How to Become a Firefighter in 2023: Skills and Qualifications
April 25 • 5 min read
Firefighting is an exciting yet tough job that is as challenging as it is rewarding. While sometimes dangerous, it offers the opportunity to make a difference in your community.
But not everyone can become a firefighter, as there are federal and department-specific requirements you need to start working.
Read on if you have always wanted to know how to become a firefighter. We will cover all the steps to becoming a successful firefighter in 2023 and go over everything to expect before you start.
Firefighters put out fires – but that’s just one part of their essential role. Being a firefighter also comes with many other responsibilities, including:
- Providing emergency medical services
- Performing rescue operations
- Safe handling and disposal of hazardous materials
- Providing public education to schools
- Maintaining and Inspecting buildings for fire code compliance
- Performing general community service activities
- Participating in community service projects
- Offering disaster response during hurricanes, tornadoes, flooding, and earthquakes
Firefighters must possess a wide range of skills to perform their duties effectively. Some of these include:
- Physical Fitness: You must be in good shape to handle this physically demanding job
- Problem-solving: You must think quickly and creatively to solve problems, like finding the source of a fire or rescuing someone in a tricky situation
- Communication: It’s crucial to communicate effectively with your fellow firefighters and with people in emergencies
- Leadership: You must be able to take charge of a situation and lead a team, whether it’s a group of firefighters or people you are trying to rescue
- Technical skills: You will use various fire fighting equipment and tools, such as hoses, ladders, and breathing apparatuses
- Emergency Medical Skills: You must know how to provide first aid and basic life support. Additionally, you should know how to use an automated external defibrillator (AED) and other medical equipment
- Mental Fortitude: You will be under significant stress on the job and handle situations like death and injury
Before becoming a firefighter, ensure you have the above skills to increase your chances of starting a successful career.
You must meet several federal requirements to become a firefighter in the U.S. Here are the essential requirements:
- Must be at least 18 years old
- Possess a high school diploma or GED
- Must be a citizen of the U.S. citizen or a legal permanent resident
- Pass a background check
- Pass a medical and physical examination
- Have an Emergency Medical Services (EMS) Certification
- Pass a drug test
Remember that fire departments may have additional demands in addition to these federal requirements, so you must check with the specific department.
Firefighter salaries vary depending on factors such as location, experience, and level of education.
Generally, the average base salary for firefighters in the United States is around $50,727 annually. An entry-level firefighter may earn around $47,944 per year. A firefighter with several years of experience may earn between $70,000 to $88,000 yearly.
Depending on your location, you may need some certifications to become a firefighter. Here are a few examples:
- Basic Firefighter Certification: This certification is mandatory to work in some fire departments. You can receive it by passing a basic firefighter training program. The certification covers the basic skills and knowledge needed to be a firefighter, such as fire behavior, fire suppression, and rescue operations
- Emergency Medical Services (EMS) Certification: You can obtain it from a program covering life support and emergency medical procedures
- Hazardous Materials (HAZMAT) Certification: A certification required by some fire departments that handle hazardous materials, such as chemical spills, oil spills, and nuclear accidents
- Fire Instructor Certification: Required by some fire departments for firefighters who will be responsible for training other firefighters
- Technical Rescue Certification: Required by some fire departments for firefighters responsible for performing technical rescues, such as rope rescue, swift water rescue, and confined space rescue
Yes, you must undergo a background check as part of the hiring process.
Federal law requires firefighters to pass a background check, which may include reviewing their criminal history, credit history, and other relevant information. If you plan to apply to firefighting jobs, maintain a clean record to increase the chances of a faster hiring process.
A fire academy is a facility that trains people who are interested in learning how to become firefighters. Fire academies offer basic and advanced training programs covering fire behavior, suppression, rescue operations, hazardous materials, and emergency medical procedures.
Fire academies prepare students for their careers by equipping them with the knowledge needed to perform their duties effectively and safely.
Basic Fire Academy training programs typically last several weeks to several months, depending on the academy and the program. Advanced Fire Academy training programs are for people who work as firefighters but want to advance their careers. These programs last several weeks to months and cover advanced topics such as incident command, rescue techniques, and specialized firefighting tactics.
You can advance to higher ranks within a fire department, such as lieutenant, captain, and chief. You can also take on specialized roles such as fire investigator, hazardous materials specialist, and fire instructor.
Promotions to higher ranks depend on your experience, educational level, and performance history. Firefighters with more experience, higher levels of education, and a proven track record of good performance let you look forward to higher ranks.
You can also advance in your career by obtaining additional certifications and education, such as becoming a certified fire officer, a certified fire inspector, or a public educator. These certifications can open up new opportunities for leadership, management, and instruction roles.
Many fire departments also have specialized units such as hazardous materials, technical rescue, and wildland firefighting, requiring additional certifications and training. Firefighters with the right skills and experience can apply to these units, allowing them to work in more specialized and challenging environments.
Now that you know how to become a firefighter, the next step is to prepare your resume to apply for a job and start your career.
But not just any CV works – you need one that passes the Applicant Tracking System some companies use for sourcing employees. Since some resumes do not clear these systems due to formatting issues, hiring managers may forgo yours for one that meets the correct specifications.
Rocket Resume’s intuitive resume builder lets you generate a professional, well-formatted resume in minutes. After you log in or create an account, you can choose the format you like and get started.
Once you start your account, fill in the prompts on your screen and leave the rest to the platform. You can have a professional firefighter resume in just a few minutes without the hassle and effort of starting one from scratch.
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