Firefighters: What They Do, How to Become One, Resources

firefighter career

A firefighter is a highly trained professional whose role is to save people, property, and nature by extinguishing fires. It is one of the three primary emergency services that the public can contact. However, fighting fires isn't the only aspect of the job—being a quick thinker who dedicates themselves to their community is an integral part of the job.

What Does A Firefighter Do?

While most people know that putting out fires is the central part of a firefighter's job, there is far more to it than just what the job title suggests. In addition to extinguishing blazes, their training equips them to respond to hazardous waste situations and technical rescue. Technical rescue can include saving people trapped in a vehicle or other confined spaces. Public education is also a large part of the job as the community needs to be made aware of how to prevent fires in the first place. Similarly, firefighters may also be called upon to perform building inspections to ensure that there is no fire risk.

How To Become A Firefighter

The first step in becoming a firefighter is to research your city's standards since specific qualifications may change from place to place. As firefighters work in shifts, you must ensure that this job meets your current lifestyle. The length of these shifts can vary from place to place, but 24 hours is not uncommon.

You must also be a legal adult at the time of your application, which means 18 years of age or over in most countries. You should visit your city's government website before you begin your application; they will have the specifics for the role depending on your area. Being involved in the community is also an essential but unofficial part of the job, so showing that you care about the neighborhood with volunteer work is an excellent way to show your dedication to the role.

Certifications Or Licensure Requirements

There are specific requirements you must meet before you can become a firefighter, though this can change depending on whether there are particular specialties or not.

To start with, you must have a high school diploma and a driver's license. As medical emergencies are a fairly common issue for firefighters to deal with, medical training is an asset. That means you need a valid first aid certificate and a Level C CPR certificate from the Red Cross at a minimum. It can also include emergency medical technician (EMT) and paramedic certifications.

There are a variety of firefighting training programs available depending on where you live, and this can include a Training Program Certificate or a National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) certificate from an accredited school. Some cities will allow on-the-job experience as a substitute for some or all training. However, it depends on your ability to get experience in working in a fire department. There will be additional testing based on your location—for example, The Firefighting Services of Ontario test.

Specialized training can also be a big help in allowing you to stand out from the crowd. For example, becoming an airport firefighter or acquiring a certificate in ice water rescue increases the qualifications on your resume and make you more of an asset to the hiring committee.

How Can I Find A Firefighter Job?

The internet is your primary resource for finding a job as a firefighter. Often your city will have a website with information on how to apply and additional resources.

There are also specialty websites and job boards focused on jobs within the firefighting industry. Much like a regular job board, this will list the specific qualifications and skills that a particular department is looking for, as well as an email address where you can send in your application. In Canada, is an example of this and features job openings from all over the country. In the United States, is a job board that includes listing from all over the nation. You will be able to find open firefighter positions on standard job boards as well, so do not feel restricted to the specialty websites alone.

Finally, make sure you keep aware of any information sessions your local fire department may be offering. It is a great way to introduce yourself in person and show your interest in the industry.

Related Hiring Resources

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author: patrick algrim
About the author

Patrick Algrim is an experienced executive who has spent a number of years in Silicon Valley hiring and coaching some of the world’s most valuable technology teams. Patrick has been a source for Human Resources and career related insights for Forbes, Glassdoor, Entrepreneur,, SparkHire, and many more.


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