How to Become a Fire Fighter

By Eric Hammer

So you want to become a fire fighter? Maybe you've always been fascinated with the big red trucks or you were inspired to become a fire fighter by the heroism of someone who saved your life or the life of a loved from a burning building. Whatever the reason that you want to do this, there is a great deal to think about before you actually go ahead and apply for a job.

First of all, realize that being a firefighter is a dangerous and dirty job. There is a very real possibility that you could die or be seriously injured on the job. The salary, while generally decent is nothing special and while you do gain a certain amount of respect for being such a noble person as to want to become a firefighter, you will also be dealing with lots of downsides.

For example, as a firefighter, you'll often be the one who has to comfort those who have just traumatically lost a loved one or at the very least, everything they owned in the world. You'll see a lot of crying and a lot of grief. You'll often find yourself having to restrain civilians from running back into a burning building to rescue property or someone who is trapped. In short, this is a very, very stressful job and one which isn't going to be pretty or easy.

Think of being a firefighter as something akin to becoming a Catholic priest. People who do that job give up a tremendous amount for their faith (for example, they can't marry) and do it because they feel a calling. Becoming a firefighter is much the same - you really need to feel like it's your calling rather than just something where it seems that it would be a good job to do.

How Much Can You Make?

According to, the average salary for a firefighter ranges from as little as $31,701 to as much as $56,331 per year. As noted above, it's a living, but not a great living.

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Remember that if you want to become a firefighter you'll need to be in excellent physical condition. Firefighters regularly have to race up the stairs of a burning building in an attempt to rescue people trapped b y the flames.

You'll also often be required to carry large amounts of additional equipment with you, sometimes weighing as much as 50-60Lbs and you'll need to be able to handle a high pressure fire hose, pumping hundreds of gallons of water per minute, making it difficult to handle (think of it like your garden hose on full blast times fifty and you may have an idea of what it's like).

It also possible to work as a volunteer firefighter if you prefer to do this on an occasional basis rather than as a full time job, however be aware that even though you are a volunteer, you'll be expected to pull your weight in the team and you often may be required to pay money for the privilege of volunteering.

Qualifications / Requirements

Each city or state has their own rules regarding what you need in order to become a fire fighter. Typically you'll need at least your high school diploma or GED as a basic requirement. Beyond that, you'll need to be in excellent physical shape in order to pass the exam. You'll also likely be required to pass a written exam and go through a background check.

First Steps

Start by picking up a copy of your local civil service newspaper and looking for information about when the next fire fighter exam will take place. Then, visit the library and obtain the necessary forms to apply. Drop by your local firehouse and talk to the duty officer about what the job is like and ask him or her (it's usually a him - in spite of equal hiring rules, most firefighters today are still men) more about what it's like and what the working conditions are.

If you want to get your feet wet (metaphorically as well as physically - after all, firefighters handle lots of water), visit the local fire house and ask about becoming a volunteer. Be sure to ask for details, such as required numbers of hours and whether you have to pay for anything (often, you have to pay membership dues and or pay for your uniform).


Check out these helpful resources to learn more about how to become a fire fighter:

Don McNea Fire School - A little heavy on the ads, but there is some good information here as well for those who want to become a fire fighter.

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