How to Become a Firefighter

Understanding How to Become a Firefighter

Firefighters are at work to help people, plain and simple. While police officers sometimes have to do harm in order to protect and serve, firefighters are unarmed and are constantly tasked with assisting citizens in everything from fire dangers to accident response and the cliche “cat stuck in a tree”. If you want to know how to become a firefighter, you need to know how to pass the various examinations required to become this most-honorable of professionals.

A career as a firefighter requires some serious dedication (how many of us willingly walk into danger to risk our lives for strangers?) and beyond bravery and courage there is the requirement for sheer stamina. Firefighter shifts are long, and if a real disaster occurs, firefighters are often “on call” 365 days a year. But being a firefighter isn’t all brawn and bravado — today’s firefighter has to study for hours and train for months at a time to become good at what they do. Gone are the days when a guy with big enough muscles and a tough exterior could walk into a firehouse and earn his stripes — the steps to how to become a firefighter now include intellectual as well as physical pursuits.

How to Become a Firefighter – The Written Exam

How to Become a FirefighterThe average written examination for firefighters is between 150 and 200 multiple choice questions. Be prepared to answer questions on any of the topics listed below:

  • Human Relations
  • Visualization
  • Verbal & Listening Comprehension
  • Oral and Written Communication Information
  • Problem Solving
  • Judgment
  • Reading Comprehension
  • Inductive Reasoning
  • Deductive Reasoning
  • Spelling
  • Math
  • Memory
  • Charts
  • Verbal Reasoning

To prepare for the written exam and further qualify yourself for a career as a firefighter, there are “fire science” programs at universities and “firefighting schools” all over the country. Usually found at the community college level or at vocational schools, a certificate in fire science will quite simply prepare you for rapid employment as a firefighter. You’ll have to take some standard college-level classes in science, math, and communications skills, fire science programs offer students a working knowledge of hazardous materials, construction, and safety. There are many states that now require a firefighter to have this kind of degree, so before you go wondering “how to become a firefighter”, consider taking courses in fire science.

How to Become a Firefighter – The Interview

Just like with any other job, the answer to the question of how to become a firefighter involves a face to face interview.

A firefighter’s oral interview may come early in the testing process (in which case you either pass and are offered conditional employment or fail and must try again) or could be offered only to the top scorers on the written examination. It seems the latter is the more common testing method these days, so a good written exam score is key to earning that all important interview. Remember that not all interviews in all counties are “pass/fail” — sometimes your interview is graded and you are ranked among other candidates just as with other portions of the test.

A standard interview process for a job as a firefighter involves three veteran officers of the department you are attempting to join sitting and interviewing you. Any job interview is nerve-wracking, but veteran firefighters are loathe to let just anyone into their ranks, so often the interview is the most daunting part of the job application process. As with any other part of the process to become a firefighter, you should practice your interpersonal and interview skills beforehand (multiple times) so that you impress the veterans and you score high enough to be considered for a position with their engine company.

Becoming a Firefighter – The Psych Exam

Even part-time jobs have started using some form of psychological examination to weed out potential bad employees, so you better believe that firefighters are no different. More and more, firehouses are depending on scores on psych exams for their hires. There are many engine companies that start with the psych exam, tossing a candidate out if they don’t pass the psych exam with flying colors. A candidate with outstanding credentials (degrees in fire science technology from top schools, EMTs and Paramedics, etc) may find themselves unable to get work as a firefighter due to psychological weaknesses.

The trouble with the psych exam is that you can’t speak to the person giving the exam and ask “what went wrong” if you fail the test, you can’t look for “test psych exams” online, and sometimes the simplest vague or incorrect answer could keep you from a career as a firefighter. The only way to prepare for your psych exam is to be yourself, keep yourself calm, and think through your answers carefully.

Becoming a Firefighter  – The Agility Exam

The physical agility test is a biggie on the path to becoming a firefighter.

Firefighting is a demanding occupation — you have to be agile, strong, fast, and tough. The firefighting environment is dangerous and life-threatening on a good day — and don’t forget the bulky and heavy equipment it requires. Firefighting is a job of extremes, heat and cold, early morning and late nights, pure oxygen and the dirtiest air — so a good firefighting candidate must perform well on an agility test if he or she hopes to be offered a job.

Firefighters protect and save people’s lives and property — this is why firefighting recruits must be physically fit and capable of learning difficult and dangerous tasks. Want to know how to become a firefighter by acing the agility exam? As much as 70% of this part of the hiring process involves leg strength testing and pure endurance. Strengthen your legs and get your lungs strong and healthy. Some veteran firefighters suggest that pure lung capacity can make or break an applicant’s way in to the fire house. The best way to develop lung endurance? Repeated short sprints.

How to Become a Fire Fighter – The Medical Exam

The medical exam for a potential firefighter is usually done towards the end of the hiring process and is therefore something of a formality. Unless drugs are found in your system or there’s a major health issue discovered, the medical exam is fairly standard. The doctor will check your blood pressure, weight, and other vitals as well as listen to your heart and lungs and perhaps test your oxygen saturation. Because of blood and urine tests, you won’t know the results of your medical exam right away, but in a matter of a couple of weeks, you’ll know whether or not you’ve figured out how to become a firefighter.

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