How to Become a Firefighter


Firefighters use a variety of tools to fight fires, rescue people and property from danger and perform emergency medical procedures on people. They also serve their communities in a number of other ways, including by conducting educational programs and providing prevention services. The job requires extensive training, as well as physical and mental strength to work under intense pressure.

A person can become a firefighter by earning a high school diploma and entering a vocational certification or associate’s degree program in fire science. The program may be as short as four years, depending on the type of program and the fire department. It’s important for firefighters to receive specialized training, such as how to handle hazardous materials, because the work can expose them to many dangerous substances. Firefighters must also have a minimum of EMT (emergency medical technician) certification, because they will often provide first aid to people during or after fires.

To enter the career, people must pass a written exam and an interview. Once accepted, they typically undergo several months of job-related training, which can include training on fire fighting techniques, how to operate and perform routine service maintenance on their equipment, and how to safely handle various types of hazardous materials. Firefighters must also be able to think quickly and act calmly in stressful situations.

As a firefighter, the primary responsibility is to respond to fire alarms and incidents (automobile accidents, gas system leaks, building collapses, etc.) and fight fires by using a variety of methods, including water, chemical extinguishers, axes, pike poles and ladders. They must be able to communicate with others in the field and understand and follow directions given to them over the radio.

They can also be called to assist in rescue operations, such as rescuing people from confined spaces or cars, and assisting in medical emergencies by administering advance life support until relieved by paramedics. They might also collaborate with police officers on arson-related investigations. The job is often dangerous and stressful, and firefighters must be able to tolerate long periods of exposure to heat and smoke.

In some jurisdictions, to become a firefighter, an individual must be at least 18 years old and pass a physical fitness test. They must also pass a background check, drug screening and psychological evaluation. People who are not successful on the firefighter exam can try again in a few years. Those who are successful on the firefighter exam will be placed on a civil service list.

There are also a number of different specializations within the profession, such as fire investigators and engineers. Those who pursue an associate’s or bachelor’s degree in a specialty can further enhance their employment prospects and increase their salary. Firefighters can also move into administrative positions, such as fire chiefs or human resources directors. Those who have advanced degrees can also teach and conduct research in their area of expertise. In addition, they can be involved in fire safety education, and in the training of new firefighters.

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