How to Become a Firefighter

Are you interested in becoming a firefighter? If so, you are in the right place! This article will teach you everything you need to know about having a career as a firefighter and the requirements and skills required to become one. Armed with this information, you can start your journey to saving lives!

What Does the Role Include?

Firefighting is one of the most dangerous jobs in the world. But it is also one of the most rewarding. A firefighter's job is to respond to fires, rescues, and medical emergencies. Firefighters are trained to drive fire trucks and operate a wide range of other equipment. In addition to responding to fires, firefighters also provide medical aid, they may be called upon to provide CPR or first aid, stabilize patients for transport and extricate victims from accidents. Some firefighters may also serve as hazardous materials specialists, responding to hazardous materials incidents.

What Skills are Required?

You've decided to become a firefighter. The next step is to check you have the correct skills and knowledge necessary for the job. These include:
  • Strong leadership skills, as you'll be leading teams in dangerous situations.
  • Physical strength and endurance, because you will need to be able to lift heavy loads and climb ladders.
  • Sound judgment and decision-making skills, as there are often many variables at play during emergencies.
  • Excellent communication, as you will have to convey critical information along the chain of command during emergencies.
  • Adaptability, because no one day is the same as the last. It is a constantly changing role so you need to be ready for any call you receive.
  • Courage, as you need to be able to face situations that other individuals would flee from.

What is the Salary of a Firefighter?

As a firefighter, you can make anywhere from $30,000 a year to $82,000. However, the median salary for a firefighter sits at $47,000 per year. This amount can increase as you gain experience and move up the ranks in your department. For example, an entry-level firefighter with one year of experience makes about $35,000 per year and with five years of experience, it's about $46,000. With ten years on the job, you can make around $60k annually.
In addition to your base salary as a firefighter (and depending on whether or not you're promoted), firefighting can include other benefits, such as:
  • Health insurance
  • Dental insurance
  • Longevity pay
  • Vacation Accrual
  • Pension schemes

What Educational Steps do I Need to Take?

There is no set route to becoming a firefighter. However, below are the steps most often taken.
Basics
The bare minimum requirements for becoming a firefighter are your high school diploma and driver's license. You must also be at least 18 years of age.
Testing
You will often be able to find recruiting fire departments at local job fairs. Here they will ask interested individuals to complete a written and physical test. If you are successful in these tests, recruiters will invite you to an interview and additional testing. After passing this additional interview and testing process, you will be able to start applying for a training program. At this stage, you will have to take a written test consisting of 100 multiple choice questions on varied subjects, and a physical exam (Candidate Physical Ability Test (CPAT)) that requires you to complete a run, stair climb, and a task where you carry a 200-pound item.
State licensing
Certain states will require prospective firefighters to gain EMT licensing. There are varied requirements for this licensing depending on your state, so do your research to determine if you will need this license or not and what steps you need to take to obtain it.
Further education
There are numerous education options you could take to begin your training. These include; fire academies, colleges, and trade schools. Your training will usually last about 2 years. You may also occasionally be able to find apprenticeships that enable you to learn while on the job. However, these will take longer to complete, usually around four years.
Find a job
Once you have completed your further education, you can step foot into the world of work.
Rank up
There are typically six different roles, you can rise through these ranks as you gain experience. The ranks for firefighting are:
  • Firefighter
  • Lieutenant
  • Captain
  • Battalion/District Chief
  • Deputy Chief
  • Chief

Conclusion

People who want to be a part of a team, help others, and be rewarded emotionally should consider becoming firefighters. The job requires you to work hard and take risks, but you also have the satisfaction of knowing that you are making a difference in the lives of others. The experience you can gain while being a firefighter has the power to shape you as an individual.

FAQs

What qualifications are needed to become a firefighter?
There are a few things you need to be able to become a firefighter. The first requirement is to have a high school diploma and a valid driver's license. It would be best to take further qualifications in the fire academy, college, or vocational school. Besides education, there are also both physical and theoretical exams that you need to pass before starting your career.
How much do firefighters get paid?
General pay for a firefighter sits at around $47,000 annually, but as with any job, the rate of pay will vary by state as well as individual experience and training.
What is the highest pay for a firefighter?
The highest-paid firefighters can be found in New Jersey, with an average salary of $86,880, a stark difference from the average of $30,690, which is found in Mississippi.
In terms of role-based pay, fire chiefs sit at the top of the pay charts, earning an average of $91,301 per year. A fire chief is a department's commanding officer; their role is to supervise the daily operations of the fire department. Fire chiefs typically have several years of experience as firefighters before being promoted to the position. In addition to their expertise, fire chiefs must also have strong leadership skills and be able to think calmly under pressure. The fire chief is responsible for making decisions that could mean life or death for the team during a fire. As such, they must be able to maintain a clear head and make quick decisions to keep their team safe.
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