Communities around the country rely on firefighters during times of need. When car accidents or structure fires occur, firefighters are the first to go in and save lives. If you think you have what it takes to enter this dangerous yet essential profession, then you should understand the steps and requirements needed to become one of these local heroes.
How does a person become a firefighter? Well, they need to be physically fit and have plenty of courage. They should be ready to go into a burning building at any time to save lives. It’s a stressful, competitive field. Here are the steps and requirements needed to become a firefighter.
Steps to Becoming a Firefighter
Even though every career path is different based on experience and background, these are six general steps you can take to become a firefighter:
- Volunteer: Fire departments always need extra help. Ask your local department how you can get involved. They might even have opportunities for people under 18. Volunteering is a great way to get your foot in the door, make connections and learn about the career firsthand.
- Get trained as an Emergency Medical Technician (EMT): While you’re volunteering, you should take a full EMT training course and get your certification. Becoming a certified first responder will look great on your resume and raise your credentials when you’re looking to advance your career from here.
- Attend the fire academy: Your local fire department should host a fire academy for firefighters who wish to advance their careers. This will combine classroom learning with hands-on activities. You’ll learn the basics of controlling fires, handling tools and preventing arson.
- Take exams: You’ll need to pass both written and physical exams to become a firefighter. Written exams check your problem-solving, decision-making and cognitive skills. Physical exams make sure you are physically fit to carry out the demanding tasks of the profession.
- Apply: Next, you’ll apply for a position at a firehouse or other firefighter position. These can include wilderness firefighting, state fire departments and even construction site fire services. You’ll have to pass an interview and background checks, so make sure you are ready to answer questions honestly.
- Advance in the profession: Like any profession, being a firefighter comes with advancement opportunities. Ask your employer how you can grow in the field. This will usually involve continuing education, either by getting a degree in fire science at a college or university or attending classes with the National Fire Academy. Advanced positions include lieutenant all the way up to fire chief of a fire department.
10 Requirements to Become a Firefighter
It’s a lot of work to become a firefighter, but if you have what it takes, you can attain your dream firefighter job. Follow these 10 requirements on your path to becoming a firefighter:
- Meet basic requirements: You’ll need to be at least 18 years old with a valid driver’s license. Some fire departments allow minors to become junior firefighters. It also helps if you live in the same city or town as your fire department.
- Meet education requirements: What level of education do you need to become a firefighter? A high school diploma or equivalent is the minimum education requirement, but you can exceed that to boost your resume. Get a degree in fire science or become a certified EMT to get the attention of your local fire department.
- Meet physical condition requirements: You must pass a physical exam to become a firefighter, so make sure you’re in good shape. Work out and eat healthier to make sure you’re ready for the job. Strenuous tasks include raising and extending ladders, climbing flights of stairs and hauling heavy equipment.
- Have a clean record: Being in a trusted position in the community demands a clean record. Yet, everyone has made mistakes in their past. Be open and honest and show that you’ve used your mistakes to improve yourself. Stay clean and show that you’re ready to lead in the community.
- Have social media awareness: There’s no question that social media accounts can get people into trouble. Saying the wrong thing — even if it was said many years ago — can come back to bite you. Employers often scan your social media accounts, and fire departments will do the same. Clean up your accounts or delete them altogether. You want an upright image in your community’s eyes.
- Be involved in your community: Being a firefighter means you’ll be heavily involved in your community. Start volunteering in local events right away, whether or not they are fire-related. This is a great way to make community connections and show people that you want to get to know them and make your town a happier, safer place.
- Pass the written exam: To become a firefighter, you need to pass a written exam. This exam will ask you questions related to a firefighter’s job duties to see how you would act in certain situations. Ask your local firefighters how you can prepare for the exam and start studying right away.
- Undergo a psychological evaluation: There are many daily stresses associated with being a firefighter. These include long hours, spending time away from home at the firehouse and dealing with possible trauma from emergency situations. The psychological evaluation will make sure you can handle these stresses.
- Graduate from the fire academy: When you’re a volunteer, it’s easy to enter your fire department’s local fire academy. Put forth the time and effort to excel in the classroom and activity-based exercises. Upon graduating, you’ll receive your firefighter certifications. With these, you’ll be ready for an entry-level position within your fire department.
- Interview for firefighter jobs: The interview is your chance to show what sets you apart from the other applicants. In such a competitive field, you’ll need to make a good impression. Be ready to explain why you want to become a firefighter and carry yourself with confidence!
Other Considerations for Becoming a Firefighter
There are two final questions to ask when thinking about becoming a firefighter:
- How long does it take to become a firefighter?
- How much do firefighters get paid?
Everyone’s path to becoming a firefighter is different. Some take a more direct route, while others take more time, depending on their life circumstances. When you’re ready, you could spend around 24 weeks in the fire academy before a fire department will hire you. After that, you’ll be in a six-month probationary period before truly solidifying your new position.
You likely also want to how much a firefighter makes. The median pay for firefighters in 2019 was $50,850 per year. As you progress through the rankings, you’ll receive pay raises and promotions. Ask your superiors about opportunities for advancements and plan a path to climb the ladder in your field.
Contact Hazmat School for Details on First Responder Courses
If you want to boost your resume and become a certified first responder, then Hazmat School can help. We offer many courses that can aid you as you seek to advance your career. Stay regulation-compliant and invest in your career growth as a firefighter with Hazmat School. Contact us today and learn more about our courses.