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How do you become a firefighter?

Learn about the basic requirements and training required to become a firefighter.
Firefighters need to have strong communication skills, be physically fit, and able to make tough decisions under pressure. Before entering this field, you’ll be put through rigorous testing and training to ensure you are prepared for this important role.
The first step towards this path is to earn a high school diploma or GED. An associate’s or bachelor’s degree is not essential to become a firefighter, however, earning a college degree can help with career advancement down the road. Some states also require that prospective firefighters obtain an emergency medical technician (EMT) certification. Many community colleges offer EMT programs, which typically last 6-24 months.
Firefighting is a competitive field, with far more applicants than spots to fill. Working as a volunteer firefighter can help you get your foot in the door, but this requires a serious commitment of time. In order to help you make an informed decision, some departments will even allow you to ride along in a fire vehicle to gain a better understanding of the role. If you decide that becoming a volunteer firefighter is a good fit, you will need to complete a National Fire Protection Association certified course of at least 110 hours.
Next, you will need to undergo training through a fire academy or apprentice program. To be considered for a spot at fire academy, you must pass written and physical fitness tests, background checks, drug tests, as well as interviews. If accepted, you’ll undergo about 600 hours of training over a 12-14 week period. This training combines classroom education with hands-on-experience to fight fires in a controlled setting. You’ll also learn about usage of fire equipment such as fire extinguishers and fire prevention techniques. Additional training in specialized topics such as hazardous materials and anti-arson techniques can be obtained through trainings by the National Fire Academy.
While many firefighters start off in fire academies, some fire departments instead offer apprentice programs that enable new recruits to learn from experienced firefighters over a 3-4 year period. Entrance to apprentice programs is also competitive and requires a testing and interview process similar to the fire academies.
Even after initial training is complete, you may go through a probationary period of one to two years. During this time, supervisors will observe you closely to make sure that you’re applying the skills you learned through your training. Ongoing training is encouraged, even beyond the probationary period to stay mentally and physically prepared for emergencies. Continuing education courses are also required to maintain an EMT license.


Apprentice Firefighter Program.” Diamond Springs - El Dorado Fire Protection District. Accessed November 16, 2021.
How to become a firefighter.” Bureau of Labor Statistics. Accessed March 19, 2017.
How To Become A Volunteer Firefighter: A Guide.” firefighterinsider.com. Accessed November 16, 2021.
What does a paramedic/EMT do?” learnhowtobecome.org. Accessed March 25, 2017.

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