North Carolina,NC: How to Become a Firefighter

Firefighters control fires, and respond to emergencies where environment, property, and life are at risk. This profession requires determination, strength, endurance, and most of all, heart. If you think that, then pursuing this line of work is a good idea.

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Roles of a Firefighter

You will be expected to do the following:

  • Put out fires using water pumps, extinguishers, and water hoses
  • Drive emergency vehicles like fire trucks
  • Find and rescue individuals stuck in burning buildings and treat the injured/sick
  • Prepare reports related to emergency incidents

Requirements to become a Firefighter in North Carolina

There are certain basic requirements that need to be met if you want to apply for this position. These are as follows:

  • The candidate should be a US citizen
  • The candidate must be 18 years old at the time of application
  • The candidate must possess a GED or a high school diploma
  • The candidate must have a valid driver’s license
  • The candidate must be in an excellent physical and mental condition
  • The candidate must have a clean criminal investigation record

Steps Involved in Becoming a Firefighter in North Carolina

Fill out the application Form

Once you have met all the above requirements, you can fill out the application form to apply for a fighter position in North Carolina.

Receive a Notification

If your application is successful, you will receive a notification to appear for the exam.

Clear the tests and Screening Stage

Once shortlisted, you will be expected to clear an aptitude test, strength and agility tests, audio interview, and a panel interview. These tests and interviews will assess your physical, cognitive and mental abilities such as deductive reasoning, inductive reasoning, comprehension skills, etc. Moreover, you will have to undergo a rigorous background screening which will include a criminal background investigation and a professional and personal reference check.

Placement at the North Carolina Fire Department

Based upon your test scores, interviews, and pre-employment screening, you may be offered a position at the state fire department, depending on the available job openings. Once you have been hired as a firefighter, you will be expected to undergo firefighting training which will cover various topics like fire code violations, emergency vehicle operations, survival skills, and hazardous materials handling.

How Long Does it Take to Become a Firefighter in North Carolina

The requirements and length of time needed to become a firefighter can vary from one jurisdiction to another, even within the same state. However, here are some general steps and time frames you can expect if you’re looking to become a firefighter in North Carolina:

Basic Requirements

  • At least 18 years of age
  • High School Diploma or GED
  • Valid driver’s license
  • Clean criminal record

Basic Training

  • Firefighter I & II Certification: Completing these courses could take from a few months to a year, depending on the schedule of the training program.
  • Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) Certification: Some departments also require EMT certification. This can take a few months to complete.
  • Pass Physical Tests: You’ll have to pass a rigorous physical fitness test.
  • Pass Written Exams: Expect to take written exams that test your knowledge, problem-solving skills, and psychological readiness.
  • Background Check and Medical Exam: After successfully completing these steps, a background check and medical examination, including a drug test, will follow.

Hiring Process

  • Apply: Once you’ve met all the requirements and passed all the tests, you can apply to fire departments.
  • Interview: If your application is accepted, you’ll likely go through an interview process.
  • Probation: If hired, you’ll typically go through a probationary period that can last from 6 months to a year.
  • Further Training and Specialization

Once you’re a firefighter, you can choose to specialize further, perhaps in areas like hazardous materials handling, rescue operations, etc. This could require additional certifications and time commitment.

Total Time

All in all, you’re probably looking at around 1-2 years to become a firefighter, depending on various factors like the training schedule, hiring timelines, etc.

Note: This information could be outdated or might differ depending on the specific city or county within North Carolina. Always check with your local fire department or the Office of the State Fire Marshal in North Carolina for the most current requirements and procedures.

Firefighters Salary in North Carolina

According to the latest figures published by the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, firefighters’ salary in North Carolina in 2022 was:

Annual Mean Salary: $36,660

Annual Median Salary: $33,920

Career Outlook

Firefighters employed in North Carolina will have chances of enjoying stellar job growth. According to O*Net OnLine, these brave men and women will experience a 15% growth in employment opportunities between 2020 and 2030.

Firefighting Careers in North Carolina

Firefighting careers in North Carolina can vary depending on several factors including location, size of the fire department, and the specific responsibilities required. Here are some aspects you might consider:

Types of Firefighting Careers

  • Municipal Firefighter: Works in cities and towns.
  • Wildland Firefighter: Specializes in combating forest fires.
  • Industrial Firefighter: Employed by companies to prevent and combat fires on industrial premises.
  • Military Firefighter: Works on military bases and can be deployed overseas.
  • Airport Firefighter: Specializes in aircraft and airport-related fires.

Rank Structure

Like other states, North Carolina fire departments typically have a rank structure, starting with Firefighter and moving up to Driver/Engineer, Lieutenant, Captain, Battalion Chief, Assistant Chief, and Fire Chief.


  • Hazardous Materials (HazMat)
  • Search and Rescue
  • Fire Investigation
  • Emergency Medical Services (some firefighters are also paramedics)

Training and Education

Many community colleges and specialized training facilities offer associate degrees in fire science, which could be beneficial for career advancement.

Challenges and Rewards

Firefighting is a physically demanding and often dangerous job, but many find it rewarding due to its community service aspect and the camaraderie among firefighters.

How to Get Started

  • Visit your local fire department to speak with professionals in the field.
  • Look for opportunities for ride-alongs or job shadowing.
  • Enroll in firefighter and EMT training programs.
  • Keep an eye out for job openings and prepare thoroughly for the selection process, which can include written tests, physical tests, and interviews.

For the most accurate and updated information, it’s advised to consult directly with the fire departments you are interested in, or check the North Carolina Office of the State Fire Marshal’s website.

Firefighter Colleges in North Carolina

North Carolina has several educational institutions that offer programs aimed at those interested in a firefighting career. These programs can range from certificate courses in basic firefighter training to more advanced associate degrees in fire science. Here are some options:

Community Colleges

Many community colleges offer programs tailored to those seeking careers in firefighting. Some of these include:

  • Wake Technical Community College: Located in Raleigh, Wake Tech offers an array of public safety programs including fire services.
  • Guilford Technical Community College: Located in Jamestown, GTCC offers Fire Protection Technology training.
  • Fayetteville Technical Community College: Offers a Fire Protection Technology program that provides technical and professional knowledge.
  • Durham Technical Community College: Provides Fire Protection Technology programs among other public safety training courses.
  • Cape Fear Community College: Located in Wilmington, CFCC offers various fire and rescue training programs.
  • Forsyth Technical Community College: Located in Winston-Salem, it provides a range of public safety courses including Fire Protection Technology.


Some universities may offer bachelor’s degree programs in fire safety, public administration, or related fields that can be beneficial for career advancement in firefighting.

  • University of North Carolina at Charlotte: Offers programs in Fire Safety and Engineering Technology.
  • East Carolina University: Offers degrees in occupational safety, which can be applicable to firefighting careers.

Specialized Training Centers

These centers offer specialized training and often work in conjunction with local fire departments.

  • North Carolina Fire and Rescue Commission: Offers various certifications and specialized training for firefighters in the state.
  • Office of the State Fire Marshal: Provides resources and training programs for firefighters.

Online Programs

Some institutions might offer online fire science degrees or courses, which can be beneficial for those who need a more flexible schedule.

Before enrolling in any program, it’s essential to:

  • Make sure the program meets the requirements set by the North Carolina Fire and Rescue Commission or the specific department you aim to join.
  • Consider whether you also need to obtain EMT or paramedic certification, as this is a requirement for many fire departments.
  • Speak with advisors or professionals in the field to make sure you’re choosing the program that aligns with your career goals.

Always verify the most current information directly from the institutions or relevant regulatory bodies, as programs and requirements may change.

How to Select the Right College to Become a Firefighter

Selecting the right college to prepare for a firefighting career involves considering various factors that align with your personal goals, financial situation, and preferred learning environment. Here’s a guide to help you make an informed decision:


  • Ensure that the college or training program is accredited by a recognized accrediting body. Accreditation assures that the institution maintains standards that are acceptable for firefighting careers.


  • Look for programs that offer courses in fire science, emergency medical services, fire prevention, hazardous materials, and fire codes.
  • Check if the curriculum is aligned with the standards set by the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) or other relevant bodies.

Practical Training

  • Practical experience is crucial in firefighting. Check if the program includes hands-on training, internships, or cooperative programs with local fire departments.
  • Some programs may have a live fire training facility or partnerships that allow students to participate in controlled burns.


  • Many fire departments require certifications like Firefighter I and II, and sometimes EMT or paramedic certification. Check if these are included in the program or if you have to obtain them separately.


  • Check the qualifications of the faculty. It’s beneficial to learn from instructors who have real-world firefighting experience.

Financial Aspects

  • Tuition, fees, and the availability of financial aid are significant factors. Some departments offer tuition reimbursement for their firefighters, and some programs may offer scholarships or grants specifically for fire science students.


  • Consider whether you want to work in the same area where you plan to go to school. Local programs may offer better networking opportunities and familiarity with local fire codes and regulations.

Alumni Network and Job Placement

  • A strong alumni network can help you make connections in the field. Check if the college has a good track record of job placement or if they offer job placement services.

Reviews and Recommendations

  • Read reviews about the college and program, and if possible, speak to alumni or current students.
  • Get recommendations from professionals in the field, especially if you have contacts in the fire departments where you wish to work.


  • If you’re already working or have other commitments, you may want to look for programs that offer part-time, evening, or online classes.

Visit the Campus

  • If possible, visiting the campus can give you a good feel for the environment and facilities.

Once you have all the relevant information, make a shortlist of programs that best meet your needs and aspirations. You can then compare these to make your final choice. Remember, each state and sometimes even each fire department can have its specific requirements, so always check with the local authorities or governing bodies for the most accurate and current information.

Fire Departments in North Carolina

North Carolina is home to a wide array of fire departments, each serving different kinds of communities—ranging from small rural areas to large metropolitan cities. Here are some of the key types of fire departments you might encounter in the state:

Municipal Fire Departments

These are funded by local city or town governments and primarily serve those areas.

  • Charlotte Fire Department: One of the largest fire departments in North Carolina, serving the city of Charlotte.
  • Raleigh Fire Department: Serves the capital city of Raleigh.
  • Greensboro Fire Department: Another significant municipal department serving the Greensboro area.
  • Winston-Salem Fire Department: Serves the city of Winston-Salem.
  • Durham Fire Department: Provides services to the city of Durham.

County Fire Departments

Some counties operate their own fire departments to serve unincorporated areas and smaller communities.

  • Wake County Fire Services: Provides support to municipal departments and serves unincorporated areas in Wake County.
  • Mecklenburg County Fire Services: Similar to Wake County, serves unincorporated areas and assists local departments.

Volunteer Fire Departments

Many smaller communities in North Carolina rely on volunteer fire departments for fire protection and other emergency services.

  • Bahama Volunteer Fire Department: Located in Durham County, serves rural communities.
  • New Hope Fire Department: A volunteer department in Orange County.

Specialized Fire Departments

  • Airport Fire Departments: Such as the one at Raleigh-Durham International Airport.
  • Industrial Fire Departments: Often located in industrial parks or factories.
  • Military Base Fire Departments: Such as those at Fort Bragg or Camp Lejeune.
  • Federal Fire Departments: Such as those serving National Forests.

Wildland Firefighting Agencies

  • North Carolina Forest Service: Provides wildland fire protection for the state.

Combined Departments

Some areas have departments that combine full-time paid firefighters with volunteers.

Regional Partnerships

Certain municipalities and counties in North Carolina have mutual aid agreements where they assist each other during large-scale emergencies.

Before pursuing a career or volunteer opportunity, you may want to consider the following:

  • Geographic Area: Do you want to serve a rural community, a suburban area, or a big city?
  • Type of Service: Are you interested in specialized services like airport fire fighting, wildland fires, or industrial settings?
  • Career Goals: Do you intend to make it a career or serve as a volunteer? Career departments often have more stringent entry requirements and longer training periods.

Always refer to specific departments for the most current information.

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