What Does it Take to Become a Firefighter?

Becoming a firefighter can be a long process and at times, can seem insurmountable. With patience and a plan to achieve your goal, a career in firefighting will be rewarding.

All departments require some basic qualifications to apply for a career firefighter position and may include the following, among others:
  • At least 18 years of age
  • High School diploma or equivalent
  • Current driver’s license
  • Motivated
  • Emergency Medical Technician 1 (EMT) certification

Prior to making your decision, you need to ask yourself whether this career is the correct choice. Seek out opportunities to speak with individuals who have worked as firefighters and have the ability to describe what it takes to be successful and safe as a firefighter. A good resource is a retired firefighter. They have performed the day-to-day job requirements and were able to spend an entire career filled with hard work and enjoyable moments. A few qualities that make a good firefighter are:

  • Honest
  • Hardworking
  • Patient
  • Motivated
  • Caring

A few items that are not listed as “minimum qualifications," but would be strongly recommended are a clean driving record, clean bill of health, work history with good references, and no criminal record. Although not a requirement of application, all reflect a firefighter’s ability to do the job and are strongly considered in the hiring process. A firefighter may be required to drive equipment “Code 3” to emergencies safely. A firefighter must be able to perform under very strenuous conditions, often in dangerous situations. Firefighters will deal with the public in very tenuous and vulnerable situations, and must be trustworthy.

Once you have made the decision and believe this is the career for you, it is vital that you devise and implement a plan to secure a firefighter position. Things may change and scenarios may need to be altered, but having the ability to adapt your plan helps in becoming a good firefighter.

Many individuals choosing this career path will ask “should I become a paramedic?” or “should I take fire science class?” or “should I participate in a fire academy?" Instead of asking someone if you should do something, you need to ask yourself if you can do it to the very best of your ability. The programs listed below are good ways to assist you in becoming a full-time firefighter. If you ask any of the recently hired firefighters, most have been through one, if not all, the listed programs. The biggest decision is not which one to do, but which of them you can commit to fully.

The following is a reference list and not a game plan. Becoming a firefighter will take planning and commitment on your part. This list will help you reference possible courses needed or training opportunities. In our area there are several schools and courses to help with certificates. There are several departments that offer apprenticeship or explorer programs, volunteer and reserve programs, as well as departments with student worker programs.