What happens if a firefighter wants to move and work for a different city department or even move out of state? Is there a process to transfer to another fire department or do you have to apply as a new firefighter like everyone else?
Firefighters can transfer between cities and even states, however, the process to do so will be different depending on the city or state. Certain departments and areas will accept training and experience from other cities or states, but some do not. This means you may have to repeat some training when you transfer.
The process for firefighters to move from one department to another is, unfortunately, not straightforward. While you can definitely go work for a different fire department, it may not be as easy as you might expect. Lets take a look at what the process can look like.
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Also read: How to Become a Firefighter: The Complete Guide
Can Firefighters Transfer City to City?
Life is always changing. Maybe you got hired at the first fire department that offered you a job and now, after some years on the job, you want to move back to your hometown. Whatever the cause, moving as a firefighter can be tricky.
The process for a career firefighter to transfer and work for a different fire department can be challenging, depending on the area, but it very well may be worth it.
The majority of fire departments will look at your experience and credentials highly, but they will still require you to take the same entry-level firefighter test and go through their basic firefighter academy and probationary period once hired.
Transfer between cities is usually less confusing than moving out of state. This is because most training and certifications you receive will be recognized and honored throughout the state, though there are exceptions.
Some departments (usually smaller ones) will see your training and certs and they may not require you to go through an entire academy. They may instead put you through a short 2-3 week, in-house mini-academy, where you will learn the specifics of that department. This is to make sure that you learn how to be a firefighter that department’s way.
There is sometimes a formal process for experienced firefighters to transfer between cities, but it doesn’t seem to be common. Some fire departments will post jobs specifically for experienced firefighters, rather than entry-level. This is usually called a lateral transfer or lateral firefighter job opening.
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What Does Lateral Firefighter Mean?
A lateral firefighter is a firefighter who transfers between different fire departments or cities, usually only within the same state. This may allow you to skip some of the hiring and training steps as a firefighter with the new department.
This process usually only occurs when there is a job posting that specifically is looking for lateral firefighters. The job will usually specify that you need to have a certain number of years of experience to apply. They will also require you to have certain certifications.
Its not often that you see these types of job postings, but they do come up. There may even be openings for lateral driver/engineers or captains to transfer departments.
Can Firefighters Switch States?
Firefighters can switch from working in one state to working in another, however, the process to do so is not always simple.
Moving states is usually more complicated than moving cities. The main reason for this is the training and standards. The requirements to be a firefighter can be quite different from one state to the next.
Part of this is due to the different areas that each department protects. Firefighting in the snow can be a totally different animal than firefighting in very high temperatures. Many other differences require that each department trains and equips their firefighters to deal with the types of incidents and conditions that they encounter in that area. This is why the training may be different.
The other reason is just the certifying agency. Each state sets its own standards and there doesn’t seem to be a lot of communication between states as to what each type of training entails. For this reason, a firefighter certification may not be accepted from a different state, as they don’t know exactly what the training was like or if it meets their standards.
This can make transferring between states a challenge. Even with years of experience, you may not qualify for even an entry-level firefighter job. You may be required to take classes or academies over again in the new state, in order to meet their standards. This isn’t always the case, as some states will recognize training from other states.
There have been attempts to simplify and standardize this process, but they are far from perfect. There are two agencies that have come up with systems to accredit and standardize firefighter training.
The Proboard International Accreditation for Fire Service Organizations is one of these agencies. They accredit agencies as meeting a certain standard for training. If you get trained through an organization that has Proboard certification, your certifications will be accepted by other agencies that are a part of the Proboard system. This can make the transfer between states easier.
Here is a video that talks more about the Proboard certification:
The IFSAC is another organization that works in much of the same way. Having your certifications through the IFSAC can allow them to be transferred and recognized in some other states. Here is a PDF that shows all the IFSAC certified agencies.
How Do I Become a Firefighter in Another State?
For a current firefighter to become a firefighter in another state, they must apply for open positions like everyone else. They will need to be sure they meet the requirements of that state, as they may be different. Their experience will usually be seen as an asset to getting a new job.
There is not usually a lateral transfer process for firefighters that are moving to a different state. This means that they will have to take the same firefighter exams as others, when there are open positions.
As we discussed above, certifications and training is not always honored from one state to the next. You will need to contact each agency you want to work for and determine if meet the requirements or if you will need to retake some of your training in the state.
Your EMT or Paramedic license will also need to transfer between states. Luckily, there is a more efficient way to do this. Getting your National Registry or NREMT shows that you meet all the standards and can apply to be an EMT in any state. Click here to go to their site and find out how to get your NREMT.
This also means you should be prepared to go through a basic fire academy, probation period, as well as losing all your department seniority, as you will be starting back at the bottom again.
Here is another resource to prepare you to take firefighter tests in different states: Firefighter Exams in Other States
What States Accept Proboard Certification?
The states that accept Proboard certification are listed below, however, not every agency in the state will accept or participate in the Proboard program.
- New Hampshire
- New Jersey
- New Mexico
- New York
- North Carolina
- North Dakota
- Rhode Island
- South Carolina
- West Virginia
Click here for more info about the participating agencies in each state.
Transferring from one department to another as a firefighter is not always a simple task, especially if you want to switch to a department out of state. However, people do it all the time. Just make sure you know the hoops you will have to jump through.
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