4 Steps Guide to Become a Firefighter in Washington

The field of firefighting remains one of the most competitive in the US as more and more people are interested in taking up the profession. Candidates who are physically fit, have top scores on mechanical aptitude and physical endurance test, and paramedic training are likely to be in most demand.
According to the 2021 US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), Washington is the third highest paying state in the country for firefighters, as they earned the annual mean wage $ 76,280. O*NET OnLine has projected 11% employment growth for firefighters in Washington between 2018 – 2028.

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If you want to become a firefighter in Washington then continue reading the minimum qualifications to become a firefighter in the state, the hiring process, training, and salary and career outlook.
To become a firefighter in Washington, you will have to clear the following steps:

Step 1: Obtain a High School Diploma

The state of Washington has made it mandatory for all aspiring firefighters to have at least a high school diploma or a GED certificate. Some fire departments also require candidates to have a college degree in subjects like Fire Science.

Step 2: EMT Certification

Like quite a lot of states in the US, Washington has also made it mandatory for candidates to have an Emergency Medical Technician Certification.

Step 3: Pass the Hiring Process

Once you apply for the position of a firefighter and your application is accepted, you will have to go through a strict hiring process. You will have to clear the CPAT, a written test, an oral interview, physical examination, psychological assessment, and a thorough background and drug screening.

Step 4: Fire Academy Training

You will also have to complete training at a fire academy. At the fire academy, you will be taught how to put out fires, how to use equipment properly, the precautions you should take, etc.

How to Become a Firefighter in Washington
How to Become a Firefighter in Washington

If you can fulfill the following minimum qualifications, you can begin the application process:

  • Candidates must be at least 18 years of age
  • Candidates must have a high school diploma or its equivalent GED
  • Candidates must hold the state’s valid driver’s license
  • Candidates must have a current Washington state EMT certification, or
  • Be eligible for EMT certification upon hire
  • Meet all the steps of the hiring process.

Choosing the Right Firefighting Degree and Concentrations

If you have the passion to save lives, serve people, handle emergencies head-on, and the courage to run into burning buildings, then you are the right fit to become a firefighter. While aspiring firefighters do not need college degree for entry-level positions, becoming a firefighter is a specialized job that requires a lot of training and skills. Higher education has become a necessity today especially if you want to lead in fire service. Many colleges and universities offer certificates, associate degree programs, bachelor, and master’s degree programs in:

  • Firefighting
  • Fire science
  • Fire technology

We have compiled a list that will make degree selection easier for you.


Education Requirement/Career Goals





Associate’s Degree


Bachelor’s Degree


Master’s Degree


Online Program


A serving firefighter looking at a bigger picture; to enhance knowledge and develop leadership skills but has time and costs constraints. Looking for flexibility to manage both studies and job.


Best Suited


Looking to thrive in several fire related careers and explore different avenues of the profession like firefighting, fire investigation, and forensic science. To become a fire prevention specialist with great knowledge in fire science.




Best Suited


An aspiring firefighter looking to pursue degree in fire science. Have the passion for public safety and want to gain practical training, as well as enhance knowledge in the field.


Best Suited




Looking to build on the foundation developed through undergraduate program and explore leadership strategies, management techniques, and finance. Enjoy career advancement through degree in fire engineering, arson investigation, and fire protection. Work in positions like battalion chief, fire chief, district chief, and fire commissioner.


Best Suited


Interested in entering the field of firefighting but still wondering if it is the right career choice. Desire to learn the firefighting basics in minimum time and cost-effective manner.


Best Suited

How to Become a Wildland Firefighter in Washington?

Wildland firefighting agencies work at federal level. There are specific guidelines to become a wildland firefighter as laid out by every respective agency. You will have to get the required education, pass the hiring process, and clear physical training, etc.

  • Complete work attitudes questionnaire online. This takes about half an hour to complete.
  • Firefighter Testing Assessment – A 2.5 hour test on math, reading, mechanical reasoning components and human relations.
  • Oral Board Exam – Is the third step in the hiring process, which requires clearing the first two steps.

Once you clear these three steps, your name is listed on the Firefighter Register. The next phase is called Pre-Employment Screening and only the top 25 percent of candidates on the Firefighter Register proceed to this phase.

Pre-Employment Screening

Employment Packet

asks questions on education and employment history. You can submit your resume, letters of recommendation and other supporting documents with this packet.

Screening Exams

these exams assess your emotional stability, personality style and personal history.

Candidate Physical Ability Test (CPAT)

this test measures a candidate’s physical suitability for the job. Being a firefighter is one of the toughest jobs on the planet and you should be physically fit enough to perform your daily duties.

Interview with Fire Chief

this is a formal business interview and if you clear this stage you will be offered conditional employment.

Medical, Psychological and Background Check

a thorough medical checkup conducted by a licensed physician. In addition to taking blood and urine samples, you will be asked to fill in a medical questionnaire. Furthermore, a clinical psychologist will interview you. The background check includes a review of both, your driving record and criminal history.

If you pass all these steps successfully, you will be made an unconditional offer of employment.


Once you accept the offer, your training starts. Recruits get paid during this phase. Once you complete the firefighters training program, you start your yearlong probationary period. Upon successful completion of this period, you will receive Firefighter II certification and permanent appointment as a firefighter.

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

You are looking at a long and time consuming process. Criminal background check may take weeks if not months to clear. Also be mindful of the fact that firefighters’ applications may not be accepted on a rolling basis. Which means that if you’ve missed the deadline, you will have to wait till the hiring process is opened again. All in all, pursuing a career as a firefighter demands substantive time investment.

How Much Do Firefighters Make in Washington?

Washington State is the third highest paying state in the United States for firefighters. In May 2021, firefighters here earned annual mean wage of $ 76,280. This is just below what firefighters earned in New Jersey and California. In other words, if you are thinking of becoming a firefighter in Washington State, you are not only looking to join a meaningful profession but also a rewarding career.
Below are the top paying states for firefighters:

StateAnnual Mean Wage 
New Jersey$ 84,930
California$ 80,990
Washington$ 76,280
New York$ 72,670
Colorado$ 68,300

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (2021) and O*NET Online

Career Outlook

According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, 7,740 firefighters were working in Washington in 2021. O*Net Online predicts an 11% increase in job opportunities for these professionals in Washington from 2018 and 2028.

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