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So, You Want To Become A Firefighter?

Steve Prziborowski

Some of the requirements to be able to file an application at various fire departments can include:

– Minimum age: 18 or 21 years old
– Valid Driver’s license
– Current EMT certificate
– Current Paramedic license
– Firefighter 1 academy completion certificate
– Firefighter 1 State certification
– Current CPR certification

Some departments require one or more of the above qualifications. It is feasible that you may qualify to take a firefighter entrance exam even before you start taking classes at a community college. Is it realistic to get hired as a firefighter without any training or education? No, while it is not realistic, it is not impossible.

However, remember that having the above qualifications only allow you to participate in the hiring process; they do not guarantee your success. You may wonder, why should I get some of the above qualifications if the are not required by the department I am testing for, or why should I get those qualifications (such as a Firefighter 1 certificate or paramedic license) if the department that hires me will put me through that training anyway? Well, first of all, not every department will put you through that training. Plus, that training will allow you to look more attractive or at least equal when compared to your competition (many of whom will look very attractive, at least on paper).

Why go through an academy at a college before getting hired, since most departments will put you through their own academy? For two primary reasons:

1. Think of going through a college fire technology two year degree program and firefighter academy as being similar to a baseball player going through the minor league baseball system, preparing themselves to be a professional baseball player. How many professional ball players do you know that go straight from high school to pro baseball? Very few. And of those very few, how many have successful careers lasting more than ten years? Even fewer.

Most successful professional baseball players have “honed” their skills by playing minor league and college baseball. Think of a two year fire technology program at a community college like minor league baseball. I don’t know about you, but I would rather make my mistakes at the college level, not during my probationary period at the fire department (which can lead to termination).

2. When you get hired, it will make that recruit academy they are paying you to go through easier, since most college firefighter 1 academies are more challenging and demanding than many paid fire department academies. Having been through a college academy and degree program will make your paid academy go much smoother since you’re just refreshing or relearning concepts or skills you should have learned at the college level. Much less stressful than trying to learn something new once you get hired and then have to maintain an 80% average on your daily quizzes during the academy to keep from getting terminated. Additionally, passing a college firefighter 1 academy tells a department that you are trainable and have the basic skills to enter and hopefully pass the academy.

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