Georgia,GA: How to Become a Firefighter

With over 11,000 trained firefighters, as per the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, the State of Georgia boasts of a force of first responders which not only prevent fires but also (literally) snatch victims from the clutches of death. According to 2021 figures from the U.S. Fire Administration, out of 1,000 reported fire incidents, 2.4 deaths and 4.9 injuries were reported in Georgia. The nationwide figures per 1,000 fires were of 2.3 deaths and 7.2 injuries.

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Firefighters, in other words, not only save lives but also property and valuables of those whom they serve. Playing a role similar to that of a policeman or doctor, a firefighter faces many challenges on a daily basis including the prospect of dying while performing their duty. In 2023, as of June 30, 2023, 3 Georgia State firefighters lost their lives in the line of duty.

How to Become a Firefighter in Georgia
How to Become a Firefighter in Georgia

Job Duties of a Firefighter in Georgia

The job duties of a firefighter can vary depending on the specific location, department, and sometimes even the shift they work. However, there are several common responsibilities that firefighters in Georgia, and across the United States, are typically expected to perform:

Emergency Response

  • Fire Suppression: Responding to fire emergencies to extinguish fires and protect life and property.
  • Medical Assistance: Providing basic first aid and medical care, often in the capacity of an EMT or paramedic.
  • Vehicle Extrication: Using specialized tools to rescue individuals trapped in vehicles, machinery, or other confined spaces.
  • Hazardous Material Handling: Responding to hazardous material (HazMat) incidents, including chemical spills or leaks.

Rescue Operations

  • Search and Rescue: Locating and helping victims in emergency situations.
  • Water Rescues: Participating in water-based rescue operations in rivers, lakes, or flood situations.
  • High-Angle and Confined Space Rescues: Performing specialized rescues in difficult-to-reach or confined spaces.

Prevention and Education

  • Fire Inspections: Inspecting buildings for fire hazards and ensuring compliance with fire codes.
  • Public Education: Educating the public about fire safety, often through community events, school visits, or other outreach programs.
  • Training: Continuous self and team training to keep skills updated.

Maintenance and Administration

  • Equipment Maintenance: Regularly checking and maintaining firefighting equipment and apparatus to ensure they are in working condition.
  • Report Writing: Completing detailed reports about emergency incidents for record-keeping and analysis.
  • Station Duties: Cleaning and maintaining the fire station and living quarters.

Additional Duties

  • Interdepartmental Collaboration: Collaborating with law enforcement, emergency medical services, and other agencies during emergency situations.
  • Special Teams: Some firefighters may serve on special teams, such as HazMat, technical rescue, or wildland firefighting teams, which require additional training and specialization.
  • Community Engagement: Participating in public relations events and community services.
  • Emergency Preparedness: Participating in drills and simulations to prepare for large-scale emergencies or disasters.

These responsibilities can change and evolve based on new technologies, procedures, and community needs. Firefighters are also expected to work irregular hours, often in shifts, and must be prepared to respond to emergencies at any time.

Skills to Work as a Firefighter in Georgia

Working as a firefighter in Georgia, or anywhere else, requires a unique set of skills and attributes to handle the challenging and varied nature of the job. Here are some of the essential skills that you might need:

Physical Skills

  • Physical Fitness: Firefighters need to be in excellent physical condition to carry out demanding tasks like lifting heavy equipment, climbing ladders, and effectively handling fire hoses.
  • Manual Dexterity: Handling equipment and tools with precision is crucial, especially during high-pressure situations.
  • Endurance: The ability to work for extended periods, often in challenging conditions like high heat or cold, is essential.

Technical Skills

  • Emergency Medical Skills: Knowing how to administer first aid or more advanced medical care as an EMT or paramedic is often required.
  • Firefighting Techniques: Understanding and applying various firefighting methods, such as using hoses, water cannons, and other firefighting equipment, is crucial.
  • Hazardous Material Handling: Understanding the protocols for dealing with hazardous materials is essential for safety.
  • Technical Rescue Skills: Proficiency in performing complicated rescues, like high-angle or confined space rescues, can be beneficial.

Cognitive Skills

  • Critical Thinking: Ability to quickly evaluate situations and make decisions under pressure.
  • Problem-Solving: Firefighters often face complex problems that require quick and effective solutions.
  • Spatial Awareness: Understanding building layouts and being aware of your surroundings are critical, especially in smoky or dark environments.
  • Attention to Detail: Small details can be life-saving, such as noticing signs of structural instability in a burning building or quickly assessing a victim’s medical condition.

Communication Skills

  • Verbal Communication: Clear and effective communication with team members and other emergency service workers is critical for coordinated efforts.
  • Active Listening: Understanding information quickly and accurately, even in noisy or chaotic environments.
  • Interpersonal Skills: Ability to work well in a team and interact professionally with the public.

Emotional Skills

  • Stress Management: Working well under extreme pressure and handling stress effectively.
  • Composure: Maintaining a calm demeanor during emergencies to think clearly and act responsibly.
  • Empathy: Providing emotional support to victims and their families during and after emergencies.
  • Resilience: Ability to cope with the physical and emotional toll of the job, including exposure to traumatic situations.

Other Skills

  • Mechanical Aptitude: Understanding how machines and tools work is useful for equipment maintenance and operation.
  • Leadership: Experienced firefighters often take on leadership roles, directing the actions of others in high-stakes situations.
  • Public Relations: Skills in community education and public interaction can be beneficial for fire prevention efforts.

This list is not exhaustive, and the required skills can change over time or differ between fire departments. Training and experience will also help you develop these skills further.

The first mandatory steps in becoming a firefighter in Georgia are:

  • You must be at least 18 years of age
  • You must hold a high school diploma or GED
  • You must be of good moral character
  • You must be in good physical condition
  • You must successfully complete the Georgia Firefighter Standards and Training Council’s physical agility test
  • You must hold valid Georgia driver’s license

If you think you can fulfill the above mentioned conditions then apply at your local fire station or wherever the nearest vacancy is. Once your application is approved, you will be asked to undergo the following:

  • Written exam
  • Polygraph test
  • Physical and drug screening
  • Criminal background check

Once you clear this step as well, your information will be passed on to the Fire Chief and you will be notified about your interview date. Once you pass the interview, you will be made an unconditional offer of employment. If you accept, you will be asked to report to a particular fire academy on a specific date.


Some city and county fire departments have their own fire academies, while most do not. So, you may be trained at the Georgia Fire Academy at the Georgia Public Safety and Training Center in Forsyth.

While their duration varies, all fire training programs last for at least a few months during which recruits are introduced to fire prevention and firefighting techniques and processes along with:

  • Survival skills in a hazardous environment
  • Water supply & hose advancement
  • Fire behavior & control
  • Ropes
  • Extrication
  • Hazardous materials
  • Building construction

Graduation will be dependent on successfully passing comprehensive written and skills exams administered through the Georgia Firefighter Standards and Training Council. Upon completion of the Basic Firefighter Training Course (BFTC), you will have the opportunity to take the written portion of the GFSTC-mandated NPQ I Firefighter test. If you pass, you will become Georgia state certified firefighter.

Steps to Become a Firefighter in Georgia

The process of becoming a firefighter can vary by jurisdiction and specific department policies. However, there are some general steps that you may need to follow to become a firefighter in Georgia, USA. It’s essential to note that some municipalities might have slightly different requirements, but the following can serve as a general guideline.

  1. Preliminary Steps
  • Background Check: Expect a thorough background check including criminal history.
  • Physical Examination: You’ll need to pass a medical examination that may include drug screening.
  • Physical Fitness Test: The Candidate Physical Ability Test (CPAT) or an equivalent test is often required.
  • Written Test: Many departments require applicants to pass a written examination.
  1. Training and Certification
  • Firefighter I and II Certification: This is a basic requirement in Georgia and is typically part of a Fire Academy training program. It may include EMT (Emergency Medical Technician) training.
  • EMT or Paramedic Certification: Many departments require EMT certification at minimum. Some require or prefer paramedic certification.
  • HazMat Awareness and Operations Certification: Often required for firefighters.
  1. Application Process
  • Research and Apply: Research various fire departments in Georgia to see which ones you’re interested in and what their specific requirements are. Submit applications to those departments.
  • Written Exam: Pass the written test if applicable.
  • Interview: Successful applicants are usually invited for one or more interviews.
  • Skills Assessment: You may be required to perform certain tasks to demonstrate your skills.
  • Conditional Offer: If you pass all the previous stages, you may receive a conditional offer of employment.
  • Probation and Beyond
  • Probation Period: Many departments have a probationary period during which your performance will be evaluated.
  • Ongoing Training: Even after becoming a firefighter, you will be expected to complete ongoing training throughout your career.

Remember, requirements can vary by jurisdiction and over time, so it’s crucial to consult with local fire departments or their respective websites for the most current information.

How Much Do Firefighters Earn in Georgia?

According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) May 2017 statistics, firefighters in Georgia earned an annual mean wage of $36,830. There were 12,230 firefighters in the state during the same time.

In addition to salary, firefighters also get benefits, including:

  • Health insurance
  • Retirement plan
  • Education reimbursement program

How Long Does It Take to Become a Firefighter in Georgia

The length of time it takes to become a firefighter in Georgia can vary based on a variety of factors, such as the specific requirements of the fire department you’re applying to, your educational background, and whether you already possess certain required certifications like EMT or paramedic. Below is a general outline that can give you an idea of the timeline involved:

Educational Requirements

  • High School Diploma or GED: You usually need at least a high school education, which takes 12-13 years including kindergarten. If you’re starting from scratch and need to obtain a GED, the preparation and testing can take a few months.

Basic Qualifications and Application

  • Basic Requirements & Preliminary Tests: This includes background checks, physical tests, and potentially written tests. This process could take from a few weeks to a few months, depending on the department’s recruitment schedule.

Firefighter Training and Certification

  • Fire Academy: Training typically lasts from 3 to 6 months but can be longer depending on the program and whether it includes EMT training. Some academies may last up to a year if they incorporate paramedic training.
  • EMT Training: If not included in the Fire Academy, EMT training can take about 6 months. Paramedic training can take up to two years, including both classroom and in-field experience.
  • State Certification: After successfully completing training, you will likely need to pass state certification exams for Firefighter I and II, and possibly EMT or Paramedic. The time to prepare and take these exams can vary but might be a few weeks to a few months.

Application and Hiring Process

  • Application Process: This can include submitting applications, attending interviews, and undergoing further testing and background checks. Depending on the department and the number of applicants, this could take anywhere from a few weeks to several months.
  • Probation: Once hired, you’ll often have a probationary period that can last from 6 to 12 months.

Total Time

If you add it all together and there are no delays, you could become a firefighter within about a year after meeting the minimum educational and age requirements, assuming you’re not also training to become a paramedic. If paramedic training is involved and/or if you encounter delays such as waiting periods due to recruitment cycles, it could take up to 3-4 years.

Remember, these are approximate timelines and can vary significantly based on a multitude of factors including personal circumstances, department policies, and local or state regulations. Always check with the specific department you are interested in for the most accurate and current information.

How Much Do Firefighters Earn in Georgia?

According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) May 2022 statistics, firefighters in Georgia earned an annual mean wage of $40,010. There were 11,290 firefighters in the state during the same time.

In addition to salary, firefighters also get benefits, including:

  • Health insurance
  • Retirement plan
  • Education reimbursement program

Career Outlook for Firefighters in Georgia

According to the latest projections made by O*Net OnLine, firefighters in Georgia will enjoy a whopping 10% job growth between 2020 and 2030.

Firefighters Careers in Georgia

A career as a firefighter in Georgia offers a range of opportunities for growth, specialization, and community service. Here’s an overview of what a firefighter career path could look like in the state:

Entry-Level Positions

  • Firefighter Recruit: Many start as a recruit going through a Fire Academy to learn the basic skills needed for firefighting and possibly EMT/paramedic services.
  • Probationary Firefighter: After training, you may serve a probationary period where you’ll be closely evaluated.


  • EMT or Paramedic Firefighter: Additional training can qualify you to provide more advanced medical services.
  • HazMat Firefighter: Special training in handling hazardous materials can make you an asset during chemical, biological, or radiological incidents.
  • Technical Rescue Firefighter: Specializes in high-angle, confined space, water, or wilderness rescues.
  • Fire Investigator: Requires additional training in fire cause determination.
  • Driver/Engineer: Responsible for driving the fire truck and managing the pump, requires additional training and certification.
  • Wildland Firefighter: Special training to combat forest fires.
  • Airport Firefighter: Specialized training in Aircraft Rescue and Firefighting (ARFF).

Promotion Opportunities

  • Fire Lieutenant: A supervisory role that usually requires years of experience and possibly additional education and certification.
  • Fire Captain: Further supervisory responsibilities overseeing multiple units or a whole station.
  • Battalion Chief: Manages multiple stations and has significant administrative duties.
  • Assistant Fire Chief: A more senior management role with oversight over multiple departments or areas.
  • Fire Chief: The highest-ranking officer in a fire department, responsible for overall management and direction.
  • Educational Advancements
  • Associate’s Degree in Fire Science: Can improve chances of promotion and provides foundational knowledge for the field.
  • Bachelor’s Degree in Fire Administration or related field: For those interested in higher-level management roles.

Additional Opportunities

  • Fire Instructor: Teaching at a fire academy or providing training courses.
  • Community Outreach: Involvement in fire prevention and education programs.
  • Federal and State Agencies: Opportunities also exist outside local municipalities, such as with the Georgia Forestry Commission for wildland firefighting, or federal agencies like FEMA.

Retirement and Beyond

Many firefighters have a retirement plan often based on years of service and final salary. Post-retirement, firefighters may work in consultancy, training, or take up roles in emergency management services.

A career in firefighting offers opportunities for growth, specialization, and promotion. Each role usually requires additional certifications, training, and sometimes education. Continuous learning and adaptability are key to advancing in this rewarding yet demanding profession.

Firefighter Colleges in Georgia

Georgia is home to several colleges, technical schools, and academies that offer firefighting and related emergency services programs. These programs can range from basic Firefighter I and II training to associate degrees in fire science or emergency services. Here are some options you might consider:

Technical Colleges

  • Georgia Public Safety Training Center (GPSTC): Located in Forsyth, the GPSTC offers basic firefighter training as well as specialized courses in various areas of public safety.
  • Lanier Technical College: Offers a Fire Science Technology Associate Degree, Diploma, and Certificate programs.
  • Savannah Technical College: Provides Fire Science Technology programs including an associate degree.
  • Ogeechee Technical College: Located in Statesboro, this institution offers a Fire Science Technology program.
  • Chattahoochee Technical College: Provides Fire Science Technology programs including both diploma and associate degree options.

Community Colleges

  • Gwinnett Technical College: Offers a Fire Science Technology Associate of Applied Science degree.
  • Albany Technical College: Provides a Fire Science Technology program.
  • Augusta Technical College: Offers programs in Fire Science Technology.


  • University of Georgia: While not a firefighting college per se, UGA offers courses and certificates in emergency management that could be complementary to a firefighting career.
  • Columbus State University: Offers a Bachelor of Science in Fire Science that caters to those looking for managerial or supervisory roles in the fire service.

Other Training Centers

  • Atlanta Fire Rescue Department Training Academy: Provides training for those specifically looking to join the Atlanta Fire Rescue Department.
  • DeKalb County Fire Rescue Academy: Provides training for new recruits of the DeKalb County Fire Rescue Department.

Online Options

Some schools offer online or hybrid courses in fire science and related fields, which can be useful for working professionals looking to further their education without disrupting their work schedules.

It’s important to note that you should verify the accreditation and reputation of any institution before enrolling. Also, check with the specific fire department you’re interested in to ensure that the program you choose meets their hiring requirements. Always visit the college’s website or speak with an admissions counselor to get the most current information, as programs and offerings may change over time.

Fire Departments in Georgia

Georgia has numerous fire departments across its various cities, towns, and counties, ranging from large urban fire departments to smaller rural and volunteer units. The structure, capabilities, and services offered by these departments can vary widely based on the communities they serve. Here are some notable fire departments in Georgia:

Large Metro Areas

  • Atlanta Fire Rescue Department: This is one of the largest fire departments in the state and offers a range of specialized services, including hazardous materials response and technical rescues.
  • Fulton County Fire Department: Serving areas outside of Atlanta in Fulton County, this department also offers a variety of services.
  • DeKalb County Fire Rescue: Another large department that serves the suburban areas of metro Atlanta.
  • Cobb County Fire & Emergency Services: This department serves Cobb County and also offers specialized units like swift water rescue and hazardous materials response.
  • Gwinnett County Fire and Emergency Services: One of the largest suburban departments in Georgia, serving Gwinnett County.

Mid-Sized Cities

  • Savannah Fire Department: Serves the historic city of Savannah and offers a range of services including fire prevention and emergency medical services.
  • Athens-Clarke County Fire and Emergency Services: Serves the Athens-Clarke County area, home to the University of Georgia.
  • Augusta Fire Department: Serves the city of Augusta and also provides specialized services.
  • Columbus Fire & EMS: Serves the city of Columbus and provides both fire suppression and emergency medical services.
  • Macon-Bibb County Fire Department: This department serves Macon and Bibb County, offering a range of services including fire suppression and emergency medical response.

Smaller Towns and Rural Areas

  • Dalton Fire Department: Serves the city of Dalton in North Georgia.
  • Valdosta Fire Department: Serves the city of Valdosta in South Georgia.
  • Cherokee County Fire & Emergency Services: Serves Cherokee County, including smaller towns like Woodstock and Canton.
  • Barrow County Emergency Services: Serves the rural communities in Barrow County.

Specialized and Volunteer Departments

  • Georgia Forestry Commission: Focuses on wildfire prevention and suppression across the state.
  • Various Volunteer Fire Departments: Smaller communities and rural areas often rely on volunteer fire departments.

This is not an exhaustive list, and the structure and offerings of these departments can change. Some departments also collaborate with nearby municipalities for mutual aid in case of large incidents. Always check with local and county governments for the most current information about fire departments in a specific area of Georgia.

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