Firefighting is a very challenging job. It is also extremely hard to get a job as a firefighter. If you think you’re up to the challenge, here’s how to get started:
- Meet the minimum requirements. You must be at least 18, with a high school diploma or GED, to become a firefighter. While you can begin preparing for the process earlier, you can’t apply to be a firefighter until you meet these requirements.
- Talk to firefighters. This is a very important step to take no matter what career you are considering. Make sure you know everything you can about being a firefighter before you decide to try it. You won’t just be putting out fires; fire departments are also called on to handle medical emergencies, animal rescues, bomb threats, gas leaks, and hazardous material spills, among many other emergencies.
- Get experience. Before applying for a paid position, you may want to consider being a volunteer firefighter, or working as an EMT or paramedic. Some fire departments also offer internships. These can give you valuable experience, and you’ll come out with a better idea of whether firefighting is right for you.
- Get emergency medical training. Take a CPR class and whatever other medical training you can find. You may be surprised to learn that many calls to fire departments are for medical emergencies. Emergency medical training will be a required part of your training to become a firefighter. Beginning your training before you apply can be a boost to your application.
- Find a position and take the tests. Your state or local fire department can give you all of the necessary information about firefighting jobs in your area, as well as the necessary exams. To get a job as a firefighter, you must pass a physical test, a medical exam, and a drug screening. Get and keep yourself in top physical condition, as the physical test is notoriously difficult. It will require a strict training regimen prior to the test. Of course, the job itself is physically demanding as well, so you need to be physically prepared for the work of a firefighter. Today, some departments also require a psychological screening, to make sure you are mentally up to the task. You will also be required to go through at least one interview. Whether you will be hired as a firefighter is based on the results of these various tests, so be sure you are prepared.
- Complete your training. Most fire departments run a 2 to 4 month program including both classroom time and practical training. This training period will be very rigorous, but it is necessary if you want to be a firefighter.
- Get through your probationary period. Most departments have a probationary period of employment lasting from 3 months to a year. This is your time to prove that you’re up to the challenge.
This may seem like a lot of hard work, and it is. Firefighting is a very difficult job, but it is also very rewarding.