Fire Science Education (2 – 4 years)
After graduating out of high school, there is still some time before your age is eligible to apply at a fire department. Thus, you should consider getting a degree in fire science with some fire training. You could choose to go for an associate’s degree which lasts about 2 years and save time. But, if you are thinking of the future and want a higher salary or a better chance at getting promoted, select the bachelor’s degree lasting 4 years.
These degrees will help you learn the technical aspects of fighting a fire and give you practical lessons on the same. There are also mini-courses that are available which aren’t nearly as comprehensive as these degrees. But, fire departments do not mind these qualifications either.
EMT training (0 – 3 years)
One of the main duties of firefighters is to rescue the people. To do this, they need to know how to provide certain levels of health care. Very few fire departments accept a normal CPR certification from their applicants. Most departments require the applicants to be certified as an EMT. Some EMT courses can be undertaken while studying fire science however, they are quite hectic. It consists of several hours of education and can last up to one year.
If you want to improve yourself in terms of medical skills, you can choose to become a paramedic. It takes about 2 years more to become a paramedic since it might require thousands of hours of training.
Volunteering (maximum 1 year)
Many departments are looking for already experienced people to join their crew. Hence, they are looking for people who have already volunteered as firefighters to save time on training. If you are starting from scratch, try volunteering at the neighborhood fire department. You might not be allowed to work as a professional, but you will get to handle some equipment and get a feel of how things are done as per protocol. You can choose to skip this if you like, but it does give you an edge over the others.
Applications and Hiring (0-2 years)
Fire departments hire intermittently. They might hire every 4 months or even after 5 years. But, most fire departments either hire every year or every other year. Do some research and begin the other processes in such a way that your choice of a fire department is hiring right after you finish your education. After this, the whole application and hiring process will take about a maximum of 6 weeks. If you are lucky enough, it might get over in a few days. This gets you admitted into the fire academy.
Recruit training (6 months)
Depending on different municipal regulations, the duration of your recruit training varies. Usually, it lasts for about 6 months. Here you are taught the basics of the firehouse, how to handle calls, how to respond to them and some basic skills that you will require later.
Probation (6 months – 1 year)
After your recruit training, you become a firefighter but not a professional one. To become one, you must complete your duties with utmost diligence under your supervisor for a period of 6 to 12 months. If he or she finds your performance satisfactory, then you finally get the chance to be a full-fledged firefighter.
Summing up, it will take a minimum of 4 years to become a professional firefighter. This is considering that you continue your EMT training along with your associate’s degree, don’t volunteer, and get hired immediately. However, the odd of this happening are extremely low. The maximum period is 11.5 years which includes doing everything on the list and taking the maximum time for it. This too highly unrealistic, thus a mean of 4 to 7 years (starting at 16 years of age) is what people go by. This will give you about 7 to 10 years to work as a firefighter before you get promoted. If you feel that all this time is worth the effort to save the lives of people, then see all the certifications and licenses that you need to become a firefighter!