How to Become a Firefighter

How to Become a Firefighter: Career Guide

If you aren’t afraid of heights and hard physical work, and you want to make a difference in emergency situations, a career as a firefighter can be an exciting and highly rewarding opportunity for you!


Below we've outlined what you'll need to succeed in a career as a firefighter. We've also included helpful information for a firefighter career, such as job description, job duties, salary expectations, necessary qualifications and much more!





Education Needed to Become a Firefighter in Canada

In Canada, the minimum training required by government regulations varies, depending on the size of the municipality doing the hiring. In small municipalities, i.e. municipalities with less than 25,000 inhabitants, candidates are required to successfully complete a 275-hour training program, known as Firefighter I. This program can be taken on the job.


In municipalities with between 25,000 and 200,000 inhabitants, another 120-hour training program is required, known as Firefighter II. This program can also be taken on the job may lead to a part-time firefighting job. In municipalities with over 200,000 inhabitants, a Vocational Studies Diploma (DEP) in fire safety is the minimum requirement.


Note: Firefighting jobs in small municipalities are usually on a part-time basis, known as "volunteer" firefighting



Education Needed to Become a Firefighter in the United States

To become a firefighter in the United States, you are generally required to have at least a high school diploma, or its equivalent. Some municipalities may also need you to have completed at least a few college courses.


To work as a professional firefighter, you will need to successfully complete the Firefighter II training course. However, most fire departments will not require you to complete this training prior to applying for a job.


This educational requirement for becoming a firefighter in the U.S. can vary greatly from municipality to municipality, and even from fire department to fire department. Be sure to check with all local departments that you are interested in applying with in order to get the most accurate information that you can with regards to their specific educational requirements.




Firefighter Job Description

Firefighters protect the general public from fire and other hazards as well as provide paramedic and pre-hospital services after rescuing people. 



Firefighter Job Duties

• Respond to emergencies such as traffic accidents, fires, explosions, and other hazardous or dangerous situations

• Provide paramedic and pre hospital services to trauma victims

• Force entry into burning buildings

• Deal with hazardous chemicals that may catch fire

• Evacuate people and pets safely from burning buildings and structures

• Protect as much property as possible during and after a fire

• Prevent fires from spreading to adjacent buildings and structures

• Manage and control ladders and other equipment to gain access to burning buildings

• Use different fire suppression methods to combat different types of fires

• Liaise with police, property managers, medical personnel and other professionals 

• Participate in fire prevention and education activities



Is Becoming a Firefighter Competitive?

Yes. There is almost always heavy competition for available firefighting positions particularly in large urban centres. There a variety of selection procedure used to by fire departments across the country; they typically include aptitude tests, fitness tests, medical examinations, security checks, reference checks and personal interviews. Related experience or training is also considered an asset.





Minimum Requirements of Becoming a Firefighter in Canada

The requirements within Canada can vary quite a bit from region to region and city to city. The following list is meant to provide you with an example of typical minimum requirements to becoming a firefighter. We’ve also provided examples of additional, or “preferred”, qualifications that fire departments typically value highly in their candidates.


Typical minimum requirements in Eastern Canada:


• Pre-Service Fire Fighter Education & Training or NFPA 1001 Level I & II or Ontario Certified Firefighter

• Grade 12 Diploma or equivalent

• First Aid and C.P.R. Level C

• DZ Driver’s License

• Valid Physical Fitness Assessment

• Vision 20/30 uncorrected


Preferred additional qualifications:


• Rope Rescue certification

• River Rescue certification

• Ice Rescue certification

• Hazardous Materials certification (I, II & III)

• Certified First Responder

• Basic trauma life support training

• Mechanical training and/or experience

• Building construction training and/or experience

• Heavy equipment training and/or experience

• Electrical education and/or experience

• Post-secondary education

• Experience working as a Firefighter

• Lifeguarding qualifications in swimming

• Demonstrated community involvement

• Ability to speak a second language (includes sign language)


Typical minimum required qualifications in Western Canada:


• NFPA 1001 - Firefighter I & II

• High School Diploma or equivalent

• Class 3 Driver's License

• Must be able to pass a medical assessment

• Must be able to pass physical testing

• 20/30 uncorrected vision

• Occupational First Aid or Industrial First Aid


Preferred additional qualifications:


• Post-secondary education

• Completion of fire-related courses and programs

• Building Construction training or experience

• Mechanical training or experience

• Heavy Equipment operation training or experience

• Fire-related work experience

• Ability to swim (preferably related life-saving certificate)

• Fluency in a 2nd language (includes sign language)

• Demonstrated level of community involvement


Please Note: The fire departments of many cities in Canada require candidates to be trained in both EMT-P (Paramedic) and NFPA 100 (Firefighter I & II). 



Minimum Requirements for Becoming a Firefighter - United States

The standards for being hired on as a firefighter are different in each fire department, as well as each state and city. The following list is meant to provide you with an example of the typical minimum requirements to becoming a firefighter in the United States.


• Must be an American citizen

• May be required to be a resident in the region in the municipality in which you are applying

• May be required to pass a background check

• May be required to pass a drug screening test

• Must pass an extremely rigorous physical fitness test

• Must pass a thorough medical examination

• Must pass a written entrance exam

• May be required to pass a personality test to measure your ability to withstand the stress of emergency rescue situations

• Must be at least 17.5 years of age, and no older than 29 at time of application

• May be required to demonstrate proof of goof character

• Must be able to understand and be understood in English

• May be required to hold a valid driver’s license


Success Tip: Be sure to check with all local departments that you are interested in applying with in order to get the most accurate information that you can regarding any requirements you will need to meet, as they can vary quite a bit from department to department.



Firefighter Jobs

Our job board below has "Firefighter" postings in Canada, the United States, the United Kingdom and Australia.

Firefighter Salary: How Much Do Firefighters Earn?

The salary level of firefighters can vary, typically depending on the following factors:


Their level of experience

Their level of responsibility

The region in which they work


Firefighter Salary Alberta: In Alberta, the 2011 Alberta Wage and Salary Survey reports that Albertans in the Firefighters occupational group had average earnings of $29.12 to $$31.40 CAD per hour.


Firefighter Salary Canada: According to Service Canada, Canadian firefighters earn an average salary of $65,774 per year.


Firefighter Salary United States: In the United States, the U.S Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that firefighters earn a median salary of $45,250 USD per year.



Working Conditions for Firefighters

Working hours of firefighters can vary greatly depending on the fire department that employs them. Firefighters that work for large fire departments, or fire departments in large cities often work continuous shifts with rotating days off. In smaller fire departments or smaller municipalities, it is common for firefighters to work part-time or be on call.


The job of a firefighter is often physically demanding and can involve periods of intense physical labour while wearing heavy gear. Their work can often be dangerous as it can involve working at heights, in confined spaces, in traffic, in dark areas, and in burning or structurally unsound buildings. It may also involve working in environments with smoke, gas leaks, extreme temperatures or other hazards.



Careers Similar to Firefighter

Listed below are jobs that are similar in nature to Firefighter, as they may involve many of the same skills, competencies and responsibilities.


Conservation Officer

Fish and Game Warden

Outdoor Adventure Guide

Police Officer



Firefighter Career Information: References

Please consult the references below to find more information on the various aspects of a career as a Firefighter.


Occupations in Alberta:Firefighter.” (March 30, 2017). ALIS website - Alberta Learning Information Service. Retrieved November 21, 2019.

Protective Service:Firefighters.” (September 4, 2019). Occupational Outlook Handbook - United States Bureau of Labor Statistics website. Retrieved November 21, 2019.

Education:Becoming a Firefighter in Ontario.” (n.d.). Ontario Association of Fire Chiefs website. Retrieved November 21, 2019.

Government Jobs:Firefighter Recruitment Physical Fitness Test.” (n.d.). City of Edmonton website. Retrieved November 21, 2019.



Scholarships for Becoming a Firefighter

Scholarships listed for majors that apply to becoming a Firefighter can be found on our Forestry Scholarships page.


Success Tip: Be sure to apply for any scholarships that you even barely qualify for, as there are millions of dollars of scholarships that go unused every year due to a lack of applicants!



Becoming a Firefighter: Applicable Majors

Studying one of the university majors listed below is an excellent starting point to becoming a firefighter. Click on the links to find out what else you can do with these majors!


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