Being a firefighter is no easy job. So before you take the path to this distinguished career, make sure that you are wholeheartedly want to become one. Once you’ve done that, everything would flow naturally.

Here are the steps that you would need to take to become a full-fledged firefighter in the US:

STEP 1: Volunteer For The Service

Volunteer firefighters make up a significant portion of the workforce of fire departments. Most of these fire departments accept these volunteers regardless of the educational background. Nevertheless, after joining, volunteers are still mandated to undergo some form of training. (1)

One may wonder what pushes people to pursue a career in a job that is not just dangerous but also pays little. Ask any firefighter, and you may hear two common answers. The first one is that volunteers often have a higher chance of getting in if ever they decide to become full-time firefighters. The other one is the sense of honor people get from helping save other people’s lives.

STEP 2: Get A High School Diploma

Graduating high school is one of the most common requirements of every fire department in the US. However, some districts give more credit to applicants who were able to secure any fire science related degree. Nevertheless, this preference is more of the exception than the rule. So you do not need to worry about having to spend thousands of dollars for enrolling in universities just to pursue your dream.

 STEP 3: Get A Bachelor’s Degree (Optional)

This step is only optional. But if ever we wish to get a degree before applying, we recommend that you take a fire or health related course. The reason for this is that these classes often tackle most situations that firefighters face every day. Graduating with a health-related degree would enable you to help people who face life-threatening situations.

Additionally, getting a college degree would also make it easier for you to get promotions in fire departments. Lastly, some fire departments also require applicants for higher positions such as fire chief to get bachelor’s or even master’s degrees.

STEP 4: Take The Exam

Some fire departments choose to impose screening processes to filter applicants. Screening processes may consist either or a combination of oral, written, or even physical examinations. The reason they do physical exams is that it would help them screen applicants who are not physically fit to serve the force. This is to avoid situations wherein the firefighters themselves are in grave danger.

Written and orals exams, on the other hand, are meant to test the cognitive and decision-making skills of applications. The ability to conjure solutions to problems in stressful situations is an indispensable skill for any firefighter. They should also have technical knowledge on how to do their job and the laws that may apply to them.

STEP 5: Get An EMT Certification

An alternative to getting a diploma is an EMT or Emergency Medical Technician certificate. Getting an EMT certificate will require you to undergo training for emergency scenarios. Becoming a certified EMT would also make you attractive to fire departments because of the extra skills that you can pick up while training. (2)

STEP 6: Attend The Fire Academy

If your one of the lucky few to be accepted, you will then be required to undergo further training from your chosen department. Fire academies will make sure that you have the latest knowledge when it comes to firefighting.

Fair warning, however, training in a fire academy is no walk in the park. Your will, endurance, and strength will be tested like it was never before. Your training officer will squeeze out all the fear and hesitations you have inside you. And if after all these, you do not quit, then welcome to the team, because you’re now a certified paid firefighter.


National Fire Protection Association. The U.S. Fire Service. Accessed 2017 U.S. Fire Experience Survey.