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How do I Join the Fire Department?

Hillary Flynn
Updated: Mar 02, 2024

There are several different types of fire departments. Some hire full-time paid firefighters and some are run entirely by volunteer firefighters. Whichever position is desired, a firefighter must undergo rigorous physical and academic training to ensure a strong knowledge of fire safety techniques and the physical stamina to endure the tasks required by members of a fire department. Joining a department requires that both physical and written tests are passed with scores demonstrating a thorough knowledge of fire safety. Candidates must be able to respond quickly in emergency situations.

The first step in joining a fire department as a paid firefighter is acquiring the appropriate training. Usually firefighters must have a high school diploma, and some complete two- or four-year programs in fire science at community colleges and universities. However, an academic program is not required and if a candidate already has contacts at a fire department, he or she may apply for a position straight out of high school. Much depends on the competition for working in a particular geographical area, so those without connections who wish to work at a popular fire department may have a better shot if they complete an academic program in fire science first.

Once a candidate applies and is accepted for training at a fire department, the candidate must then complete several weeks of training at the department's training center. Training consists of classroom work and practical training where trainees learn firefighting techniques, safety procedures, hazardous materials control, emergency medical procedures, fire prevention techniques, and how to use equipment. When this training is complete, trainees are assigned to a fire company and begin a period of probation. While on probation, firefighters continue training on the job while being supervised by experienced firefighters.

For those who wish to join a volunteer fire department, the procedure is similar. An application must be submitted to the volunteer fire department, then if the application is accepted, the candidate will undergo a training program and then be required to pass a physical and written test. Firefighters must also become certified as Emergency Medical Technicians (EMTs). The level of EMT certification is determined by the individual departments, as is whether or not the certification is required before beginning the job or after. Many fire companies allow up to a year for beginning firefighters to acquire EMT certification.

Practical Adult Insights is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Hillary Flynn
By Hillary Flynn
Hillary Flynn's insatiable curiosity led her to join the Practical Adult Insights team, where she contributes well-researched articles on various topics. In addition to her work with Practical Adult Insights, Hillary manages an electronic publishing business that allows her to develop her skills in technical writing, graphic design, and business development. With a passion for satirical writing and traveling to historical places, Hillary brings a distinctive voice to her content.
Discussion Comments
By CaithnessCC — On Jun 05, 2011

@angelBraids - The last I heard the LA fire department was actively campaigning for women to join up, so I can't see you having a problem applying.

You don't mention your fitness level, but presuming you are active and exercise regularly that should be okay. The major problem female firefighters face is their lack of strength.

Physiologically you are disadvantaged, and this makes it very tough for women to get through the training course. (This isn't easy for men either, with around 35% failing to graduate.) Fire department apparatus is heavy, and must be handled and operated for long periods and in stressful situations. It's simply not something that everybody who wants to, can do.

I've worked in the Chicago fire department since I graduated high school, and everyone here is fully supportive of women coming onboard. Good luck with your career, be determined and you will succeed.

By angelBraids — On Jun 03, 2011

I live in LA and would love to be a fire fighter when I finish school. My folks hate the idea, and keep telling me it's not the right kind of job for a girl.

I'm pretty sure that women are allowed to join, and I'm aware of the potential issues that could arise from entering a male dominated work place. I would like to hear opinions on my chances, from people who do this job.

By Penzance356 — On Jun 02, 2011

For many years my dream job was to work for the New York city fire department. Sadly, for health reasons it never happened, but I am involved in fund raising for my local volunteer fire service.

I was once told that around 70% of all fire fighters in the U.S. are volunteers. People who give up their time to risk their lives for others are amazing and I have the utmost respect for them.

Hillary Flynn
Hillary Flynn
Hillary Flynn's insatiable curiosity led her to join the Practical Adult Insights team, where she contributes well-...
Learn more
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