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How to join a fire academy

While completing fire academy training is a rigorous challenge that’s not for everyone, it’s a necessity if you want to enter the rewarding field of firefighting

If you want to become a firefighter, then you have to undergo training at a fire academy. But before you can do that, you must go through a rigorous application process to see if you will qualify for a career in firefighting.

Fire academy requirements

Every fire academy has different requirements, but most will want you to be between the ages of 18 and 45 and to have a high school degree or equivalent. Whatever your age, you must be in excellent physical and mental condition to be able to pass the rigorous training of the fire academy.

After you’ve completed your application to the fire academy, you’ll also undergo:

You must also supply character and job references as part of the application process for admission.

Fire academy length

The average fire academy program takes about 12 to 14 weeks to complete a total of 600 hours of training.
While most programs want all students to enter at the same time, some have staggered entrance options. Generally, you’ll need to commit anywhere from 40 to 48 hours weekly to undergo the program.

There are also programs that are geared toward working people. These offer night and weekend training that can be completed in a longer period of time. Many local colleges have fire training programs that offer two and four-year degrees in fire science and other related fields that prepare you for various levels of employment as a firefighter.

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Fire academy education

During the classroom portion of fire academy training, students learn the mechanics and technical aspects of firefighting. Because the only way to learn how to fight fires is through actual experience with burning buildings, live-fire training is part of fire academy education. This means that fire academies set fire to buildings to conduct training drills with their students.
During these exercises, students:

  • Learn how to think and function clearly and skillfully, using what they’ve learned in the classroom in real-life fire situations.
  • Are outfitted in multi-layered protective clothing that can withstand temperatures of up to 1,200 degrees. Students also wear an SCBA that weighs about 30 pounds.

Once equipped, the students enter the burning building in a line, flanked by their instructors, one on each end of the line. Here they practice handling and operating a fire hose, positioning themselves all on the same side of the hose at an arm’s length distance from each other.

Another group of fire academy trainees move the hose line forward as the initial team moves deeper into the burning building. As they approach the fire location, they assume a crawling position and one person operates the hose nozzle, with the other team members supporting the hose.

While completing fire academy training is a rigorous challenge that’s not for everyone, it’s a necessity if you want to enter the rewarding field of firefighting.

Watch: How to become a firefighter
Watch our four-part video series that tackles the key steps to becoming a firefighter.

From the classroom to the training ground, Marc Bashoor offers a 30,000-foot look at what to expect if you want to become a firefighter
Plus learn tips for what chiefs are looking for in new recruits as well as the importance of public trust
Breaking down key factors involved in getting into a fire academy, the differences among the types of academies, and how you can set yourself up for success
Get a glimpse into rookie life, plus a value set that helps firefighters succeed in the industry

This article, originally published June 13, 2011 has been updated

Rachel Engel is an award-winning journalist and the senior editor of and In addition to her regular editing duties, Engel seeks to tell the heroic, human stories of first responders and the importance of their work. She earned her bachelor’s degree in communications from Cameron University in Lawton, Oklahoma, and began her career as a freelance writer, focusing on government and military issues. Engel joined Lexipol in 2015 and has since reported on issues related to public safety. Engel lives in Wichita, Kansas. She can be reached via email.