Want to be hired as a professional firefighter?

Yes, it’s competitive. Yes, there are many applicants for each available job. Yes, you must meet high standards.

But new firefighters, like those in many job categories, do get hired all over the United States and around the world.

If you want to set yourself above the crowd and increase your chances of getting hired as a professional firefighter, you’re going to have to apply yourself more than the majority of applicants.

Volume of Firefighter Applicants

The truth is, professional firefighting jobs are competitive. More people submit applications than there are available positions. Sometimes the odds are daunting. There may be hundreds of applications for one firefighting job. But you should also be aware that most applicants are quickly disqualified. So the true number of qualified applicants competing for each position is smaller than might be understood by just raw numbers. The reality is that the process of hiring new firefighters is designed to select those applicants who are physically fit, healthy, socially competent and of sound character. But you can improve your chances of success by exceeding the minimum requirements and obtaining specific education and training.

Minimum Requirements

Before you can even qualify to go through a round of tests and interviews, you must meet the fire department’s minimum requirements. Typically, they require being at least 18 years old, having a high school diploma (or GED), and many departments require having Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) certification. Even if it’s not specifically required, having EMT certification will increase your potential to be hired as a firefighter, since the majority of fire department calls are for medical emergencies rather than fires.

Speaking of tests and interviews, most fire departments use similar hiring processes. If you make it through a screening process to be considered a viable candidate, often a written test is administered. Then there’s a physical exam and physical tests, followed by an interview in front of a board of firefighters, and an interview with the chief of the department.

Physical testing includes both basic medical exams and fitness testing. Furthermore, aspiring firefighters are often required to pass a drug test.

By the way, written exams are usually multiple-choice answers that test for basic problem-solving aptitude and general intelligence. What is not tested is your knowledge of firefighting, which will be established by ongoing training once a new firefighter is hired.

Do expect an extensive investigation of your background, including interviews with your relatives, associates and past employers.

Improving Your Chances

If you want to push your probability of getting hired as a professional firefighter higher, then you’ll want to consider education beyond high school; specifically in fire science and building design. (In addition to the EMT certification mentioned above). These classes are available in many community colleges.

Another way to improve your chance of getting hired is to gain some real-world experience and training, which can gained by working as volunteer firefighter. Many towns make use of volunteer firefighters, either exclusively, or in addition to paid professionals.


As noted earlier, many fire departments require that new recruits have at least a high school degree. The reality is that nowadays, even if it’s not specifically noted as a requirement, an associate’s degree or bachelor’s degree are becoming increasingly important, not only for gaining promotions to senior positions, but even to get hired in the first place. Furthermore, firefighters with college degrees might also earn higher salaries than those without one. Some college degrees that are a specific fit for firefighting careers include fire engineering, fire science and public administration.


It’s worth emphasizing that the real training occurs after you get hired and before you actually start serving as a firefighter. Larger fire departments may manage their own training programs. Other fire departments send new hires to state or regional academies.

Professional firefighter training often includes firefighting strategies and techniques, fire-prevention, learning about building codes and how to use firefighting tools, such as high-powered hoses, ladders, axes and chain saws.

It’s also worth re-stating that a firefighter’s responsibilities often include attending to emergency medical situations more than putting out fires.

Firefighters may be first on the scene to handle injured persons, whether in automobile accidents, home or work mishaps, medical emergencies or any way humans get hurt.

For these reasons, firefighters must have extensive emergency medicine training. In many departments, firefighters must be certified as emergency medical technicians. Other departments take an additional step and require their firefighters to be certified as paramedics, which is additional training to prepare firefighters to act quickly when responding to emergencies.

What’s it Take to Become Hired as a Firefighter?
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