Pursuing a Career as a Firefighter: What You Need to Know

fireman rescuing a woman

You probably won’t need to learn all the details about vacuum priming system design, but for sure, you’re going to have to work with water a lot if you want to become a fireman.

Just before you finished high school, you did a lot of volunteer work for the community. You’ve assisted in soup kitchens, participated in cleanup drives, and volunteered with the fire department shuffling papers and running errands. It’s the latter you loved doing the most, or it’s being in the fire department that excites you the most.

You’re back in town, and you’ve just dropped out of college after only a year. You told your parents that you want to pursue your passion as a firefighter instead. They weren’t understanding in the beginning, but they have come around since your announcement. They are now helping you go through the process of becoming a fireman. What does it take to be one?

Here are some things that you need to know:

A Brief Background of the Firefighting Profession

Following the 9-11 attack on the World Trade Center in NY, first responders, including firefighters, probably became one of the most revered professionals in America. John Stewart, in an emotional testimony in Congress back in June 2019, reminded legislators that firefighters, police officers, rescue workers, etc., took five seconds to respond to the emergency.

This is also part of the reason why you want to join the ranks of some 373,600 career firefighters. The total number will rise to 1,056,200 if you include the 682,600 volunteers — a million lives protecting hundreds of millions more.

The median salary of a firefighter is just below $41,000 per year.

portrait of a fire fighter carrying a hose

The Road to Become a Firefighter

You spent a year in college, so that’s already one box ticked. The minimum requirement to join the fire department is at least a high school diploma. Here are a few other things you need to consider:

  1. Get EMT certification. You should go through this hoop before you begin the process. There are various community colleges and universities that offer top-notch programs in emergency medical services. Take the several-month long program and get certified as an Emergency Medical Technician.
  2. Mental and physical preparation. It’s a highly competitive profession, so you need to be prepared mentally and physically to survive the rigors of the selection process. You need to be sharp mentally, for starters, during the interview portion where you will be asked relevant questions, and your answers need to be spot-on. Can you carry on your back a person weighing 150 pounds down a burning stair of an apartment? You need to be physically fit to become a firefighter. These mental and physical preparations are what you will need to pass the test.
  3. Further studies. Your EMT certification is all about the medical side of an emergency. You also need to know about fire science. You can learn this through a college or the fire department academy. This advanced learning will teach you about becoming an investigator or inspector, e.g., for arson or insurance claims.
  4. Pass the exams. You can’t be a firefighter if you don’t pass the exams. Depending on what service you will choose, the testing process can vary.

Remember that once you become one, you will be responsible for the lives of fellow human beings in the performance of your job. Make sure that your morals are beyond reproach and that your priority is to serve the public.