Do you want to know how to become a firefighter today?
Here are the minimum requirements needed to be eligible to become a firefighter:
Fire departments use this as a minimum requirement because the legal age is 18 equaling adulthood. At this point in your life you will or have graduated high school and are ready to take life on as a responsible adult.
During your journey of trying to become a firefighter you’re going to hear many individuals comment on the subject of age. There are individuals that feel that 18 is too young to get hired. These individuals will talk about how 18 year olds lack life experience. Also, they may even throw in some of their own life experiences of being “18 and dumb,” as they say.
I’ve also learned from senior firefighters on the job that in the past, the fire service would target older (25+ year old) candidates because they had more life experience than that of an 18 year old. Don’t let this discourage you at all. Yes, that seems understandable and is mostly correct, but it is not correct for everyone. There are 18-year olds out there that probably had to grow up fast due to their living situation and may have had plenty of life experience. What I’m trying to say here is that age is just a number. Everyone has his or her own unique story and life experiences.
Also, the old pension system had a 20-year service minimum requirement, now the new system requires that we serve a minimum of 25 years. This goes in the favor of the younger generation now. There have been many individuals in the past that graduated high school and had the necessary requirements and fortunately got hired as a firefighter at the age of 18. It can be done, so don’t ever think that you're too young to chase your dream of becoming a firefighter.
A high school diploma or GED is required for the simple fact that you must be literate. If you can’t read and write you will not only be unsuccessful on the job but also you wont be successful in the firefighter hiring process prior to the job.
There are firefighter written exams that require both reading and writing comprehension. Also included in the written exams are basic math and other testing measures.
Graduating high school shows that you understand and are able to complete basic concepts like math, which directly correlates to the fire service. I must reiterate that a high school education is the minimum requirement. It is encouraged to progress onto achieving some higher education, whether it be a 2-year AA, 4 year BA/BS, 6 year MA/MS, etc.
Obtaining higher education will be very beneficial for you for many reasons such as:
Also, there are fire departments out there that give preference points during the firefighter recruitment process for bachelor degrees or higher, so gaining a college degree can be vital to your success during the hiring process and also on the job during department promotional processes.
Take this situation for example, there are two candidates; candidate 1 and candidate 2. Candidate 1 has a bachelors degree and candidate 2 has a high school diploma. Both candidates do exceptional on all phases of the firefighter recruitment process (firefighter written exam, CPAT Test, and Firefighter interviews), scoring exactly the same. The particular fire department they both tested for offers preference points to candidates that have a bachelors degree. Seeing as both candidates scored evenly, candidate 1 would get the open firefighter position over candidate 2 after the fire department adds the bachelors degree preference points.
If you know that you're going to pursue a firefighter career and have the resources and time, I recommend that you pursue a fire science degree. You can totally choose another degree if you want, but some of the courses required in a fire science degree are going to be courses necessary or required for your department at some point, especially during promotional processes (i.e. building construction, firefighter tactics and strategy, etc).
Becoming a firefighter is highly competitive. Pursuing fire science education can really set you apart from the rest of the competition (other firefighter candidates). The higher level of education you achieve the more you will learn about subjects such as, firefighting techniques, leadership, management, business concepts, etc. As stated above, there are several fire science degree types that you can begin to pursue:
Associate Fire Science Degree
An Associates Fire Science Degree can be achieved at the community college level. Typically it takes about 2-years to achieve the associate degree. There is two different paths you can take while pursuing a fire science degree, one which includes you taking general education courses preparing you to pursue a 4-year bachelors degree, or an applied associates program, preparing you for a job by focusing specifically on the major. There will be several courses available to take throughout your two year degree. A few of them are:
Hazardous Materials Awareness - This course teaching firefighter candidates an overview of hazardous materials and how to contain, isolate, and deny entry utilizing firefighting methods
Vehicle Extrication - This course teaches firefighter candidates how to handle and utilize firefighter tools (i.e. hydraulic power tools) to mediate an emergency situation requiring disentanglement of a trapped victim (i.e. Car accident).
Terrorism Management - This course teaches firefighter candidates about potential actions of possible terrorist groups and how to appropriately respond to an incident as first responders
Throughout the associates degree you will gain skills and knowledge such as:
(Note: Be sure to check and see if your local community college offers a fire science degree program)
Bachelor's Fire Science Degree
A Bachelor's Fire Science Degree can be achieved at the 4-year college level (i.e. state or university). Typically it takes about 4-years to achieve the bachelors degree consisting of general education courses and the focused fire science degree courses. There are several degrees that can be achieved for firefighting and emergency services such as:
Fire administration - This course teaches you about the dynamic relationship between government agencies and the fire service, explores the leadership and ethics, and covers important topics about running a successful fire department
Fire Service Human Resource Management - The course teaches you about hiring and firing decisions, understanding unions, and laws covering employment
Firefighter Fitness - This course covers firefighter fitness and conditioning as a whole including, conditioning and stamina tests, operator performance while wearing firefighter PPE, and more
Throughout the Bachelors degree's you will gain skills and knowledge such as:
(Note: Be sure to see if your local college offers a bachelor's degree in fire science)
Master's Fire Science Degree
A Master's Fire Science Degree can be achieved in about 2-3 years depending. This type of degree is typically pursued by firefighter personnel already working in the field looking to increase their knowledge and gain advancement within their respected fire department ranks. Unlike the associate and bachelors degree, there aren't many schools that offer a master's fire science degree. Many of these degree types can be found online. Online courses allow firefighter's to work their demanding shift schedules while still having the time and ability to achieve a higher education. Several classes can be found in a fire science program such as:
Advance crisis management - This course teaches you how to set up a crisis response for a large scale emergency incident (i.e. terrorist attack, natural disaster, etc)
Financial Management - This course teaches you how to understand the financial environment of the fire service (i.e. managing expenses, budgeting, completing financial statements, etc)
Dispute Resolutions and Negotiations - This course teaches you how to solve conflicts within the fire service (i.e. labor and personnel conflicts)
Throughout the Master's degree you will gain skills and knowledge such as:
(Note: Be sure to see if your local college offers a master's degree in fire science)
Plain and simple, fire departments require you to have a driver’s license. This is a vital piece when it comes to background checks. Departments will utilize your driver’s license and will definitely take a look at your driving record. It is important that you are careful out there on the road. You don’t want anything to go against you in this tough and competitive recruitment process of trying to become a firefighter.
A clean driving record is ideal, so keep it that way. If you have one or more points on your driving record, don’t worry. Be sure to check with that specific fire departments hiring standards when it come’s to your driving record.
I do know that fire departments take DUI’s very seriously. If you have had a DUI in the past, do not worry just yet. Typically as long as it has not been in the past five years, then you may have a shot of getting hired. This is totally dependent on that specific fire department you are testing for.
To completely eradicate this issue, just stay away from drinking and driving. You’re only going to create more obstacles and barriers for yourself that you don’t need.
Fire departments want candidates with good driving records because you will be behind the wheel at some point in your career, driving a massive half million-dollar fire apparatus weighing 12 or more tons and you will have to be a good and defensive driver putting the safety of the citizens, yourself, and your crew first.
Also, some fire departments you will test for may require that you have a valid drivers license per their specific state. So be sure to do a great job researching that specific fire department hiring requirements ahead of time.
Each fire department has their own requirements that you must follow. Generally, most fire departments require you to have your EMT certification at a minimum.
An EMT is an emergency medical technician that is trained in the prehospital setting in basic life support (BLS) skills. EMT's respond to, mitigate, and transport patients in various types of medical emergencies.
Throughout the course you will gain the skill and knowledge to be competent in these categories:
1. Knowing the role and scope of duties of the EMT-B
2. Knowing the medical/legal aspects of basic emergency medical technology
3. Identify and demonstrate techniques for obtaining baseline vitals SAMPLE history
4. Demonstrate the components of patient assessment needed to identify a medical emergency in any of the following categories: medical, trauma, environmental conditions for both conscious and unconscious patients
5. Identify and care for patients in need of basic life support
6. Demonstrate use of mechanical adjuncts to assist with airway, breathing and circulatory management
7. Ability to identify patients in need of supplemental oxygen and provide it correctly
8. Identify a patient in shock
9. Identify and treat soft tissue and musculoskeletal injuries
10. Identify and treat injuries to the head, chest, abdomen and genitalia
11. Stabilize and splint musculoskeletal injuries in the upper and lower extremities
12. Identify and treat patients with possible injuries or to the skull, brain, neck, spine, abdomen, pelvis, or extremities. Identify and treat the following emergencies: toxicological, behavioral, cardiac, respiratory, pediatric, diabetic or obstetrical
13. Apply techniques used to lift, move position and extricate a patient in order to minimize discomfort and additional injury
Throughout the EMT course you will trained in the skills specifically to pass the National Registry of Emergency Medical Technicians (NREMT) cognitive (written exam), and psychomotor exam; a hands on skill evaluation covering ten different EMT skills:
You must pass all exams throughout the EMT course with a 75% or higher, and maintain a 80% or better overall grade point average to be eligible to take the NREMT exams. Once you complete the EMT course and get signed off on your NREMT skills sheets, you will be eligible to take the NREMT cognitive exam; where you will receive your national EMT certification upon successfully passing.
The NREMT cognitive exam is computer adaptive exams consisting of 70-120 questions, with a time limit of 2 hours. Each cognitive exam attempt requires an $80 payment. The following categories will be covered throughout the exam:
Based on the above categories, the patient care throughout the exam are focused on adult and geriatric patients (85%) and pediatric patients (15%). Once you successfully pass the NREMT exams, you must then go apply for state EMT certification in the state you reside in. Once you obtain your state EMT certification, you will eligible to begin the firefighter testing process.
If you fail to successfully pass the cognitive exam, the national registry will provide you with feedback based on your performance. At this point you will be permitted to apply to retest 15 days after the previous exam attempt. You will have a total of six opportunities to pass the EMT cognitive exam.
After your third attempt, you will be required to attend a remediation training. You must receive remediation training from a state approved instructor. Amongst completion of the remediation training, you must provide the proper documentation to the National Registry verifying completion of the course.
After remediation training is complete, you will be permitted a final three attempts to pass the EMT cognitive exam. If you fail to pass the EMT cognitive exam in your final three attempts, you will be required to repeat the entire EMT course over.
To sign up for an EMT course, you must find your local accredited college or training institution that offers a course. Once you find the proper training facility, then all you have to do is follow their application and registration procedures.
(Note: there are some EMT courses out there that require prerequisites and/or instructor approvals to be eligible for the course)
EMT, NREMT Skills
To qualify to receive your NREMT certification, you must meet the listed requirements:
Once you have completed and passed all examinations and received all certifications, you can then test with the fire departments to become a firefighter EMT.
The firefighter 1 and 2 (firefighter school) is a certification that complies with the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) 1001, Standard for Fire Fighter Professional Qualifications.
The firefighter 1 and 2 course is designed to to develop cognitive and manipulative skills for the future fire recruit. The course will cover:
Throughout the firefighter 1 and 2 course you will have to complete and pass workbooks, quizzes, midterm exam, skills (booter) book, and a final exam. To successfully pass the course, you must maintain at least a 75% grade point average and you must pass all skill evaluations. Failure to complete the skills can result in you being dropped out of the class. The skills that you will be evaluated on are:
After successful completion of the firefighter 1 and 2 course, you will be eligible to test for the state and International Fire Service Accreditation Congress (IFSAC) firefighter 1 and 2 certification. To become certified you must pass the written and practical exam administered by your states' fire service accredited organization. For the written exam portion, you must score a 70% or greater to successfully pass the written.
As for the practical, you will endure five random skills. All five skills must be successfully completed to pass the practical certification portion of the exam. Once you successfully pass all examinations, you will receive your firefighter I and II certification.
To sign up for a firefighter 1 and 2 program, you must find your local accredited college or training institution that offers a course. Once you find the proper training facility, then all you have to do is follow their application and registration procedures.
(Note: there are firefighter 1 and 2 courses out there that require prerequisites and/or instructor approvals to be eligible for the course [i.e. EMT-B])
A paramedic is an emergency medical care provider that is trained in the prehospital setting in advanced life support (ALS) skills. Paramedics respond to, mitigate, and transport patients in various types of medical emergencies.
Throughout a paramedic program you will learn, be competent, and be trained in various subjects from:
Throughout the paramedic program you will be given loads of information and will be trained in the skills specifically to pass the National Registry of Paramedics (NRP) psychomotor exam; a hands on skill evaluation covering six different skills and the cognitive exam. The NRP psychomotor exam consist of:
The NRP cognitive exam is a computer adaptive test ranging from 80-150 questions, with a 2 hour and 30 minute time limit. The exam will cover the same topics as the NREMT exam. Each cognitive exam attempt requires an $125 payment.
If you fail to successfully pass the cognitive exam, the national registry will provide you with feedback based on your performance. At this point you will be permitted to apply to retest 15 days after the previous exam attempt. You will have a total of six opportunities to pass the NRP cognitive exam.
After your third attempt, you will be required to attend a remediation training. You must receive remediation training from a state approved instructor. Amongst completion of the remediation training, you must provide the proper documentation to the National Registry verifying completion of the course.
After remediation training is complete, you will be permitted a final three attempts to pass the NRP cognitive exam. If you fail to pass the NRP cognitive exam in your final three attempts, you will be required to repeat the entire Paramedic program over.
Find an accredited college/training facility and complete their registration and application process.
(Note: There will be prerequisites required to apply for paramedic programs [i.e. EMT certification]).
Follow the same steps as stated above in the EMT section above.
(Note: Ensure that you select the PARAMEDIC selection throughout the different sections)
Education is going to be a huge contributor to your success in your career as a firefighter. Because the fire service is so dynamic, prior and continued education is necessary to stay proficient and up to date in your skills. There are many courses/classes that can be taken during your process to getting hired that will truly help build your knowledge. They can also help you achieve your certification and degrees (Associates & Bachelors), which can play a huge role in the progression of your career as a firefighter in terms of promotional opportunities. Taking the focused courses/classes can additionally help you gain network growth due to other potential candidates taking the same courses and sworn firefighters teaching the courses.
EMT and Paramedic EMS Equipment
Once you have lined up all of the previously discussed topics, it becomes a waiting game for departments to open their firefighter recruitments. During this time, be sure to continue to network, practice interview material, study firefighter written exam material, and train to set yourself up for the best possible outcome. The goal is to stay ahead of the competition.
During the firefighter testing process there will be multiple exams that you will be evaluated on such as:
Firefighter Written Exams:
Let me start by saying that not every firefighter exam will be the same. But the content that you can expect to get will be very similar.
Firefighter written exams differ in several ways:
The firefighter exam can be taken in multiple forms. For example, the exam can be taken as but is not limited to:
Pen and Paper Exam:
This exam is usually conducted like most written exams you have taken throughout your school years. You will be either given an exam booklet with the content and a scantron to write your answers on or you may be given an exam booklet that allows you to answer directly on the exam. Usually in this exam you will be given a separate sheet of paper to write notes on if permitted to do so.
Computer Based Exam:
These exams are taken on a designated computer (i.e. national testing network firefighter exam [NTN]). Usually the exam content and answer sheet is all in one on the computer. Depending on the facility, you may or may not be given a headset to drown out outside noises, and a piece of scratch paper to write your notes on.
Overhead Projector Exam:
The overhead projector exam is a mix of the computer based and pen and paper firefighter exam. Typically all firefighter candidates will gather in a room and all will sit in front of big projection screen where the exam content will be presented. Typically each candidate will be given a pencil/pen and sheet of paper allowing them to write their answers down to the given questions (i.e. Firefighter Candidate Testing Center firefighter exam [FCTC]).
Depending on the department, written exams can be distributed differently. Departments that have the available resources and time will write and/or distribute their own firefighter exam. These departments may or may not send out a study guide prior to the allotted test date. Typically if there is something specific that they want you to know (i.e. something specific about their department) they may send out a study guide prior (i.e. Phoenix fire department). Typically, you will not need to have any prior firefighting knowledge or skill to succeed in a firefighter written exam, most exams will utilize a basic concept exam to test and evaluate their candidates.
There are departments out there that will outsource to get their exams requiring their potential candidates to go to a specific certifies testing location to take the exam (i.e. NTN, FCTC, etc). Typically this is a more cost efficient method for conducting a firefighter exam that fire departments like to use.
The content placed on a firefighter exam can differ across the different fire departments. Departments can truly put whatever accredited testing content they feel will most appropriately test and evaluate their potential candidates. Typically these departments tend to gravitate to specific content that fits the needs of their department (i.e. a candidate from construction or mechanical background, ex-athlete, etc). The content chosen by a fire department to be on an firefighter exam can consists of but is not limited to:
There are departments out there that put more of an emphasis on specifics about their department and/or given study guide. There are departments that will outsource and use firefighter exams that cover multiple categories (i.e. math, reading comprehension, ect.). There are also departments that put a huge emphasis on personality traits. The key is to do your research and know what type of fighter exam the specific fire department you are testing for uses.
What is the Allotted Time to Take the Firefighter Written Exam?
Each firefighter exam has its own specific cut off time. This is based upon the discretion of that specific organization or fire department. Typically firefighter written exams can last anywhere from two hours or more. This may seem like a lot of time, but it goes by fast.
How is the Firefighter Written Exam Scored?
Each firefighter exam is scored in its own unique way. Depending on the content, firefighter exams a graded and weighed based on the specific needs of that specific department. For example, if the ABC Fire Department has declared that they want candidates that score high in the personality and mechanical aptitude portions of the exam, they will tend to grade and weigh theses portions of the test more heavily than others.
What Are Firefighter Written Exams Looking for?
Typically firefighter exams are designed to seek out specific knowledge and skills that are necessary to be a firefighter (i.e. cognitive abilities and non-cognitive traits). These exams are designed to measure candidates:
Assessing a candidate’s ability to use rule and principles to make a decision and determine a specific outcome. For example, we as firefighters are trained to located and extinguish multiple types of fires (i.e. structural fires). We have to understand topics like building construction, physics, and chemistry to be able to successfully put fires out. With the rules and principle of the topics, we understand how fires start, how they grow, and what mediator is best used to extinguish the specific fire.
Assessing a candidate’s ability to gather multiple sources/pieces of information and arrive at an educated conclusion on how the sources relate to one another causing a specific outcome. As firefighters we run on several emergency medical service (EMS) calls (i.e. chest pain) where we have to gather multiple sources of information in order to formulate a proper plan to assist our patients needs.
Assessing a candidate’s ability to understand and perform basic math functions. This also assesses a candidate’s ability to apply the proper formula to a specific situation. As firefighters, we have to understand how much water is necessary to extinguish a specific fire. Depending on how big the fire is, we have to decide what nozzle and hose size is appropriate supplying the proper amount of water to extinguish the fire.
Assessing a candidate’s ability to comprehend and employ mechanical concepts and principles to complete a specific task. As firefighter we a huge cache of equipment that requires us to fully understand what the equipment is used and rated for and what effects do the equipment have on another object. Fore example, if we took a sledgehammer and forced entry on a door, we understand that with the proper amount of force that the door will eventually give in and will become opened.
Assessing a candidate’s ability to navigate from one given point/location to another. As firefighters we respond to several emergency calls per shift throughout our cities that require us to understand how to get from point “A” the (fire station) to point “B” (the call) safely and efficiently.
Assessing a candidate’s ability to learn given information, learn a specific task, and be able to apply the appropriate learned steps to perform the task successfully and safely. As firefighters we respond to high-risk emergencies (i.e. fire calls, hazardous material calls, etc.) where they require us to abide by and apply our standard operating procedures (SOP) to safely and successfully complete a given task. SOP’s is our step-by-step instructions established by the fire organization that helps to guide and assist us in completing simple to complex tasks.
Assessing a candidate ability to read a certain script or piece of information and be able to fully comprehend what is being communicated. As firefighters we have to be able to read and comprehend important subjects such as, SOP’s, General orders (GO), patient care reports (PCR), and fire and EMS equipment instructions, in order to be successful and safe doing our jobs.
Assessing a candidate’s ability to form a mental image of how a specific task is completed. As firefighters we are highly trained to first visually see how a specific task is completed and then required to formulate a mental image of the steps taken to complete that task. As future fire recruits, this will be a vital part of your fire academy progression. You will first visually learn every task, then you will be required to recreate the necessary steps to complete the given task (i.e. hose lay evolutions).
Non-cognitive traits allows departments to assess a candidates abilities, interests, and personality. For example, firefighters are human beings. We are all unique in our own way, making the fire service very diverse. My interests, and the way I operate and learn is different from yours. The key in this assessment is to find out if you fit the mold/culture of that specific fire department.
Assessing a candidate’s ability to communicate, understand, and generate proper vocabulary, punctuation, and grammatical organization. As firefighter we have to be able to communicate with our words. A great portion of what we do require us to engage in some sort of paperwork. In a given shift, we write multiple PCR’s (patient care reports), requiring us to always be professional, organized, objective, and accurate.
Generally firefighter written exams will consist of basic concepts across multiple subjects. Typically, content you can expect to see but are not limited to are:
To see a few examples of the different subjects click here and go to the what content can I expect to see on a firefighter written exam section.
To even have a chance at making it to the firefighter interview process you must first successfully pass the firefighter CPAT and firefighter written exam. You will then move onto the interview.
(Note: Some departments do a split test where you undergo a CPAT test after passing a first round interview)
Depending on the department your testing for, you will typically undergo 2-3 rounds of interviews in the firefighter recruitment process. Fire departments can conduct their firefighter interviews however they see fit, but typically many departments use a "single candidate 20-30 minute interview."
This type of interview consist of, one firefighter candidate being interviewed by 1 or more firefighter personnel; firefighters, engineers, captains, chiefs, etc. As you progress to the higher rounds (2, 3, or more) of the firefighter interview process, you'll tend to be interviewed by more fire captains, union reps, HR reps, and chiefs. Here's my interview process I had to undergo to get hired:
During my first round interview, I sat across a table from three firefighter personnel, all "firefighter" ranked. They supplied me with a water and explained to me how the interview was going to be conducted. In a nut shell, they stated that I would be asked 4 questions throughout the interview and that I had a total of 20 minutes until the conclusion of the interview. Once the directions were given, they proceeded to ask me if i had any questions before the interview begun. Once the interview begun, one of the firefighters asked me the first question, then I proceeded to answer. Once I concluded that question, then the next firefighter asked me the second question and a proceeded to answer. This pattern continued until the conclusion of the interview; each firefighter asking a separate question. While I was answering their questions throughout the interview, the firefighters would take notes on their grading papers evaluating my response.
During my second round interview, I sat across the table from two ranked firefighters and one fire captain. The interview was conducted exactly the same as the first round interview, but the interview questions were all different.
The firefighter interview process is one of the biggest separators when it comes to firefighter candidates.
The firefighter interview is your time to show the oral board (firefighter personnel) what you are all about and why they should hire you as one of their own.
Learn how to become an undeniable candidate in the firefighter testing process. The Becoming A Firefighter Program will teach you how to become a top candidate by taking you step-by-step through the skills necessary to crush every phase of the testing process.
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