how to start a career as a firefighter

how to start a career as a firefighter

How to Become a Firefighter

Since ancient times, firefighters have been legendary heroes, rushing into burning buildings to save lives and property. It takes a special kind of person to become a firefighter today. Responsibilities for firefighters have become more varied and complex, and the job requires a broad range of skills. Here is an overview of what it takes to become a firefighter and launch a career in the field.

1. Meet Basic Qualifications and Requirements

Before even applying for the job, prospective firefighters should make sure they meet the basic qualifications to become a firefighter. These include:

  • Age Requirements: Depending on the jurisdiction, the minimum age requirement may vary, and could be as low as 18 or as high as 21.
  • Education Requirements: In most cases, a high school diploma or GED equivalent is required.
  • Physical Fitness Requirements: Firefighters must pass a physical fitness assessment test before being considered.
  • Criminal Record: Firefighters must pass a criminal record check.

2. Get Training and Education

Submitting a professional application and passing the physical and mental tests are just the first steps to becoming a firefighter. To increase the chances of getting employed and to advance in the profession, prospective firefighters should get training and education related to the profession. Options include college programs, certifications and specialized training.

  • College Programs: Taking college classes in fire science and/or related fields such as emergency management, public health, and hazardous materials can be a great way to learn about the field and make yourself more marketable for a firefighting position.
  • Certification: Prospective firefighters should consider seeking out any available certification that could be helpful in their job searches. Examples of firefighter certifications include EMT and HazMat certifications.
  • Specialized Training: Additionally, any specialized training related to firefighting and emergency management can be beneficial. Examples of this type of training include paid or volunteer firefighter trainings, wild land firefighting, and command and control trainings.

3. Prepare and Apply

Once a candidate has met the qualifications, received necessary training and education, and has the other items listed above (e.g. certifications, experience, and recommendations), they will be ready to apply for a firefighting position. Applications can vary greatly by jurisdiction, so it will be important to read thoroughly through the job announcement and submit a complete, professional application packet.

4. Jumpstart Your Career

Once hired, firefighting recruits must go through training academy where they will learn the details of the job and the department’s protocols and safety requirements. After academy, there are often additional state or department specific certifications firefighters will receive.

The continuing education and mentorship required to climb the career ladder can sometimes be more complex than the skills needed for the entry-level job. But, with commitment, dedication and a desire to learn, any firefighter can succeed and become a leader in the field.


At its foundation, the job of a firefighter requires a strong dedication to public service, physical fitness and the willingness to take risks. However, an aspiring firefighter must also meet certain qualifications, obtain proper training and education, and apply for the job competitively in order to launch a successful career in firefighting.

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