Becoming a firefighter goes beyond the mere measures of physical strength and career prospects.
You may assume that the job of a firefighter is limited to simply fighting fires but in truth, it goes way beyond this physical task.
Given the nature of their work, firefighters are also responsible for administering first aid, aiding in search & rescue missions, writing reports on fire incidents, and so on.
To efficiently meet these requirements of a firefighter’s job description, your personality traits are extremely important.
That’s why many firefighter recruiters believe that physical and strength training comes only after the Personal Quality Assessments or PQAs.
PQAs evaluate candidates based on their determination, commitment to excellence, and whether or not they are genuinely ready to put the lives of other people before their own.
Your outlook on life and your work ethics matter a lot because this directly determines how well you can execute your duties as a firefighter.
If you are physically fit and embody qualities like dedication to diversity & integrity, resilience, and a genuine interest in helping others, you can indeed become a firefighter.
This blog will answer the following questions on how to become a firefighter:
- What are the requirements to be a firefighter?
- What type of education is needed to be a firefighter?
- How long does it take to become a firefighter?
- How much do firefighters make a year?
- Which are the highest paying US cities for firefighters
- How to increase your firefighter salary?
In the US, apart from the mandatory training required to begin your career as a firefighter, different states and fire departments have varying requirements.
Thus, aspirants must also ensure to consult the fire department in their vicinity about their specific hiring formalities.
Meanwhile, here are the general requirements you must meet to become a firefighter:
Age Criterion and License
Irrespective of your location, the most basic requirement to become a firefighter is that you must at least be 18 years old.
This criterion applies to all types of firefighting jobs, be it voluntary or paid.
Another must-have of a firefighter aspirant is that you must possess a driving license.
Medical Certification and Background Checks
To ensure that the applicants are medically fit to perform their duties, firefighter recruiters also require you to obtain an Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) certificate.
The EMT certificate has to be either submitted at the time of application or soon after that.
During the recruitment process, candidates are also subjected to drug testing and thorough background checks which include your social media presence.
Therefore, it's advisable to always be honest about your past record instead of lying or being vague about your background.
Physical and Psychological Evaluation
To execute the physical duties of a firefighter, you need to be in excellent physical condition.
Fire departments conduct the Candidate Physical Ability Test (CPAT) to evaluate your physical fitness and it is crucial to pass this test within the given time limit if you want to become a firefighter.
To get through this test, candidates need to accomplish various firefighter-related tasks whilst wearing the standard firefighter uniform gear like gloves, helmets, and vests.
Depending upon the different fire departments, the CPAT can be conducted before or after the application process.
Another mandatory test that candidates must go through is the psychological evaluation test which will determine the applicant’s mental and emotional stability to counter the stress that comes with the responsibilities of a firefighter.
Often, the Personal Quality Assessments or PQAs are also included during the psychological evaluation of the candidate.
Yes, there is also a written examination that candidates must pass to become a firefighter.
The test includes 100-150 objective questions which can be based on situation and logic.
Get Certified by a Fire Academy and Ace the Interview
While it is mandatory to go through the firefighting training provided by the fire department once you get hired, you can always prepare for it by graduating from a firefighter academy before you send in your application to the department.
That way, you will have a good idea of the responsibilities that entail a firefighter’s job, plus you will have an edge over other candidates because you will be certified.
Prepare ahead of time to ace the interview by practicing some common interview Q&As for firefighters and bag that position.
Education Needed to Be a Firefighter
The minimum educational qualification that is required to become a firefighter is a high school diploma certificate.
However, having a college degree in fire science or related fields is always a plus point in your candidacy as a firefighter.
Besides a college degree, aspirants can also aim to take courses related to firefighting techniques, hazardous substances, and so on.
Colleges like Dallas College and [Alabama Fire] College(https://www.alabamafirecollege.org/) provide several courses and training for aspiring firefighters.
You can also choose to attend vocational/trade schools in the US that are accredited by the International Fire Service Accreditation Congress (IFSAC).
How Long Does It Take to Become a Firefighter?
Generally speaking, it takes about 3 to 5 years to become a professional firefighter.
However, this timeline can vary depending on personal choices, abilities, and circumstances.
To give you a rough idea about the timeline trajectory of an aspiring firefighter, take a look at the following table:
|EMT School||6 months|
|College Degree||2-4 years|
|Application & Hiring Process||2 months - 3 years|
|Fire Academy||3-6 months|
|Probation Period||6 months to 2 years|
How Much Do Firefighters Make a Year?
According to Glassdoor, the median salary of a firefighter in the US is $51,368 per annum.
The salary can vary based on location, experience level, certification, etc.
How much do firefighters make in California?
When compared to the national average, firefighters in California earn 25% more than the firefighters working in other US states.
California is also one of the highest paying US states for firefighters.
How much do firefighters make in Texas?
The average salary for firefighters in Texas is $53,480 per year while entry-level firefighters can expect to make about $33,533 in a year if they are located in Texas.
Cities like Kingsville, Fort Bliss, and San Antonio are amongst the highest paying cities in Texas.
Highest Paying US Cities for Firefighters
Take a look at some of the highest paying US cities for firefighters:
|San Jose, CA||$125,680|
|San Francisco, CA||$109,480|
|Los Angeles, CA||$100,230|
|Long Beach, CA||$79,130|
How to Increase Firefighter Salary
Besides moving to another state or city to earn more as a firefighter, you can also consider these options to increase your wage:
Gain More Experience
As it goes with any other job profile, your wage increase with your level of experience.
Similarly, as you gain more expertise in firefighting and master your skills, you will earn a higher salary.
After gaining a couple of years of experience in the field, you can seek promotions and earn more.
The different ranks for firefighters include:
- Battalion Chief
- Deputy Chief
Since the ranks above Battalion Chief require professionals to have a bachelor's degree in fire science or related field, ensure that you meet the prerequisite.
You can also take paid certification courses and training that will help you acquire or polish your skills to facilitate swift promotions.
Specialize in a Particular Field
Since there are various types of firefighters like wildfire firefighters, airport firefighters, firefighter investigators, etc. you can choose to specialize in a particular field to earn more.
The options are plenty. All you need to do is, meet the requirements and take the needed training to master a firefighting niche.
Key Points from the Blog
- Apart from fighting fires, firefighters are also responsible for administering first aid, aiding in search & rescue missions, writing reports on fire incidents, and so on
- The personal qualities of a candidate are crucial to determine their ability to become an efficient firefighter
- Qualities like dedication to diversity & integrity, resilience, and a genuine interest in helping others are some of the valued traits of a firefighter
- Candidates must also be physically and medically fit to execute the duties of a firefighter
- While applicants need to consult the fire department in their vicinity about their specific hiring formalities, the basic requirements of a firefighter is that they must be 18 years old, have a driving license and a high school diploma
- Possessing the Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) certificate and passing the Candidate Physical Ability Test (CPAT) along with FCTC (Firefighting Candidate Testing Centre) written test is mandatory for becoming a firefighter
- Candidates are also subjected to thorough background checks during the recruitment process of a firefighter
- Generally, it takes about 3 to 5 years to become a professional firefighter
- Colleges like Dallas College and Alabama Fire College provide several courses and training for aspiring firefighters
- The median salary of a firefighter in the US is $51,368 per annum