Getting hired as a firefighter requires preparation. Don't go at it alone.
Learn what fire departments expect and you could save lots of time and worry.
ROADS TO THE FIRE SERVICE
If your goal is a career in the service, this article will give you three options; but be careful, all come with pro’s con’s.
Before you can test as a paid firefighter in California, you must satisfy prerequisites or what is commonly referred to as minimum requirements.
To be eligible, the minimum requirements are the lowest threshold you must meet. Certain items can vary based on what a fire department needs but some of the more common requirements are included in this image.
Amazing places to work, such as the Los Angeles Fire Department, leave the guesswork out and help form their next generation of Heroes.
Typically, to test with fellow Hero-Wannabe’s, you must:
- Be a US citizen at the time of appointment
- Have reached the age of 18 as of the date of application
- Possess a current valid motor vehicle operator’s permit at the time of appointment
- Possess a high school diploma or a certificate of equivalency (GED) issued by a recognized department of education
- Pass the written firefighter/EMT entry-level examination
- Pass a scheduled physical abilities test
- Pass a thorough background check
- Pass medical and employment suitability assessments
- Submit to urinalysis and test negative for the presence of controlled substances/illegal drugs
- Be of high moral character and committed to public service
Most people are overwhelmed by this. Don’t worry, it pays off.
Keep in mind, if you waste precious time by not working towards the minimum requirements, you will never get a paid position.
Largely because you will never qualify to test. Good thing you read this…right?
Keep patient and work through the steps.
Success is closer than you think.
To be a firefighter, you can
- Become an Apprentice and/or
- Test for a job offer.
Volunteering is the easiest of the three options but can take the longest when used to get hired.
This particular firefighter originated when Ben Franklin changed Philadelphia's mission from “you pay me and I’ll put out the fire”
“Every fire matters".
Nowadays, our emergency response is for medical problems and not fires.
As medical issues grow, the demand will be for a firefighter who can perform “prehospital care” with expanded skills…we’ll get to more on that in a moment.
If you were thinking of being a firefighter and only fighting fires, sad news for you:
medical skills are being used more while
fires are being extinguished by sprinkler systems.
Don’t worry though, there's still plenty to fight.
fire fu%&ing-nado! Image courtesy one scared CalFire copter pilot
Volunteer organizations have drawbacks. The most-glaring is money and resources: you will be the driving force of your future, including steering and mapping!
Are you sure what to do next?
Think of it as boxing without a trainer. Chances are greatly improved that you'll get your ass kicked.
Many volunteer fire organizations are rustic; they make the best from whatever they have. Usually, volunteer departments don’t have a lot of money or teaching resources.
This means you would have the opportunity to rise or sink all on your own. High schools have a guidance counselor showing the way…not the case with most volunteer agencies.
There are plenty of benefits outweighing funding issues or lack of guidance such as:
- Volunteering is very common
- Fire departments typically bring new volunteers onboard as groups (aka cohort) which allows for you to partner with a peer… (more power in numbers).
- Another benefit is a Spartan-atmosphere really does offer something unobtainable anywhere else.
When you must…MUST…get the job done but with only a small selection of tools, you become unimaginably talented.
Further, this not-only builds character and a sense of humor, it also creates an ability to handle anything, anywhere, (with anyone).
Well-funded organizations don’t have as many worries as others. Money lends more options but if you can make the best of it, you’ll gain in the end.
- One of the coolest…I mean SWEETEST things about the volunteer organizations are their high level of community regarding. People LOVE their volunteer firefighters…so long as they do their job.
The second road to a firefighter seat is the Apprentice.
Fire Apprenticeship is becoming more common, but because of its ‘new-ness,’ some people are fearful of it.
As an apprentice, you are at the mercy of your mentor’s pace and ability. The firefighter assigned to grow your abilities might now be on the same timeline as you.
While Apprentice-work may overly consume your most-precious resource it does present benefits:
- Make fire friends super quick (they are less timid of developing friendships when forced)
- Speedier fire-based certificates (because that will be what you spend most of the training time on…if you get any training time)
- Experience sprouts from…well…experience.
Yes, the Apprentice gets more experience because you are working shifts alongside paid firefighters.
When you show up at the station, You are trained to do what they are doing, (which kinda explains their fear…more on that in future sessions).
Once you are trained to do what other firefighters do, you set yourself up for
- An apprenticeship allows for a more natural transition to be paid full/part-time. This isn’t always the case, but it is sure a lot easier hiring someone you just trained versus a complete stranger.
- Lastly, the nature of being an apprentice means you are being taught by someone. This person, your mentor, is supposed to help you obtain the tools needed for success. A well-designed Apprentice Program can be one of the best decisions you make.
Nothing beats riding on the fire engine so the sooner you can, the better. With a focused mentor watching over you, things go from cold to excellent really fast.
Now we come to the reason most of you are here…the paid superhero…a fire service career.
It may seem evident that this is one of your roads, but I must stress this is the absolute toughest route to take.
The competition can squeeze you out by only a fraction of a point or just one wrongly stated answer.
How to take these problematic tests are explained in other lessons, but you would never have the chance if you don’t have the minimum qualifications.
Here is a little secret: get your minimum qualifications done as soon as possible because…
…simply having the minimums still may not get you a chance at testing!
The competition can be so tight that further restrictions are placed, so fewer applicants are tested. Crazy right!?
Want to know one of the most common restrictions?
The faster you get qualified, the quicker you begin accruing “experience”.
“How can I speed up the process?”
Before you learn how to speed things up, lets review where we are so far…
-there are three ways to work as a firefighter
—one is you can volunteer at an agency (so long as they offer volunteer positions…some are phasing the workforce out)
——another route is to become an Apprentice. Just beware of different timelines or priorities between you and your mentor.
————The last way to firefight (legally) is to test and get hired by a fire department. This is by far the hardest of the three but has an obvious payoff if you master the process.
Having these three roads to the fire service can better prepare you for taking fire department hiring exams. Once you qualify, testing can become an invigorating part of the experience. You will feel a part of a larger mission. The effort and sweat equity you sacrafice now will help ease the intensity later on.
A disgusting proverb says you should, "...eat the elephant one bite at a time."
Less-nauseous advice would say to tackle large things in small strides. Focus your energy on working through the list and next thing you know, you will find yourself as one in a crowded room of firefighter candidates.
Interested in learning how to speed up getting a firefighter job?