Firefighting is a challenging career and it is important that firefighters are properly trained and equipped to handle a wide variety of emergencies. So, does this mean that if you want to be a professional firefighter that you need to have a lot of related experience in order to get the job?
It is possible to get hired as a firefighter with little to no related experience, in some areas. However, this does not happen often, as firefighting can be a very competitive career field.
Once you meet the minimum requirements required to apply for each firefighter position, anyone can be hired, regardless of their past experience. There are some ways that you can improve your chances of getting the job that you want, even if you don’t have much experience. Keep reading to find out how to get hired with less experience than your competition.
Your # 1 priority is keeping your family safe. As a firefighter, I recommend everyone has updated smoke detectors that don’t require battery changes, like these ones from Kidde, a fire extinguisher, like this one from Amerex, and a fire escape ladder if you have bedrooms above the first floor, I recommend this one from Hausse.
What are the Requirements to Become a Firefighter?
There are certain basic requirements that are necessary in order to apply for a job as a firefighter, but many fire departments (especially the larger cities) have surprisingly low requirements in order to apply.
They do this to ensure a larger applicant pool from which to select their ideal candidate. The idea is that a larger department can train anyone with the right values and work ethic to be an exceptional firefighter.
So, you can indeed become a firefighter with no previous firefighting or other related experience, as long as you meet the minimums necessary to apply.
Now, this is not always the case. Some jobs will require you to have further training, education, certifications, and experience before you are able to test with them.
While the minimum requirements can vary from one place to the next, the most common are:
- Must be 18 years or older (sometimes 21)
- Have your high school diploma or equivalent (GED)
- Be legally allowed to work in the area you are applying
- Have a valid driver’s license
- Be in good physical shape (to pass the CPAT and Fire Academy)
- Usually, you need your EMT (Emergency Medical Technician Certification)
- Clean Background (criminal, driving, credit)
Once you meet these basic requirements, you are eligible to apply. However, many of the candidates you will be competing against will have a great deal more.
But that doesn’t mean you can’t get hired with just the basics, as it happens all the time.
However, most people will have some experience before getting hired, at least as a full-time, professional firefighter. (Volunteer firefighter positions will frequently have much lower requirements to apply.)
Can You Be a Firefighter Without EMT/Diploma/GED/Drivers License?
There may be some areas that do not require all of these to apply, however, there are very few full-time, paid firefighter jobs that do not require you to have a high school diploma (or GED), driver’s license, and EMT certification.
These are considered the minimums in most areas (at least in the US).
Can You Be a Firefighter Without Going to College?
While many careers these days make it necessary for you to have a college degree, being a firefighter is not one of them. You can certainly become a firefighter without going to college.
That being said, some departments will require some college-level education and it never hurts to get your degree.
For more information about this topic, read: What Should Firefighters Major In? and Do You Need a College Degree to Be a Firefighter? Real Answer
So, once you meet the basics, what else can you do to increase your chances of getting a career as a firefighter?
What Kind of Experience is Desirable?
There are some standard recommendations that can make you a better candidate beyond the minimum requirements, such as:
- Experience working as an EMT
- Getting a Paramedic License and working as such
- Obtaining a college degree (in Fire Science, Fire Technology, or really anything)
- Volunteer firefighter experience
- Complete a fire academy (usually a Firefighter 1 academy through a college)
- Any time serving your community or volunteering your time
- Any fire service related certifications
These are all good, and I do recommend you work towards many of these, however, they aren’t necessary in order to get the job you want.
Why You Don’t Need Experience to Become a Firefighter
Find the fire department that you want to work for and see what is necessary to put in an application. Work to meet these basic requirements, so that you can take their test the next time it is offered.
While many people will disagree with me, after you meet the minimum requirements, I recommend you focus most of your time on perfecting the hiring process itself, rather than more education and experience.
Having some other life experience, whether or not it is related to emergency services, is helpful to draw relevant stories from during your interviews, but it is not needed.
When someone asks me the fastest way to become a firefighter, I tell them to get the basics, and then work to master the testing process. Especially the interview.
The interview is where candidates are hired. It is the difference maker.
The most efficient way to get a career as a firefighter is to focus on performing the best you can on these oral board interviews. It isn’t easy, but it is totally doable.
If you master the interview, you can get the firefighter job with no experience.
How to Get Hired with No Experience
Even though it is a controversial opinion, I have seen it plenty of times.
Candidates with little to no firefighter or EMS experience spend their time to excel on the testing process and mostly the interviews, and they get hired fast.
Others with every certification and years of experience get mad. They don’t understand why people with no relevant experience get hired instead of them.
The difference is interview performance. It really is that simple.
If you want to fast-track your process to a firefighter job, get coaching, record yourself, study possible questions and topics found in firefighter interviews (here are some examples).
Do this over and over. Until you can answer any question that is thrown at you and convey the values and qualities they are looking for.
To make this process even easier, there are some shortcuts. Check out the TopScore Coaching Course. This is the most in-depth video course that will prepare you to ace your interview and get the firefighter job you dream of.
Can you become a firefighter with no experience? Yes, you can. And I have seen it happen, however, it is not easy. The competition for many firefighter positions can be huge and intimidating. But that doesn’t mean you can’t get hired with nothing but the minimum.
If you want to get hired fast, spend your time working to master the firefighter interview and the rest of the hiring process. Do whatever is necessary to accomplish this, as it is a small investment into your future.