5 Steps To Become A Firefighter

Here are a few things you’ll want to do to put yourself in a good position to attain any job you apply for, whether in the field of EMS or the Fire Service.  There are 5 general phases that must be completed when testing for the job of Firefighter or FirefighterMedic.  The following will give you a brief overview of what to expect.

1. Job opening/Application process


Usually the application period for a given job has an opening or closing date.  Some departments do accept applications year round, but only test when there are spots to fill.  If a department does not have an open application period, you may be able to submit an interest card.

Be sure to follow all directions outlined on the application – by not including vital information, not submitting required certificates or identification you may be disqualified from the process before you even begin.

2. Written Exam

A written exam is something you will encounter during nearly every application process.  Typically a Firefighter written exam will test your general aptitude, much like a ACT or SAT test administered to high school seniors.  You can anticipate questions that test your reading comprehension, math skills, deductive reasoning & knowledge of basic mechanics. In recent years, written tests have also included questions regarding interpersonal scenarios such as how you would interact with a crew of firefighters on an emergency scene, or an upset citizen that you encounter out in public.

3. Physical Agility Test (PAT)

The PAT determines if applicants have the physical skills and strength to perform the daily duties of a firefighter.  The PAT is usually a timed event, but it may be pass/fail as well.

A typical PAT would include: charged hose drag, ladder carry, simulated rescue (dummy drag), forcible entry, carrying a simulated extrication tool and a hose bundle raise.

You may be required to pass the PAT while wearing turnouts (the bulky protective clothing Firefighters wear into a fire) and an SCBA (Self-Contained Breathing Apparatus).

3. Interview(s)

This will be outlined in more detail below, but with respect to the interview process within a Fire Department, you can expect 1-3 separate interviews.  The interview panels may consist of Division Chiefs, Captains, Firefighters or a representative from the Human Resources department.  The first interview may be held in close proximity to the PAT mentioned above.  The proceeding interviews may be held after skills assessments and/or background checks.

4. Skills assessment (optional)

Those departments testing potential Firefighter/Medic candidates usually observe this step.

Typically the candidate will be asked to conduct a simulated medical call, where they will be expected to have knowledge of local protocol, pharmacology, terminology, human anatomy and physiology.  They will be asked to use some typical medical tools and equipment, assess the patient, and deliver the proper aid.

A Base Hospital Nurse Coordinator and a FirefighterMedic from the department typically evaluate this process.

5.Background Investigation/Medical Clearance

This is done to determine your suitability for the position.  By answering questions posed to you in the background packet openly and honestly, you give yourself the best chance to pass this portion of the testing process.  If you are caught lying about any portion of your background, you will be dropped from the process. This can also follow you to your next background check if you attempt to test with another fire department, so it’s in your best interest to just tell the truth.

Any negative factor in the background check will be evaluated in terms of the circumstances and facts surrounding the occurrence and it’s degree of relevance to the job.

For example, being fired from a job or having an arrest record is not itself grounds for disqualification, but NOT disclosing that information could be.  The lead investigator will inquire into the facts surrounding such an occurrence and evaluate its relevance.

At the conclusion of these 5 general steps, a job offer is made to the candidate.  Typically the candidate will be expected to report for duty 1-5 weeks from the date of the job offer.