How To Become a Firefighter

Are you looking for information on how to become a firefighter? Read this informative guide on firefighting careers today.

Firefighting is an exciting albeit dangerous profession pursued only by those with the wherewithal and ambition to serve their communities in the most extreme of circumstances. Firefighters serve in small towns, big cities and sprawling rural communities. Firefighters also operate in wildfire and forest fire scenarios, sometimes fire jumping (also referred to as smoke jumping) into highly dangerous settings to help save wildlife, land and human lives.

Understanding what to expect when pursuing a career as a firefighter is vital to making the best decision about your life and career path. Multiple specific steps must be taken to earn the right to call yourself a firefighter as well. These steps involve training, education and obtaining official certifications. Are you looking for information on how to get into the fire academy and begin your career as an admirable firefighter? Continue reading for an informative guide on how to become a firefighter and serve your community through a rewarding career today. 

Interested In Becoming a Firefighter? Here’s What to Expect

Becoming a firefighter presents multiple exciting prospects. Many candidates want to dive in fast and begin serving on-site and on-duty immediately. The truth is, however, becoming a firefighter requires serious comprehensive education training and the endurance (and successful completion) of intense physical and mental tests. Required educational training focuses on a large variety of fundamental materials combined with specific areas of applicable study. Intense and integral physical training often requires candidates to dedicate themselves even more.

Additionally, the job of a firefighter requires several preparatory-type commitments for candidates to qualify for regular training. This is not only because the job is dangerous to firefighters in-and-of-itself. The primary goal of a firefighter is to save lives. To accomplish this goal, one needs more than fortunate circumstances. Firefighters are expected to:

  • Be always drug free, on-duty and off.

  • Be alcohol-free for a viable amount of time pre-duty and (of course) on-duty.

  • Be physically fit and capable of handling all demands as required of the position.

  • Be flexible, adaptable, and strong-willed (but also compassionate).

  • Become an Emergency Medical Technician (EMT).

  • Volunteer time to organizations such as the Red Cross, United Way, Habitat for Humanity and more.

  • Obtain approximately fifty-three hours of training on subjects related to line-of-duty fatalities and injuries sustained by firefighters.

  • Understand the processes and criteria requirements to become hired as a firefighter.

  • Make visits to fire stations while in-training to 1.) Develop relationships with possible future coworkers; 2.) Understand station protocols, and 3.) Learn more about job requirements overall.

  • Subscribe to applicable publications such as to learn more about the position and job requirements.

  • Seek out opportunities to acquire hands-on experience to bolster and supplement your education via internship, cadet, paid-on-call, volunteer, and reserve positions.

Steps to Becoming a Firefighter

The initial steps to becoming a firefighter go together with getting accepted into the fire academy. Begin by following all guidance and information as listed above. The first real step is to prove your unwavering interest in becoming a firefighter - not only to other firefighters, trainers, and the academy - but also to yourself. Understanding whether you want to fight fires in towns/cities, forests or the open wild is also important. Some firefighting skills apply to positions no matter where you are fighting fires. Smoke jumping requires a uniquely specific set of skills, however, compared to fighting fires in cities such as Boston, New York, or Las Vegas. Knowing the difference between the different types of firefighting careers available helps you understand the specific steps you need to take.

Preparation for an Important and Intense Career

Preparing for a career in firefighting involves numerous steps integral to your success. Most professional firefighters begin as volunteers. Volunteer activities include community service, providing station-applicable assistance or working a table/booth at local public events. Obtaining CPR training is also an essential step to becoming a professional firefighter. Additional steps involved in becoming a firefighter include:

  • Graduate high school with a diploma or obtain an applicable equivalency degree.

  • Attend a school specializing in fire science programs.

  • Take and pass all necessary pre-academy examinations. 

  • Gather information on all relevant character, personal, professional, and additional references.

  • Research all schools and/or academies to which you wish to apply.

  • Apply to at least three schools and/or academies to increase your chances of entry.

How to Get into the Fire Academy

Getting accepted into a fire academy is generally reliant upon you first following all steps as listed above. Please note: The steps listed above are not an end-all-be-all method of gaining entrance into a fire academy. There is, however, legitimate guidance provided in the steps above if followed properly based on your situation.

Two popular certificate programs include the Antelope Valley College wildfire program (tuition and fees cost $1,104) and the Lake Tahoe Community College program ($1,121). Degree programs designed for firefighter careers charge a widely varying degree in prices for tuition. For example, Purdue University charges approximately $15,000 plus expenses for its associate wildfire degree program. Many bachelor’s and master’s degree programs cost in the low-to-mid twenty-thousands and higher.

Financial aid is available to qualified applicants to help pay for some or all tuition costs to the fire academy. All prospective students are encouraged to complete and submit the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) form. Opportunities to apply for the U.S. Federal Pell Grant program are also available to applicants who meet specific financial-status criteria. 

In a Hurry? Here are Some Ways to Get a Firefighting Degree Faster

Associate and bachelor’s firefighter degree programs typically take two and four years to complete respectively. Master’s degree programs commonly take two additional years once your bachelor’s degree is obtained. Accelerated curriculums and scheduling might be available to qualified students, however, which allow the programs to be completed in less time. Many certificate programs are completable in as little as three-to-twelve months as well. Contact the academy or learning facility of your choice to ask about accelerated learning and graduation programs to help advance your firefighting career timeline today.