How to Become a Firefighter: The Important Steps


Growing up, you were always intrigued by the idea of becoming a firefighter. Now, however, you’re seriously considering giving it a shot. 

The question is: how do you become a firefighter? What is the path to starting this career? There’s a bit of variation from person to person, however, for most, the path is more or less the same. 

Below, we’re going to cover every aspect of how to become a firefighter, putting you in an ideal position to secure firefighter jobs and firefighter careers in the future. Let’s go!

How to Become a Firefighter

There are a few different paths you can take to becoming a firefighter. We’re going to cover one of the most common paths. Follow these steps, and you’ll almost certainly obtain the firefighter career you’re looking for. 

Graduate from High School/Earn Your GED

First and foremost, you need to graduate from high school or obtain your GED. While you don’t necessarily need to be a high school graduate (though many municipalities require it), earning your high school diploma or equivalent is highly recommended. It will greatly increase your chances of finding employment in the future. 

Sign Up as a Volunteer 

Our next piece of advice is to sign up as a volunteer. While this isn’t a required step, it can greatly increase your chances of landing a paid position in the future. 

After all, a volunteer firefighter is still very much a firefighter. The responsibilities are essentially identical. Therefore, by working as a volunteer, you prove that you have the knowledge and skills to get the job done. 

You can find volunteer opportunities in a number of places. Small towns are often looking for volunteer firefighters, as they often comprise their entire fire departments. 

You can also call up larger fire departments and ask if they need volunteers for anything. This may not have you fighting fires but doing administrative work, attending public events, and otherwise. 

Get Training for CPR

If you want to work as a volunteer, you’re likely going to have to get CPR training. Training will certainly increase your chances of going on a ride-along, at the very least. An AHA CPR Certification is one of the most sought after programs to getting certified. 

Ideally, you’ll receive CPR training from the American Red Cross. They hold CPR training classes across the country in various cities and towns. To find one near you, simply go to Google and type “American Red Cross CPR training in [your nearest city]”. 

Gain Relevant Post-secondary Education

While post-secondary education isn’t necessarily needed in order to become a firefighter, it is needed for a great many of the advanced-level firefighting positions. As such, it’s highly recommended that you obtain it. 

In particular, you should gain a degree in fire science. This is a degree that helps you understand the behavior of fire. This way, you’ll know how to suppress it and put it out entirely. 

Fire science degrees are associate degrees, and so take 2 years to complete. You can find them at most colleges and universities. 

Note, you can also obtain certificates in fire science. These are not as intensive, and so take fewer years to complete. However, they might not provide you with the credentials you needed to obtain higher-level employment down the line.

Search Employment Opportunities

Once you’ve gained your fire science degree, you can start looking for employment. Obviously, all towns and cities need firefighters. But if you want the most lucrative opportunities, you should search cities only; they tend to pay much better and offer better benefits as well. 

Once you’ve landed an interview, you’ll likely need to pass several examinations. These will test your knowledge of fire science, fire safety, fire extinguishing, and relevant processes.

Each municipality is bound to have different requirements. So, expect the unexpected. But, in most cases, you’ll have to face written examinations, oral interviews, eye tests, fitness tests, and background checks. 

Note that in some cases, you might even be expected to volunteer in a specific program prior to starting your career officially. 

Be Consistently Good at Your Job

Once you’ve obtained employment, you need to be consistently good at your job. This will not only help you to maintain employment but to rise in the ranks in the future. 

There aren’t tons of advancement opportunities available in fire departments. If you want a more advanced position, you have to be the best of the best. This requires consistent demonstrations of leadership, work proficiency, and communication. 

It also helps to continuously gain accreditation in various firefighting niches. Doing so not only provides you with specialized knowledge but also shows that you’re serious about the profession. 

Want to mark your dedication to the firefighting profession? If so, you should consider a fire department challenge coin

How Much Money Do Firefighters Make?

The amount of money that a firefighter makes is highly dependent on the municipality in which they work. Big-city firefighters make a lot more money than small-town firefighters. 

On average, firefighters make around $58,000 a year. That said, in New Jersey, for instance, firefighters make almost $90,000 a year on average. 

In essence, there’s a great deal of variation. But, in any event, it’s a fairly lucrative career, one that will most certainly keep you afloat financially. 

Need More Help Finding a Job That’s Right for You?

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