Other than putting out home fires and wildfires, so much more goes into this career. Firefighters also need intense medical training and to know how to respond in various emergencies, such as car accidents, explosions and natural disasters. Firefighters are the first people on the scene, ready to treat, carry, help and transfer victims to safety.
You need compassion, mental stamina, communication skills and physical strength to be a firefighter. In many cases, firefighters must also rely on decision-making skills in intense conditions. If you are thinking about becoming a firefighter, consult this guide to the certifications and requirements you need to succeed.
Table of Contents
- What Goes Into Becoming a Firefighter?
- State Firefighter Certification
- Additional Certifications and Requirements
- Expand Your Potential at the Hazmat School
What Goes Into Becoming a Firefighter?
Becoming a firefighter is a long, challenging process that requires dedication, passion and hard work. There are many expectations and requirements for those who want to become a firefighter and first responder, including the following guidelines:
- Be at least 18 years of age and have a valid driver’s license
- Have a high school diploma, GED or more advanced degree
- Train for the physical demands and tests for the job
- Avoid tickets, accidents and keep your driving record clean
- Be mindful of what you post on social media
- Maintain financial responsibility and a healthy lifestyle
- Volunteer and serve your community whenever possible
- Study and prepare for the upcoming firefighter tests
Once you’ve successfully crossed these items off your list, you will be ready to take the written exam and psychological evaluation. After you have passed these tests, you will receive your entry-level certifications and graduate from the fire academy. Finally, you can prepare for your interview as an employed firefighter. Keep in mind that the firefighter field is competitive, so it’s important to maintain these requirements to stand out as a worthy applicant.
The certifications firefighters need depend on a few factors. To be a firefighter, you might also have to be an Emergency Medical Technician (EMT). Many fire departments will require this certification before or after hiring you. EMTs are highly skilled to administer life-saving treatment and medical attention for injuries in critical situations, such as car accidents. While EMTs are commonly confused with paramedics, there are a few differences in their qualifications and training.
To meet your EMT certification requirements, you need to be sufficient in CPR and first aid for a wide range of other medical issues. Many fire departments will look for applications that are already certified EMTs because it requires less training, as many EMTs are highly qualified and experienced already. This certification will allow you to focus more on the firefighting aspects of the job rather than going through medical training you already have.
Some of the basic EMT qualifications include:
- A high school diploma with completed courses in anatomy and physiology
- CPR training and certification
- Attendance at a community college or technical school
- Sufficient education on patient conditions, trauma, cardiac emergencies, blocked airways and certain equipment use.
- An average of 160 hours of training
EMT training can occur in an ambulance or hospital setting as well as the classroom.
While getting your EMT certification, you may realize you have a passion for the medical treatment field. If so, you can advance your studies in emergency services and become a paramedic. Unlike an EMT certification, becoming a paramedic is not required to become a fireman, but it will make you stand out among other applicants for a firefighter job.
To become a paramedic, you need to meet requirements like:
- Have six months of work experience as an EMT
- Pass all necessary admission requirements such as proof of immunizations, background checks and entrance exams
- Take the required and approved courses and training in your state
- Pass the necessary examinations within two years of completion
- Apply for and obtain a certificate for your course
The overall courses and training process to become a paramedic can take anywhere from six months to about three years. You’ll gain extensive, comprehensive knowledge about the emergency response medical field.
All fire departments differ in their requirements, and paramedic courses follow a similar structure. Depending on your state, there will be varying eligibility and firefighter requirements for entering paramedic training to help determine which candidates will be successful in the program.
State Firefighter Certification
To become a certified state firefighter, you must fulfill many of the previous basic requirements corresponding to education, experience, firefighter training and other essential conditions.
Depending on the state and county where you plan to get certified and hired, there are different minimum required courses. For example, in Pennsylvania, you need to pass The NFPA 1001 Standard for Fire Fighter Professional Qualifications, under Firefighter I and Firefighter II course levels. Certifications for firefighters may be considered equivalent in other states if approved by state officials. Research your specific state’s requirements to be a firefighter to understand what you must complete.
To become a state-certified firefighter, on a general level, you will need to:
- Demonstrate your competency in the required skills to perform your job
- Provide proof of fundamental knowledge to work as a firefighter in various conditions
- Understand how to deal with various hazardous wastes that can lead to fires or explosions
- Meet the minimum standards for your state and fire department that you are applying to
- Maintain your education on these courses and training throughout employment
Once you have provided proof of your completed courses, training and experience, you may need to take some additional exams or undergo interviews. This process can take some time, so ensure you persevere and be patient. Every step will help you meet your goals to become a firefighter.
It’s a good idea to seek out any extra opportunities to make you stand out, such as getting hands-on experience at your local fire department. Staying proactive in your pursuit of knowledge and resources will further your career in a positive, well-rounded way.
Additional Certifications and Requirements
In addition to your medical training, you will also need to pass physical tests. These tests help determine your physical capabilities in using and carrying equipment, climbing stairs and handling hoses and extension ladders. Written tests are used to determine your knowledge of your various courses and hours of training. When you get hired as a firefighter, you may also need to regularly pass random drug tests throughout your employment.
You can always improve your education and build your skillset with many other safety and healthcare courses in relation to your firefighter certifications. For instance, you can take various Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) safety courses to show you have been trained according to compliance regulations related to the firefighting and medical fields. These courses could include first responder awareness and first responder operations courses, which can satisfy regulations while helping you continue your education.
You can also learn another language, which would be helpful in communicating with people of a different background in emergencies. If you don’t have any of these courses under your belt just yet, consider volunteering as a firefighter to gain experience and help you get a feel for the demands of the job.
Expand Your Potential at the Hazmat School
If you want to be a firefighter, find ways to strengthen your comprehensive knowledge and build your confidence. As a firefighter, you will often be the first one on the scene in emergencies involving life-or-death conditions and even hazardous wastes. At the Hazmat School, you can take various courses to improve your practical professional training. We offer many different webinars, workshops and courses for first responders.
We know the many requirements in your field can fill up your schedule, so that’s why we are proud to offer on-site or online courses. Access these courses, workshops and other resources at any time from any location. With the Hazmat School, you can continue your required ongoing training while meeting strict criteria or earn your OSHA certifications to become a stronger candidate for your local fire department.
Contact us online or call us today at (877) 674-2669 to see how we can help you further your career as a firefighter.