Learn How to Become a Firefighter: Ultimate Firefighter Startup Guide

Of the many public services that governments offer, perhaps one of the most essential services to public safety are firefighters. Not only do firefighters respond to fires, but they also respond to a number of other incidents that require first responders, such as car accidents.

Firefighting is a career that many people want to pursue. In order to learn how to become a firefighter, there are some very specific steps that this entails. Here are a few things to remember if it is your goal to become a firefighter.

The Role of a Firefighter

how to become a firefighter

Aircraft Rescue and Firefighting Marines aboard Marine Corps Air Station New River, N.C., battle a blaze during a live-fire training exercise, Jan. 17.

When somebody decides they want to learn how to become a firefighter, their first thoughts go towards responding to a fire. While that is certainly a significant aspect of this career choice, firefighters also spend a great deal of their time responding to various accidents, most notably vehicle accidents. When someone calls 911, firefighters are automatically dispatched regardless of whether a fire is reported or not.

A firefighter is also responsible for everything that occurs at their fire house. When a firefighter is on their shift, they are responsible for keeping equipment in good working order and keeping the equipment at the ready should the need arise.

Also, since most firefighters worked 24-hour shifts, they will be responsible for cooking for fellow firefighters as well as cleaning and maintaining their living quarters while on their shift. Usually, these rolls are shared between the entire team.

Lastly, firefighters are also regularly engaged in training exercises to better hone their skills and keep themselves sharp should they have to respond to any type of incident. Being in shape and at the ready is an important role for firefighters.

Defining Your Goals

One of the most important steps when you want to learn how to become a firefighter is to clearly define your goals. A firefighter is required to receive training as an EMT and in some cases as a paramedic. For many people, this type of training can shift their interest from becoming a firefighter to becoming an emergency medical first responder. Knowing your goals when you start will help you to stay on task.

How to Become a Firefighter



A position as a firefighter is a skilled position that has a great deal of importance to the general public. This sort of career is not going to be entrusted to people who haven’t had excessive amounts of training.

The first thing that you’ll need to learn how to become a firefighter is to take a first responders course. This is typical for a firefighter and also for people who want to become an EMT or a paramedic. These courses are offered at community colleges as well as vocational schools, and they typically are equal to one semester’s worth of education.

From there, you’ll need to receive advanced training as an EMT (National Association of EMTs) and you may also be trained on a paramedic level as well. All firefighters are required to have EMT training beyond the initial first responders course. From there, someone interested in becoming a firefighter may decide to become a full-fledged EMT or paramedic. In a competitive market, this advanced training can make the difference when it comes to the decision between you and another person in the position of firefighter.

how to become a firefighterThe options that you’ll have for your formal firefighter training will depend on where you live. Your first option is to look for a firefighter academy. This type of academy won’t be available in every county, so it may not be a feasible option for some — especially for those of you who have to work full time while training.

The training you’ll receive at a firefighter academy when you are training on how to become a firefighter can be quite expansive. While the list of various courses are far too extensive to mention here, a few courses you’ll routinely take in as a firefighter. Training courses are Wildland firefighting, firefighting survival, Haz Mat first responders and courses on fire behavior and combustion, just to mention a few.

There are also many dedicated vocational schools that offer comprehensive training to become a certified firefighter. Vocational schools can offer a similar style of in depth training that you’ll find at an academy for firefighters.

You may want to consider community colleges or other training facilities that offer degrees in fire science. These are typically two year associate degrees, but they cover all the necessary training that you’ll need in order to become a certified firefighter.

You may also be able to find a great deal of on the job training by becoming a volunteer firefighter. While you will still need to have your educational credentials in order to become certified, this sort of experience will give you a leg up in it comes to the hands on training needed to become a full fledged firefighter.

When choosing a source for your education, it’s important to ensure that you choose a reputable institution. If you receive your training at a vocational or technical school, you want to ensure that it has the highest reputation for quality education and that the programs that are used are recognized nationally and especially by the firefighter industry as a whole. This part of how to become a firefighter is very important.

Training (CPAT)

Throughout your education, it’s vitally important that you mind your physical fitness as best as you possibly can. The job of being a firefighter is physically demanding and there are certain standards that must be met in order for you to officially qualify for an open position in a fire department.

In the past, fire departments have had their own standards for the physical fitness of a firefighter applicant. Today, fire departments throughout the country are using a standardized system of evaluating a potential applicant’s physical ability to be a firefighter.

This standardized system is known as CPAT or candidate’s physical ability tests. These tests are

Firefighter c1 test

 given to all applicants and the applicants must pass all eight phases of this test in order to be eligible to become a firefighter. This test is given in one sitting, which means that it’s all or nothing when it comes to passing.

Here is the list of each test as well as a brief description of what they entail:

Stair Climb

This test is conducted on a stepping machine that requires 60 steps for 3 minutes. While operating the stepping machine, two 12.5 pound shoulder weights are placed on the applicant.

Hose Drag

In this test, the potential firefighter places both ends of a 200 foot hose upon their shoulder. The applicant must drag the hose 75 feet to a pre-established barrier and then make a 90° turn and drag the hose an additional 25 feet.

Once this is complete, the applicant will arrive at a 5’ x 7’ box. From this point, the applicant is required to get on either one or two knees and pull the hose 150 feet until the 50 foot mark of the hose crosses the finish line.

Equipment Carry

This phase of the testing includes two saws that are placed on the ground. The applicant is required to pick up both saws and carry them 75 feet, around a barrier and then the two saws are carried back to the starting point. Once they are both placed on the ground, the applicant is required to pick up both saws and return them to the saw cabinet.

Ladder Rise

This test requires the applicant to approach a 24 foot aluminum extension ladder against a wall. The candidate is also required to keep his or her feet within a 3 x 3’ box located close to the base of the wall. The applicant is then required to extend the ladder one rung at a time until the ladder reaches its stopping point. Then the applicant is required to detract the ladder original position.

Forcible Entry

This very straight forward test requires the applicant to use a 10 pound sledge hammer. The applicant is required to strike a measuring device that is located within a designated area. The applicant is not permitted to stop striking the measuring device until buzzer sounds.


In this test, the applicant is required to navigate a tunnel type maze that is 64 feet long while on his or her hands and knees. The total max space measures 4 feet wide by 3 feet high. In at least two areas, if not more, the size of the tunnel is greatly reduced.

Rescue Drag

This test is aimed at displaying a candidate’s ability to rescue a person by dragging. This requires the candidate to grab two handles attached to the shoulder of a 165 pound mannequin.

From here, the applicant is required to drag the mannequin 35 feet, navigate around a barrier and drag the mannequin another 35 feet back to the finish line. The entire body of the mannequin must pass the finish line in order for the applicant to pass this phase of the CPAT.

Ceiling Breach and Pull

This test requires the candidate to use a pike pole in order to push up a 60 pound hinge door. The candidate must push the door up three times. After that, using the pike pole, the candidate must pull an 80 pound device downward at least five times. This process is completed when the proctor of the test calls for time.

Each phase of this test must be completed to the proctor satisfaction in order to move on to the next stage of the CPAT. If one phase is not completed properly, the applicant will be required to retake the entire test in order to be considered as an applicant for fire department position. This is important to understanding how to become a firefighter.

In addition to the training, successfully completing all testing aspects in order to be hired on as a firefighter are not without their challenges either. You may have setbacks; you may not be able to complete every phase of the CPAT testing your first time around. However, by staying determined and positive, you can continue to hone your skills to the point to where you can pass all of the testing measures employed by fire departments throughout the country. By persevering you can become a full-fledged professional firefighter.

Getting Certified

Once you’ve made the decision on where your career path lies, it’s time to get the training necessary. Vocational schools, technical schools as well as dedicated firefighter academies offer the proper amount of training for you to receive your Firefighter 1 certificate. However, it’s important to focus on that training and education because it will be put to the test when you take your final test in order to gain certification. Each state will have it’s own certification test.

Read more about firefighter certification.

Getting a Job

how to get a firefighter jobWhen you’ve completed your training and you have received your firefighter certificate, it’s then time to prepare to find a job as a firefighter. While the training to become a firefighter can be very intense and challenging, preparing yourself to become a good candidate for an open position at a fire department can be equally as challenging.

Oral interview

One thing that you want to focus on as much as possible is pulling off a good face to face interview. Of course you’ll need all the education and training but a good oral interview whether in person or on the phone is just as important as having the best training and education. A good oral interview can be the difference in you getting the job when all the other applicants have the same training and qualification as you.

Just like any kind of job, part of how to become a firefighter is presenting yourself in the best way possible. In a face to face interview be sure to make eye contact, answer questions clearly and concisely, smile, be energetic and be honest.

Please refer to the article, about 5 of the Most Common Interview Questions.

Creating a Resume

You want to first focus on creating a top level resume. This resume should not only offer a potential employer a detailed and accurate list of personal information as well your job history, but there also needs to be a significant focus on the training that you have received in order for you to become a certified firefighter. While fire departments are disallowed from considering candidates without proper training and certification, highlighting your training is going to be the best way to separate yourself from other potential candidates.

If you feel your resume needs something to make it stand out, look into free resume websites for pointers on creating a professional yet eye catching resume. This might be the best way to give your resume something you can’t offer.

Apply for Every Open Position

Make sure that you apply early and often for any entry level fire department positions available. Many fire departments work on the in-house promotion standard. This means that most firefighters that are hired into an existing fire department will be hired into entry level positions and as their performance warrants will be promoted throughout the ranks over a period of time.

Regardless of how much training you have, don’t discount entry level positions. In some cases, these will be the only positions available within a fire department.

Requirements You Need in Order to Apply

If you want to be a serious candidate for an open firefighters position, here is a brief rundown of the basic requirements you’ll need.

  • Be at least 18 – the minimum age in some states is 21
  • EMT Certification
  • Paramedic Licensing
  • CPR Certification
  • Firefighter I Certification

Other Skills that are Good to Posses

There are often many skills that may not be required but can come in very handy when applying for an open position in a fire department.

  • Bilingual
  • EMT Experience
  • Volunteer Firefighting Experience

Please refer to this article on our website if you want to learn more about educational, physical or psychological requirements to become a firefighter.

The Hiring Process

The process of being hired on to a fire department may vary from location to location, but here is a general rundown of what is typically entailed in the hiring process.

You will first submit your application and resume for the open position. From here the applicants resumes will be screened. If your application passes the screening you will be required to take a written exam and then it will be on to the CPAT tests.

Next you’ll move on to the interview process where you will have a standardized oral interview and then an interview with the department chief. While the interview process is going on, there will be a comprehensive background check.

You will also be required to take a psychological and physical evaluation test and if you pass on all accounts you will be placed in a recruitment academy where you will receive specific training. In 8 to 20 weeks you will be appointed to a fire department where you will have a mandatory one to three year probationary period.

The Background Check

Credit History

It’s becoming more common in the workplace for employers to check the credit history of each potential applicant. Even if the job doesn’t entail handling money, such as with a firefighter, credit history is a way of proving a person’s character and this aspect is very important when applying for a job as a firefighter.

Also, firefighters are entrusted to go into homes and businesses that may have valuables laying around. Someone with a bad credit history may be more willing to risk a theft in order to get some extra money.

Driving History

In your role as a firefighter, you may be required to drive a wide variety of different vehicles. Since there is a great deal of liability involved in driving public service vehicles, especially those related to a fire department, an impeccable driving record is going to be important.

Arrest Record

This aspect of a background check is common for virtually every job. There’s no place for people of suspect character in a fire department and if you have an arrest record, all the training in the world is not going to be able to overcome numerous run-ins with law enforcement.

Stay Positive and Determined

If you want to learn how to become a firefighter you have to have the right amount of determination. What’s more it’s important to stay positive regardless of any setbacks. Becoming a firefighter is a very difficult and challenging but it is also a very rewarding as well. Staying physically strong as well as mentally strong will help your through the challenges of becoming a firefighter and will help you overcome an obstacles that you might encounter along the way.

How to become a firefighter
Courtesy of: Schools.com