How to Become a Firefighter

A fire fighter helps to insure public safety by rescuing lives and putting a stop to destructive fires that can potentially destroy public property. He or she must also help with various medical emergencies that can sometimes mean life or death. Although firefighters risk their lives to save others, they can also have benefits unlike other professions. For instance, they can receive unique retirement benefits along with medical and dental insurance. They may also receive awards for their service, but the act of saving people’s lives can feel rewarding in and of itself. Still, in order to enter this profession, there are many necessary steps that must be taken.


Many firefighters have entered the field with only a high school diploma or G.E.D. Presently, firefighters are beginning to enter the field with more education and a degree. There are colleges and universities that offer courses leading to two and four year degrees in either fire science or fire engineering. Many fighters are obtaining these certificates, since a degree can give them an edge over other applicants in an employers eyes. In addition to a a diploma or degree, firefighters must also earn EMT-Basic certifications in order to work in a fire department. Larger departments require a paramedic certification. To earn either certification students take courses at a community college or other educational institution. Then, once they successfully complete the course, they are eligible for an application to test for certification.


Fire departments offer training for incoming firefighters at academies or centers. Training consists of exams written and physical as well as real world applicable training. This typically includes fire training drills where participants are placed in a setting where they must put out controlled fires. A dangerous task, firefighters are cloaked in heavy fire resistant gear and are put into action. This sort of training along with less stressful training goes on for several weeks. The less stressful aspect of training consists of instructors teaching trainees how to prevent fires along with procedures for other emergencies. They also learn to use a variety of firefighting and rescue equipment such as fire hoses and chainsaws. Once firefighters have finished their training, they are assigned to a company. Then, they must enter a period of probation.

On the Job

When on duty, firefighters must quickly respond to an accident, fire, or medical emergency. For example, suppose a firefighter is called to a scene of a particularly bad car accident, and there are people trapped in the car, following procedure, the firefighter–along with others–must carefully remove the individuals from the vehicle. If there is a building or house on fire, they must again follow procedure and remove individuals from the property. They must then salvage and save the property itself. Also, in case of a medical emergency, a fighter must perform treatment such as first aid and vital tests. But there are less dangerous non emergency duties firefighters must tend to that includes cooking, cleaning, and monitoring a dispatch radio.

Career Opportunities

After years of service, opportunity for career advancement and progression is available through promotions and moving up in ranks. By taking written exams, interviews, and establishing oneself at a level of seniority, a firefighter can be promoted to upper positions and ranks such as: Engineer, Lieutenant, Captain, Division Chief or Deputy/Deputy Asst. Chief/Commissioner , Assistant Chief/Commissioner, Chief/Commissioner, Battalion Fire Chief. To achieve entrance into higher positions firefighters typically have to pass a physical examination, and a drug test.

Realizing a Dream

At the end of the day, becoming a firefighter is a serious commitment and all educational and training requirements should be met. Once they are, firefighters work to be the best they can be. After all, there are lives, including their own, on the line.