Firemen protect the safety of the public by responding to emergencies and extinguishing fires. Brave, calm under pressure, and quick thinking are just a few traits that describe the men and women who make up this profession. But becoming a firefighter takes more than strength and guts of steel; it takes classroom instruction and rigorous training to make the cut.
Firefighter training programs are usually 12-24 weeks long and 40-48 hours each week, making training a full-time job. Training usually occurs at a fire academy run by the local fire department. To apply for the program, applicants must be at least 18 years old and have a high school diploma. Applicants must be physically fit, have a clean criminal record, good vision, and excellent hearing.
Preparing You for Your Job
Becoming a firefighter is very competitive, across the country. Most fire departments hire every two years, with 30 open positions each time. Some fire departments prefer that applicants have a college education, so a degree in fire science can be a major bonus. In addition, many applicants make themselves more desirable to hiring departments by obtaining EMT or paramedic certification before applying. In some cases, EMT certification is required to perform medical care on the job.
Applicants must pass a written test, a physical ability test, and an aptitude test before entering a firefighter training program. The written exam contains 100 multiple choice questions on spatial awareness, reading comprehension, mechanical reasoning, logic, observation, and memory. The physical ability test challenges agility, upper body strength, and endurance, reflective of what will be done throughout fire academy training.
How You’ll Learn
Actual firefighter training is a combination of practical and classroom instruction. The classroom portion includes search and rescue procedures, local building codes, and fire science. Trainees learn how to prevent and fight fires, manage hazardous materials, inspect smoke detectors, and treat people injured in fires. Challenging situations such as cars, crawl spaces, high-rises, and subways are also covered.
After Your Training
Once training is over, graduates are required to complete a 3-6 month probationary period before performing the day-to-day duties of a firefighter. These include maintaining the fire station, driving a fire truck, breaking down doors, and responding to fires.
No Need To Wait
If you’re ready to start working your way to becoming a firefighter, then launch right into it. See about volunteering in your community, and sign up for fire science courses at a trade school or community college.