How to Become a Firefighter

Brandi Glass
9 min read
Firefighter Holding Hose with Water Flowing

Firefighting is a job that requires courage, commitment, and selflessness to protect your community from the ravages of fire. Although it is a highly respected job, it is also dangerous, with potential for injury or death.

But despite the risks, many are drawn to the profession because of the sense of purpose and fulfillment. We’ll go over how to become a firefighter in the US and explain everything you need to know about this rewarding and in-demand career.

What is a Firefighter?

With their red uniforms and trucks, fearless demeanor, and their high level of training, firefighters are modern-day heroes who take on excruciating conditions to help their communities.

Firefighters are trained professionals who extinguish fires, rescue people and animals, and prevent or minimize damage caused by fires and other disasters. They work to protect lives, property, and the environment, often putting their safety at risk in the process.

From helping people and animals get out of tricky situations to being available during a natural disaster and even a human-made one, firefighters have complex jobs that require strict training and teamwork to help others.

What Does a Firefighter Do?

Besides extinguishing fires, firefighters’ roles include rescuing people and animals from dangerous situations and providing emergency medical care.

Firefighters often partake in community outreach and education programs, raising awareness about fire prevention and safety. Additionally, they inspect buildings to ensure compliance with fire codes and safety regulations.

Of course, these roles may significantly differ depending on the place where the firefighter works and how dangerous the job is or the frequency at which mistakes happen. For example, some major theme parks in the US hire firefighters who are on-call and available to deal with mishaps if they happen on rides.

Other places, such as movie sets and places where industrial buildings are plentiful also have designated firefighters nearby in case of an emergency.

Some firefighters also work with police agencies to identify what could be the cause of a potential arson case. Firefighter roles are diverse and come with plenty of challenges.

How to Become a Firefighter

Becoming a firefighter takes hard work and has some requirements. You must be at least 18, have a high school diploma or GED, and pass a medical exam and fitness test. Most states require the completion of a firefighter training program, either at a community college or fire academy.

How Long Does It Take to Become a Firefighter?

You must complete the necessary education and training requirements, pass physical and medical exams, and obtain certifications or licenses.

The process takes several months to a few years, ultimately depending on state requirements. In some cases, you must also have experience as an EMT or paramedic, further lengthening the time it takes to start working.

How Long is Firefighter Training?

Firefighter training ranges from a few weeks to several months. You may need to pass a basic training program before moving on to specialized training, like a hazardous material response or technical rescue class.

A Day in the Life of a Firefighter

Fireman in Front of Fire Truck

A typical day at the fire department involves coming in early, checking apparatuses and equipment, and engaging in physical fitness training.

Although streaming and TV shows give the impression that firefighters don’t do much during their shift except wait for an alarm, this is not the case. Most shifts last at least 24 hours and up to 60 hours a week, and they are full of activities and tasks.

Since firefighters spend so much time at the station, they also perform tasks like shopping for meals and attending errands and inspections. They also participate in public education programs and perform equipment maintenance. Once an alarm goes off, firefighters place those activities on hold and attend to the emergency.

Firefighter Salary: How Much Does a Firefighter Make?

Salary ranges differ depending on your level and state of residence. A firefighter salary can be as high as $110,000 a year or more. But when you first start, your firefighter salary typically won’t exceed $50,000. Keep in mind, however, that when you work as a firefighter, you work fewer days than someone with a different job. That is because firefighters work 24-hour shifts and then do not have work for the next 48 hours.

Firefighter Salary Ranges

The average firefighter salary in the USA is $50,218 annually. The range varies significantly across cities and states, depending on the difficulty of working in specific settings and the average salary in that state. Therefore, the average firefighter salary varies depending on multiple factors, such as where you live and your overall experience.

How Much Does a Firefighter Make an Hour?

If you make $50,000 as a firefighter, your hourly rate is $24.04. If you make $80,000 annually, your hourly rate is $38.46.

Is Becoming a Firefighter a Good Fit for Me?

You need some skills to become a successful firefighter and stay safe in your profession. You must be physically fit, courageous, able to work well within a team, and have excellent problem-solving abilities. Before you decide to start this career, look into the requirements to be a firefighter, such as:

  • Firefighter physical requirements
  • Education requirements for a firefighter
  • Age requirements for a firefighter
  • Requirements to be a volunteer firefighter

The more information you have about the qualifications for firefighters, the better-equipped you are to take on the task and help others.

Where Can a Firefighter Work?

Some firefighter jobs include working as a fire investigator, conducting investigations to determine the cause of fires, and working with law enforcement to identify and prosecute arsonists. Besides the fire station, you can work with specialized teams like hazardous materials response teams or urban search and rescue. You can also work for industrial facilities or airports, be a wildland firefighter, or take on a role in public education.

How to Apply for Firefighter Jobs

If you passed through the requirements to be a firefighter, and received the proper training (including education requirements for firefighter safety), it’s time to apply for jobs. You can search for jobs through community boards. However, the most popular way to seek a position nowadays is to go online and use search engines to find the best position based on your location.

It would help if you had a firefighter resume that lists your qualifications for firefighter roles. Make sure that your resume has the correct format, font, and layout. Rocket Resume templates are an excellent way to ensure your CVs go to the right people. All Rocket Resume templates meet formatting and professional standards, seamlessly passing through Applicant Tracking Systems.

If you are not sure how or where you need to start, look at a firefighter job description for resume accuracy. You can make tweaks and adjustments based on the information you can find in the “qualifications for firefighter” segment on the post. Besides your firefighter resume, you also need a firefighter cover letter. A professional and well-polished firefighter cover letter tells your employer more about yourself. It helps them determine if you are a good fit.

Firefighter resume template

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

How much does a firefighter make a year?

The average firefighter salary in the USA is between $30,000 - $64,000 a year. Entry-level firefighters make between $28,000 - $50,000, while expert or senior firefighters generate in the six figures, at $100,000 and above.

How much does a firefighter make a month?

You can make between $2,500 - $5,333 a month working as a firefighter in the United States. Those salary ranges depend on whether you make $30,000 - $64,000 a year, per the national average.

A wildland firefighter salary averages at $40,000 and above in the US.

How much does a firefighter captain make?

Fire captains make up to $80,000 a year, depending on their state of residence and experience. The highest earners can earn up to $101,000 annually.

How long does it take to become a firefighter?

Becoming a professional firefighter can take several months to a few years, depending on your program and how long you need to train. For more specialized training, it will be in a few years. However, basic training takes less time.

How to become a volunteer firefighter?

To become a volunteer firefighter, you must be eighteen at least, have the education requirements for firefighter roles, clear a criminal background check, and undergo a medical exam. Some departments require you to complete a firefighter training program.

How to become a wildland firefighter?

To become a wildland firefighter, you must be 18 years old or older, have a high school diploma or equivalent, and pass a physical fitness test. Then, you must attend a training program to understand fire behavior, wildfire suppression, and safety protocols. A wildland firefighter salary is slightly higher than a regular firefighter salary and requires a special card.

Some states may require additional certifications or training, such as attending a wildland firefighter academy or possessing a Red Card, a national certification for wildland firefighters.

How to become a firefighter in Texas?

The Texas Commission on Fire Protection sets the qualifications Texans need to become firefighters. Firefighter requirements in Texas stipulate that you must be at least 18, have graduated high school with a diploma or GED, and complete a Texas Commission on Fire Protection (TCFP) training program. Finally, you must pass a medical exam, a physical agility test, and a written exam.

How old do you have to be a firefighter?

Whether you want to be a firefighter or a volunteer, you must be a minimum of 18 years old to take on this position. Because firefighting is a dangerous job, this age limit makes sense before taking on firefighter schooling.

How to become a firefighter in California?

To be a firefighter in California, you must be at the minimum 18 years old, have a high school diploma or GED, and have a valid driver’s license. You also need to pass a medical exam, a physical agility test, and a written exam.

What do you need to be a firefighter?

Besides the age requirement and high school diploma or GED, you must be physically healthy, work well within a team, communicate clearly, and tolerate a stressful and dangerous working environment. Before you apply, make sure you review the common firefighter interview questions.

What does it take to be a firefighter?

To be a firefighter, you must be over 18 and physically fit, with personal qualities like courage, the ability to work in teams, problem-solving abilities, and high adaptability.

What are the requirements to be a firefighter?

Typical requirements of being a firefighter include being at least 18, having a high school diploma or GED, passing a criminal background check, and a medical exam. Firefighters must also complete a training program covering fire behavior, emergency medical treatment, and hazardous material response. Once you get your training and have a firefighter cover letter that you can submit with your resume, ask your trainer for a firefighter letter of recommendation.

How long are firefighter shifts?

Most firefighters work a 24-hour shift, which includes sleeping, cooking, and eating at the fire station, and then they get two full days off. Depending on staffing needs and resources, some departments may also use 8-hour or 12-hour shift schedules.

What does a firefighter do?

Firefighters put out destructive fires, rescue humans and animals from dangerous situations, inspect buildings, and sometimes conduct investigations relating to arson. They also participate in public education programs and perform light maintenance when necessary.

How hard is it to become a firefighter?

Being a firefighter is not a simple job, and it comes with many risks. You must be in good physical shape and be able to handle stressful situations calmly. Most importantly, you must have a clear head to make life-altering decisions that make all the difference in a person’s life.

How old do you have to be to be a volunteer firefighter?

The age requirements to be a volunteer firefighter is to be at least 18.

What degree do you need to be a firefighter?

You need a high school diploma or its equivalent to become a firefighter. You do not need to have a college diploma or a higher degree.

How long is firefighter academy?

Fire academies vary in program duration. Some offer full-time intensive training that takes up to 16 weeks, and others offer part-time or evening programs that take several months or up to a year to finish.

What is firefighter endorsement?

A firefighter endorsement is an additional certification on a commercial driver’s license (CDL) that permits the holder to operate certain types of commercial vehicles used in firefighting, such as fire trucks and water tenders. This endorsement requires additional training and testing beyond the standard CDL requirements and is necessary for driving fire trucks.

Why become a firefighter?

Firefighters have rewarding careers that allow them to help others, serve the community, and positively impact people’s lives. Your community respects your profession, and you can work in multiple settings beyond a traditional fire station. Also, firefighters receive competitive salaries and benefits, and the job provides career advancement and personal growth opportunities.

How many days does a firefighter work?

The 24/48 schedule is a typical shift schedule used by many fire departments. It requires firefighters to work 24 hours straight and then have 48 hours off duty. This pattern ends up resulting in an average of 10 workdays per month.

Wrapping Up

Now that you have all the information needed about how to become a firefighter, it’s time to put in the work and receive the training. But once you are ready to start working, it is essential to have a firefighter resume that you can use to apply for jobs, with clear firefighter resume objectives.

With Rocket Resume, you don’t have to worry about the tedious process of creating a resume from scratch. All you need to do is log in, choose a template that you like or click on existing firefighter resume templates, and input your information based on the prompts.

With a few simple steps, you will have a stellar firefighter resume in minutes, without hassles and guaranteed to pass ATS checks.

Are you ready to embark on an enriching career as a firefighter? Start now with Rocket Resume.