upon your employer.

There are general requirement to becoming a firefighter in the US. These can also be called minimum requirements. However, the actual admission requirements may differ from employer to employer, state to state and county to county.  You will have to complete the following steps to become a firefighter in California:

Step 1: Get the Required Education

You will have to get the required educational credentials as the first step to join the field as a firefighter. You will need one of the following credentials to start your journey:

  • High school diploma or GED.
  • CHSPE (California High School Proficiency Examination) Certificate.
Step 2: Clear the Firefighter Candidate Assessment

Before you apply for the position of a firefighter in California, you will have to clear the FCA.

Step 3: Apply for the Job

If you have completed the above-mentioned two steps, you can apply for the position of a firefighter.

Step 4:Pass the Test and Interview

You will have to pass a written test or an interview, depending on the hiring procedure of the fire station you apply to.

Step 5: Clear the Physical Exam

You will have to get a passing score on the Candidate Physical Ability Test (CPAT) or the Candidate Advancement Program (CAP). Most fire departments accept these scores as fitness certificates but there might be some that conduct their own physical fitness tests.

Step 6: Clear a Background Investigation

You will also have to clear a comprehensive background investigation.

Step 7: Psychological, Drug, and Medical Tests

You will also have to pass a psychological, medical, and drug screening to join the fire department of your choice.

Step 8: Complete Training at a Fire Academy

You will also have to pass a fire academy training, the duration of which will vary from fire department to fire department.

Step 9: Get EMT License

To work as a firefighter you will also have to get your Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) certificate that is valid in California.

How to Become a Firefighter in California
How to Become a Firefighter in California

Careers in Firefighting in California

The state of California lists firefighting jobs amongst Fire Protection Careers. Some of the careers offered under this classification are:

  • Fire Fighter I
  • Fire Fighter & Fire Firefighter (Paramedic)
  • Fire Apparatus Engineer & Fire Apparatus Engineer (Paramedic)
  • Heavy Fire Equipment Operator (HFEO)

Each of these positions will have its own set of hiring requirements. It is therefore advised that you check state of California’s official website for more details.

Requirements to Become a Firefighter in California

These requirements would vary. For example, if you are interested in becoming Fire Fighter I, which is a seasonal and temporary classification, then you must be at least 18 years of age at the time of appointment. However, if you seek a permanent position with the Burbank Fire Department, then you must be at least 21 years of age at the time of appointment.

Since the requirements vary, the following should only serve as a general guideline on minimum requirements to become a firefighter in California:

  • Fulfill minimum age requirement
  • Must be a US citizen
  • Must be of good character
  • Must be free from any physical or mental condition
  • Must have a high school diploma or GED
  • Must hold a valid state of California driver’s license
  • Must be certified as Emergency Medical Technician (EMT)
  • Must have valid Candidate Physical Agility Test (CPAT)

How Long Does It Take to Become a Firefighter in California?

Once you have fulfilled minimum requirements, you should apply. The application process itself will take a few months to complete, which includes the time from the beginning of the application process to your call for attending a fire academy. Your training at a fire academy will last for at least a few months and once you have graduated, you start to serve your probationary period. All in all, you are looking at a significant time investment before you can become a firefighter in California.

How Much Does a Firefighter Make in California?

Firefighting is not only fulfilling but also rewarding. According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), in May 2017, firefighters earned the mean annual income of $73,860 in California, which is the second highest in the US after New Jersey. However, California employs the most number of firefighters in the US. In May 2017, there were 31,150 firefighters in the state. This roughly means that one out of ten of the country’s total firefighting workforce was employed in California.

Career Outlook for Firefighters in California

According to The Mercury News, a San Jose based newspaper; firefighter’s jobs grew at the rate of 17.3 percent from 2012 to 2017. O*NET OnLine predicts that the job growth in this field from 2016 to 2026 will take place at 5 percent or approximately 2,110 new jobs will be created in California in this time period.

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