Here's How to Become a Firefighter (Professional Guide)

Here's how to become a firefighter. Firefighters are prepared to combat flames in a variety of settings, including woods, rural regions, and high-rise buildings. Firefighters are first and foremost concerned with the safety of people, next with the safety of property. Some firemen prefer to "work their way up the ladder," beginning with volunteer work at their local fire station and a high school graduation.

Those who wish to move through the ranks faster might pursue a fire science degree, which will qualify them for state or federal duties.

What is a firefighter?

A firefighter, also called a fireman, is a highly trained someone who fights and extinguishes fires. They also take preventative measures, operate as emergency medical technicians (EMTs), and investigate fire causes.

A fireman is usually often the first official "on the scene" of a fire, a car accident, or other emergency, which is why they are frequently referred to as "first responders." Some firemen work for a living, while others serve their communities as volunteers.

firefighter salary

What does a firefighter do?

A firefighter's principal responsibility is to put out fires. After being notified of a fire, a fireman will put on the proper safety equipment before jumping onboard or driving one of several different types of fire engines. Some of the vehicles take fire victims to emergency medical centers, while others are "aerial ladder" trucks that hoist ladders to upper levels of structures.

After arriving on the scene, each fireman reports to a commanding officer and is assigned a specific job. Hose operators, for example, attach hoses to fire hydrants and direct the water flow towards the fire, while a pump operator regulates the water flow. Tillers are the people that steer the aerial ladders. Others are in charge of entering burning structures in order to save possible casualties. While all firemen must have EMT qualifications, some specialize in stabilizing patients once they have been removed from a burning structure.


A fireman will utilize their EMT skills to care for the injured and secure the area before ambulances and police arrive in the instance of an automobile accident that does not include a fire. In the event of natural catastrophes like as tornadoes, tsunamis, and earthquakes, they also serve as rescuers. Firefighters tend to victims of these tragedies or look for those who have gone missing.

Fire inspection

A fireman also serves as a public educator and a fire inspector to help avoid fires. Inspectors ensure that local companies comply with fire rules and that fire escapes, alarms, and sprinkler systems are installed and functioning properly. If arson is suspected, certain firemen are trained as detectives to discover the cause of flames and gather evidence.

A fireman must also maintain fire apparatus and participate in regular drills or training in addition to their firefighting duties. In order to withstand the physical rigors of their profession, they must also maintain great physical condition.

firefighter salary

On call

Firefighters are sometimes rushed into entirely unexpected circumstances in which they risk being wounded or killed. They have no idea what's on fire, the layout of the structure, who's inside, whether the roof is ready to fall, whether their equipment will fail, or if they'll run out of oxygen at the wrong time. They go in nonetheless, despite the large number of unknowns, since they are trained to save lives.

Another part of firefighting that many people overlook is that it involves all five senses. Because a firefighter's veins are pumped full of adrenaline, time slows down and they become even more conscious of their surroundings. Here are a couple such examples:

Average firefighter salary

The bulk of firefighter salaries now vary between $34,500 (25th percentile) and $54,500 (75th percentile), with top earners (90th percentile) receiving $63,500 yearly throughout the United States. The typical salary for a firefighter varies significantly (up to $20,000), implying that there can be several chances for development and improved income dependent on skill level, location, and years of experience.

firefighter salary

Average firefighter salaries by state

  • Alaska: $52,460 per year.
  • Alabama: $40,323 per year.
  • Arkansas: $34,940 per year.
  • Arizona: $44,190 per year.
  • California: $74,700 per year.
  • Colorado: $59,090 per year.
  • Connecticut: $64,956 per year.
  • Delaware: $46,960 per year.
  • Florida: $53,340 per year.
  • Georgia: $37,240 per year.
  • Hawaii: $56,015 per year.
  • Iowa: $43,970 per year.
  • Idaho: $38,961 per year.
  • Illinois: $54,441 per year.
  • Indiana: $49,460 per year.
  • Kansas: $35,522 per year.
  • Kentucky: $35,512 per year.
  • Louisiana: $28,200 per year.
  • Massachusetts: $59,330 per year.
  • Maryland: $59,870 per year.
  • Maine: $34,210 per year.
  • Michigan: $45,440 per year.
  • Minnesota: $30,560 per year.
  • Missouri: $47,750 per year.
  • Mississippi: $28,690 per year.
  • Montana: $50,400 per year.
  • North Carolina: $32,590 per year.
  • North Dakota: $44,130 per year.
  • Nebraska: $50,060 per year.
  • New Hampshire: $48,540 per year.
  • New Jersey: $76,380 per year.
  • New Mexico: $35,860 per year.
  • Nevada: $64,920 per year.
  • New York: $81,240 per year.
  • Ohio: $45,910 per year.
  • Oklahoma: $41,970 per year.
  • Oregon$67,820 per year.
  • Pennsylvania: $56,090 per year.
  • Puerto Rico: $25,460 per year.
  • Rhode Island: $55,900 per year.
  • South Carolina: $35,230 per year.
  • South Dakota: $40,470 per year.
  • Tennessee: $39,610 per year.
  • Texas: $51,240 per year.
  • Utah: $36,100 per year.
  • Virginia: $49,110 per year.
  • Vermont: $34,730 per year.
  • Washington: $75,200 per year.
  • Wisconsin: $35,130 per year.
  • West Virginia: $35,340 per year.
  • Wyoming: $43,940 per year.

Monthly wages on average

The national average is $3,701 per month.

Weekly wages on average

The national average is $854 per week.

Hourly wages on average

The national average $21 per hour.

Job outlook of a firefighter

The job prognosis for firemen is bright; according to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), employment of firefighters is expected to rise at approximately the same rate as the national average until 2029. Population expansion and the decline of volunteer fireman jobs, which were projected to be converted into permanent, full-time jobs, accounted for the increase. As a result, job growth for firefighters is expected to be favorable during the next 10 years.

The prognosis for firefighter jobs is similarly promising, despite the fact that 20,300 additional fireman posts are scheduled to open during the 2019-2029 decade. The robust pension plan that comes with most firefighter jobs makes this a desirable vocation. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, local government fire departments employed the most firemen as of can 2019. Others worked for the state government or for other support service companies.

firefighter salary

How to become a firefighter

Here's how to become a professional firefighter with or without fire science degrees:

Obtain basic requirements

A high school diploma and a valid driver's license are required for firefighters. Although firemen must be at least 18 years old to start, they can begin limited on-the-job training at a younger age. There can be an age limit as well, generally between the ages of 28 and 30. Applicants must be physically fit, and a criminal background check and drug screening can be needed.

Take tests

Typically, when fire departments are trying to acquire new personnel, they attend recruiting fairs. They hold screening events when potential firemen are put through written and physical exams. Because the recruiting procedure is generally lengthy, you'll need patience.

Qualified candidates who pass the initial round of exams are interviewed and can be subjected to further assessments and testing.

Applicants must pass at least two tests to be accepted into a training program: a written test and a Candidate Physical Ability Test (CPAT). The written test involves spatial awareness, reading comprehension, mechanical reasoning, logic, observation, and memory and generally consists of about 100 multiple choice questions.

A tough physical fitness exam is also required of applicants. They should be able to complete a distance run in the time given, quickly climb flights of stairs, and lift and carry up to 200 pounds.

Become an EMT

Firefighters, who are frequently called out for emergency medical situations, are required in certain jurisdictions to have an Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) license. EMT is frequently a multi-level procedure, although state regulations differ.

Attend fire academy

Though a firefighter receives a lot of training in the station where he or she is recruited or assigned to work, attending a fire academy allows them to focus more on classroom and hands-on training. Courses address issues like as hazardous materials control and anti-arson methods that can not be taught in firehouse training.

firefighter salary

Consider a formal education

There are associate and bachelor's degree programs at colleges, universities, and trade schools for people who desire to pursue professions in fire science, paramedics, or rise to leadership roles within firefighting agencies. Before applying for work, you can need to finish your EMT-Paramedic training and pass the certification examinations if your potential fire department demands it.

Some fire departments provide recognized apprenticeship programs that include classroom instruction with field apprenticeships. These programs can last up to four years. Bachelor's and master's degree programs in forestry with a firefighting/environmental concentration are offered.

Continue your education

Firefighters' leaders and work trajectories frequently influence how much basic and continuous education they require. Some firehouses, for example, demand weekly training for all firemen, while others need a full-time probationary period or a four-year apprenticeship. Maintaining a high level of training is an essential element of the job. It's worth noting that maintaining one's EMT license typically necessitates regular continuing education classes.


Firefighters are usually required to be trained as emergency medical technicians. Some fire companies also need firemen to be paramedic-certified. EMTs and paramedics are certified by the National Registry of Emergency Medical Technicians (NREMT). NREMT certification at both levels necessitates completion of a training or education program as well as passing the national test. There is a computer-based examination and a practical component to the national exam. At accident sites, EMTs and paramedics can collaborate alongside firemen.

firefighter salary

Fire Science Specializations

Here are relevant career paths for a firefighter with a fire science degree:


$46,870 is the average annual wage.

Firefighters put out fires, deal with emergencies, and safeguard people and property. The job is thrilling, but it also carries a significant amount of danger. Consistent training and planning can assist firefighters and their communities reduce hazards.

Forestry Fire Prevention

$36,650 is the average annual wage.

These highly-trained firefighters operate in wooded regions, inspecting for possible fire dangers, enforcing fire laws (such as necessary burn licenses or "burn times"), and putting in place control measures when a fire looks to be on the horizon. They monitor meteorological conditions and notify the appropriate agencies when forest fires occur.

Building Inspector

The average annual wage for a building inspector is $57,340.

Working as a building inspector can appeal to those with a good understanding of construction rules and a keen eye for detail. These experts examine structures to assess their safety, structural soundness, and adherence to various laws. Their inspections might be broad or detailed. Future building inspectors might consider a list of fire safety degree programs that include specific coursework in fire and safety rules.

Arson Investigator

Arson Investigators make an average of $56,730 per year.

An arson investigator gathers evidence, eyewitness testimonies, and other information in the case of a suspicious fire to establish what caused the fire and, more importantly, who was responsible. These investigators collaborate closely with law enforcement agencies and other authorities.


$31,980 is the average annual wage.

Most firemen are required to become emergency medical technicians, or EMTs. Those who are passionate about their jobs can pursue extra training to become paramedics. Paramedics are trained to respond to medical crises, examine injuries, treat patients on the spot, and transfer them to a hospital for further treatment.

Required skills

Required skills of fire service professionals:


Firefighters are required to operate heavy equipment in potentially hazardous situations. They can be on their feet for hours, crawling through tight spaces, climbing ladders and steps, and putting their bodies to the test in various ways.


Communication abilities that are exceptional. Firefighters must be able to properly and succinctly convey events and concerns, especially when lives are on the line.


In an emergency, firemen must be prepared to make rapid judgments, even if they are tough ones. The capacity to make the best judgments possible given the information available is critical.


Every day, firefighters encounter perilous conditions, and each emergency call might be unexpected. They must have the guts and strength to deal with each call while keeping their team's safety in mind.

Common questions

Frequently asked questions from prospective firefighters:

How long does it take for you to become a firefighter?

To become a professional, salaried, career fireman, most people will need 3 to 5 years on average. This timeframe, however, is quite flexible. Typically, the procedure of becoming a volunteer fireman is significantly shorter.

What is the interview process like for firefighters?

You can be eligible for an interview after completing the written exam, physical ability test, background inquiry, and maybe additional tests. You can anticipate to be interviewed by a panel of 3-7 officers (or other staff) for a first, but crucial, interview that will take 20-30 minutes.

Ultimately, the fire chief or chief fire officer will be the professional in charge of securing your employment.

What other careers can I pursue with a fire science degree?

Correctional officers, emergency medical technicians, paramedics, police officers, and security guards are all possible careers for graduates of fire science programs.

What's a great way to learn more about becoming a local firefighter?

Visit your local fire stations, particularly those that are affiliated with the fire department for which you are applying. Speaking with firefighters is an excellent method to learn more about the job and the department in which they work, as well as any programs they can provide, such as cadet positions, reserve firefighter roles, or other possibilities.

How long does EMT training take to complete?

The 120 to 150 hours of instruction generally take around six months to complete. Following that, you must pass a state certification exam. As an EMT, you'll be able to work in ambulances and a variety of different settings, delivering emergency care.

How can I get involved in public safety before becoming a firefighter?

Working in public safety is all about giving back to the community. One approach to demonstrate that you're eager to help your community is to volunteer your time for a worthy cause (community service). It makes no difference if it's a fire-related or non-fire-related incident. There are several excellent chances for you to make a difference.

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author: patrick algrim
About the author

Patrick Algrim is a Certified Professional Resume Writer (CPRW), NCDA Certified Career Counselor (CCC), and general career expert. Patrick has completed the NACE Coaching Certification Program (CCP). And has been published as a career expert on Forbes, Glassdoor, American Express, Reader's Digest, LiveCareer, Zety, Yahoo,, SparkHire,,, FairyGodBoss,, St. Edwards University, NC State University,, Thrive Global,, Work It Daily, Workology, Career Guide, MyPerfectResume, College Career Life, The HR Digest, WorkWise, Career Cast, Elite Staffing, Women in HR, All About Careers, Upstart HR, The Street, Monster, The Ladders, Introvert Whisperer, and many more. Find him on LinkedIn.

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