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What are the requirements to be a firefighter?

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The first step in a career in firefighting is to find out what the requirements are to be a firefighter in the location where you plan to be employed.

The requirements to be a firefighter in a large metropolis like New York City or Chicago are extremely stringent. This is because of the difficulty of fighting fires and rescuing people in compact areas with so many extremely tall buildings. Firefighting in these conditions requires a level of knowledge and training that’s very different than fighting fires in other areas. Thus, the requirements to be a firefighter in a small or mid-sized town or city or rural area are very different than for a large city.

Although the standards are different in each fire department and each state and city, there are many basic requirements that can give you an idea of what you need to do to further your goal of becoming a firefighter.

Firstly, every fire department has a basic age requirement. The general standard is that you must be between the age of 18 and 29, although some fire departments extend the maximum age requirement past the age of 30. Be sure to check in your locality to see what the age ranges are as part of the requirements to be a firefighter.

If you meet the age requirement, the next in the list of requirements to become a firefighter is that you have a high school diploma or the equivalent. You must also be a U.S. citizen to become a firefighter.

You must pass a background check and in some instances, a drug screening as part of the requirements to be a firefighter. If you have a criminal history, or fail the drug test, you will most likely be disqualified from becoming a firefighter.

You must pass an extremely rigorous physical fitness test as part of the requirements to be a firefighter. Because firefighting is incredibly physically demanding, you need to have excellent cardiovascular fitness, upper body strength and endurance abilities for this career. Passing the physical fitness test is an important component of firefighting, so you must train to be able to run distances, climb stairs and lift as much as 200 pounds.

Another component of the requirements to be a firefighter is having a thorough physical examination. More firefighters die of cardiovascular problems such as heart attack than from fire related events, so you must have excellent heart heath to qualify. Good lung capacity is another plus for passing the physical exam, as is coordination, flexibility and muscle fitness.

A written exam is also part of the requirement to be a firefighter. There is an initial exam before you enter fire training school to determine your cognitive skills and basic abilities in regards to reading, writing and mathematics. There also may be a personality test to measure your ability to withstand the stress of emergency rescue situations.

If you pass all of these requirements to be a firefighter, you will then be allowed to enter the fire department’s training program. This program is a combination of classroom training and hands-on firefighting exercises. You’ll undergo a certification test at the end of the training which, if passed, will make you an official firefighter.

Firefighting 101 articles are intended to educate a non-fire service audience about the fire service profession. These articles are written by FireRescue1 staff members and FireRescue1 contributors, and cover a wide range of topics from how to join a fire academy to how to pass the exams required to be a firefighter. If there’s a topic you’d like to see covered, or are interested in writing for Firefighting 101, email