I Decided to Become a Firefighter, Now What?
Wondering what should you do to become a firefighter? Do you think you have what it takes to be a firefighter? Not sure where to start. In this post, I will give you a basic idea of where you should start your process of becoming a firefighter.
I want to start this post by saying Congratulations!!! You will be embarking on a fun and fulfilling process that’s included with getting a job as a firefighter.
Below is a list of items required for most departments to become a firefighter. If you have a lot of them then maybe you’re closer to becoming a firefighter than you thought. If you don’t have many, then its time to start checking them off your list, one-by-one.
It’s impossilbe to say what you would have to personally do because it depends on where you live, what type of firefighter you want to be, and what you’ve already done. Keep this list as a general guideline as you continue your firefighter goals.
Becoming a firefighter is not easy, it is a dream job for many but the process will be challenging. To consider becoming a firefighter you will first need to meet the minimum firefighter requirements.
Minimum age requirement: For most departments, it’s at least 18 years old. This is the minimum age requirement for being a firefighter although there are some few fire departments that require you to be at least 21 to apply. In a few departments, there might also be a maximum age to apply which depends on the department you’re applying to.
Physically Fit: Becoming a firefighter requires passing a physical ability test, sometimes more than one. You must yourself for the physical nature of the job as well as the demands of the test. The fact that you have a well-defined shoulder or a 300lb bench press is not going to translate into success when faced with the scenario given of knocking down a door and carrying a person to safety. You’re going to have to get in shape. And don’t forget the smoke and heat like you’d have at a fire. You must also pass the medical exam and the drug test.
Grade 12 Diploma: You’ll need to have a high school diploma or a GED to apply to be a firefighter. This is the minimum educational requirement. Many firefighters earn a degree in fire science to advance their career.
Valid driver license: Yes you will need a driver’s license to be a firefighter. It’s about time to get around to it if you don’t have one yet. Driving is so important in the fire service, you’ll always have to supply your department with a copy of your driving record, and though it doesn’t have to be the best record, it helps if it’s a clean driving record.
Keeping your record clean. The Cleaner the better! This has been a problem with many fire departments and will continue be a reason some poeple will lose or not obtain a job as a firefighter. Though, if you talk to a number of firefighters you may find that a lot of them have some sort of criminal background, some more severe than others. Fire departments know that we have been young and dumb at one time and we have all made mistakes in the past, some of those errors are forgivable, some aren’t . All of the the fire department will run an extensive background check, so make sure that you don’t have any traffic issues, felonies, or records of chronic drug use in your past. Your best bet will be to keep your record clean so you don’t have to worry about anything because the department digs into your past to ding those skeletons in your closet.
EMT/Paramedic: The majority of fire department now require EMT certification for all candidates and most of them will even require you to be a certified paramedic. Having the CPR or paramedic training will also make you a more desirable candidate because you have more experience and a better sense of what the job takes.
These next steps are not required but will help you get a job:
Community Volunteering or Volunteer Firefighting Experience: While it’s not a requirement, being a volunteer firefighter will help in the hiring process. Volunteering your time for a great cause is one way to prove you’re ready to serve your community. Being a firefighter requires dedication and commitment. Working in public safety is all about community service. Don’t volunteer just to up your chances of getting hired, but because you have a sincere interest in caring for your fellow citizens. As a volunteer firefighter, you’ll learn the trade and skills to become a firefighter.
Graduate a Fire Academy: Progressive and competitive departments may require formal education in addition to the fire academy and EMS certifications. It’s becoming more and more common that departments require at least a two-year degree. You will need to find a school with Fire Science training course. Usually, it’s taught on Associate’s level, which takes 2 years to accomplish. You should expect to learn subjects like Fire Prevention, Fire Behavior, Principles of Emergency Services, Building Construction, Fire Protection Systems, etc. Though a bachelor’s degree is not required, it will help to be the most desirable candidate.
Foreign Language Skills: Speaking a foreign language is a huge asset to the fire department. It will definitely help set you apart from others during the hiring process. Being able to communicate with a person in need in his or her native languages is a huge plus.
Residency Requirements: A few departments require residency requirements. That is, you must live within a certain distance from the city or county. Some even give you residency points during the hiring process. Definitely worth checking with the department you want to get hired with.
Pass the Candidate Physical Ability Test (CPAT). The CPAT is a big part of the fire service on the west coast. A lot of departments are using it nowadays, especially in the bigger departments. It’s one of the main physical agility tests you can do when you’re trying to get hired as a full-time firefighter. This is a rigorous test that will require you to demonstrate your speed, agility, strength, and endurance. Once you passed the test you will get your Cpat card. The departments will ask for a copy of that card when you apply to their department. You can read my post on everything you need to know about the CPAT.
There you have it. Now I know this list might seem a little long but there may this might not be everything you may need. Keep this list as a general guideline for your endeavors. Good luck and remember, I’m just a message away.