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What are the Requirements to Become a Firefighter?

By K T Solis
Updated Mar 02, 2024
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To become a firefighter, applicants need to be intelligent, physically fit, and able to withstand an unusual degree of stress. Firefighters must be prepared to carry out a variety of tasks including fighting fires, rescuing people, and educating the public about fire prevention. Training often requires a certain amount of education, with a focus on physical and mental training preparing a candidate to deal with the stress of putting out fires. Not everyone can become a firefighter, but those who are up to the challenge can enjoy a rewarding career that the public traditionally regards with a great deal of respect.

General Requirements

Requirements to become a firefighter can vary by country and region, but the majority of stipulations are common to many places. To apply, a prospective firefighter must be at least 17 or 18 years of age, depending on the fire department. Some departments require that applicants are at least 21 and no older than 29. All applicants in the US must have a high school diploma or equivalency, while some fire departments require that applicants have an associate's degree or complete a few college credits in certain subjects.

Physical Restrictions

Prospective firefighters must be physically fit and possess excellent vision and hearing. In general, each applicant must submit to a medical examination performed by a doctor approved by the fire department. Applicants need to have a clean driving record with a valid driver's license. They must also typically pass a criminal background check.

Educational Requirements

In order to become a firefighter, some people choose to attend a college or university that offers degrees in fire science or fire engineering, though this is not always mandatory. On the other hand, most states provide firefighter applicants with extensive firefighting training, regardless of previous education. After training, students must pass a written test and a physical stamina exam. If an applicant scores high in each exam, he or she has a better chance of being selected as a firefighter.

Psychological Considerations

If someone wants to become a firefighter, then he or she needs to be able to handle stress well. Firefighters respond to emergencies in a calm manner and maintain focus and concentration under extreme stress. Those who panic easily or have a fear of heights should usually not apply to become a firefighter.

On the Job Training

During field training, firefighter trainees often have to fight controlled fires in order to learn a variety of ways to put them out. Some students receive on-the-job training, working with professionals in the fire station. A combination of classroom training and hands-on experience readies trainees to handle a variety of emergencies they may encounter once employed.

Future Opportunities for Firefighters

When a person decides to become a firefighter, he or she can expect a career that offers excellent health benefits, a retirement pension after about 20 years of service, and job security. It is rare for a fire department to lay off employees, so firefighters enjoy a high rate of job security. As firefighters obtain years of experience and further education, they can advance within the organization, often becoming a fire inspector, investigator, or fire chief.

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Discussion Comments

By anon356222 — On Nov 23, 2013

I want to be a firefighter but I'm kind of scared of heights. Will this affect me a lot?

By anon335594 — On May 21, 2013

I'm taking a year-long high school class on fire and EMS. We are partnered with the fire departments in my region. I hope I make it to become a firefighter. This page just made it seem like I do not need to take this class.

By anon327213 — On Mar 26, 2013

I am 18 turning 19 in the summer. I have always wanted to be a firefighter. I always wanted to save lives, even if it meant putting mine in danger. My mother didn't like the idea of me growing up to fight fires. You know how mothers are, protective over their young. I am in college studying physical therapy. The only problem is this is not where my heart is. I just wish I could convince my mom that this would make me happy, and maybe this is my vocation, my calling.

By jaynavarro95 — On Jan 21, 2013

I'm 17 years old and I want to be a fire fighter. I know this job is for me because when I was a kid I had asthma and now I'm completely healthy. I always dream to become a firefighter because I love helping people and I'm willing to risk my life for others. Also, I love nature and when a building or some other thing that could burn is caught on fire, it destroys our atmosphere and I want to prevent that for future generations.

My question is, what do I need to do to apply and get accepted into an academy? This is my last year in high school and I'm planning to go to college with a firefighter program. I need help.

By anon309857 — On Dec 19, 2012

@post 27: If you are not a citizen, but are a resident, no problem. You'll need a valid drivers license, background check, and physical exam either way.

On the other hand, illegal immigrants cannot. If they are under 18 years old - with an expired visa, he/she must seek help from an immigration lawyer. The chances are really slim, though.

By anon305411 — On Nov 26, 2012

I'm 15, female and I really want to join. All I have to keep saying is quitters never win and winners never quit!

By anon296552 — On Oct 11, 2012

Do you have to be a citizen?

By anon294804 — On Oct 03, 2012

I'm looking into joining the fire department and am very interested! I always have been; I just never had the guts. The only thing is it requires a clean driving record. does anyone know what is meant by a clean record? Please help. I don't want something that happened some odd years ago to affect this.

By anon293142 — On Sep 24, 2012

I'm sure that everyone knows that firefighters are not allowed to use any or have any type of drug. They are to be drug free. Does anyone know if they are able to to fight fires for maybe another station, in a different town or city?

By anon229162 — On Nov 12, 2011

This will really help me on my project!

By anon227426 — On Nov 04, 2011

Does anyone know if firefighting certifications transfer state by state. I plan to go to Alabama with my girlfriend so she can go to college but then we will be moving back to California. If I get certified in Alabama, can I transfer all of that to become a firefighter in California?

By anon219750 — On Oct 04, 2011

Mark, I didn't know anyone even knew where Rapid City was! (I am from there).

You can be a girl and still show the men up in many different ways, however, firefighting is not one of those ways. There is too much on the line to want to be a firefighter just to show up men, and that is where people get physically hurt. Just saying. You need to think about your actions.

I moved to Iowa to be a firefighter as the department in my hometown was still sexist and would not let me on. I absolutely love every minute of it, from the continuous training, to the bull-oney calls that wake you out of bed at 3 am. I am proud to say that 50 percent of my closet is dedicated to fire apparel, and I keep extra pairs of long socks in my locker so I can still wear flip flops in the summer.

I would never take back moving towns just to become a firefighter. It is honestly the most rewarding job I don't get paid to do.

By anon168194 — On Apr 15, 2011

Being a firefighter has been a dream of mine since i was a toddler. everything about putting my life at risk for others and the sweat and pain i must endure makes me crave it more!

I can't wait until i graduate high school. I'll keep trying and trying until i can fulfill my dream of being not only a firefighter, but someone the public can depend on.

By anon154072 — On Feb 19, 2011

What specific classes do i take because no one has told what different classes i need other than fire science.

By anon110683 — On Sep 12, 2010

Firefighting is very fun and rewarding. I have served for the past two years on a volunteer department in both Rapid City, SD (I was only up there because of the Air Force) and in Ada, OK.

I have been on wildland/structural/wildland urban interface fire as well as many many many medicals. It is an amazing feeling when your pager goes off and you go barreling out the door, racing to the station, not sure of what you're going to, but knowing that someone needs your help in some shape, form, or fashion.

I have also done several ride alongs with the city fire dept when I was doing my EMT training. I hope that all of you who are wanting to become a firefighter work as hard as you can in order to achieve this goal, but I can assure you it isn't easy.

Just to become a volunteer firefighter I had to go through five months of structural training (consisting of M-W-F from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. and some saturdays from 9 a.m. to 4-5 p.m.) and two weeks of wildland/wildland urban interface. I don't want to sound like I'm trying to ruin your dreams, but it is a very physically/mentally demanding field and I wouldn't want go into this field if your trying to prove something (i.e. the post above from the lady who wants to be a firefighter just so she can say she's better than most men).

If you're going to be a firefighter, do it because you love helping people and want to contribute to your community up to and (hopefully not including) sacrificing yourself to help a complete stranger, or to save a complete stranger. Start thinking about these things now so that when the time comes for you to sign up, your already at peace with the fact that you may die.

Thanks for listening to my massive speech on firefighting. --Mark; Volunteer Firefighter/EMT-B

By anon100976 — On Aug 01, 2010

I'm only 14 but I really really really want to be a firefighter so bad! My cousin is one and he is the coolest person ever and I just want to do good and help people! Yeah, I can't wait for four years when I can join!

By anon85547 — On May 20, 2010

I am aiming toward becoming a paramedic firefighter.

By anon83574 — On May 11, 2010

I like the feeling of making someone happy and the rush i can get from saving lives. i can't wait til i get out of school to join a fire department.

By anon82968 — On May 08, 2010

I really want to become a firefighter - can't wait until i finish school.

By anon82627 — On May 06, 2010

I'm a female wanting to become a firefighter as well. Waiting to graduate!

By anon78422 — On Apr 18, 2010

wow i'm a girl and i want to be a firefighter and they say i could do better than most men. i can't wait to get out of school.

By anon71930 — On Mar 20, 2010

Just waiting for a testing date.

By anon68172 — On Mar 01, 2010

that sounds cool. when i'm done with school, i'm going to be a firefighter.

By anon51373 — On Nov 05, 2009

wow. sounds fun. (:

By anon38246 — On Jul 24, 2009

Seems like the perfect for me. I'll apply in four years as soon as I'm out of the Marines

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