The previous comments are correct that most only require a GED. But if you're really interested in setting yourself apart, it really depends on where you live and what your communities risks are. For example, if you lived in an area prone to forest fires, it might be a good idea to take some classes in forest management.
Once you get into the fire services, there is also a lot of training available through the National Fire Academy in Emmitsburg, MD. They have tracks for the type of position you want to move into (Captain, Community Risk, Education ect). Most departments have a budget to send firefighters yearly.
One of the best routes to take is to start by working as a volunteer firefighter. Many small volunteer fire departments are in need of help so much, that they will take on volunteers with no experience at all! They often only require that you have a High School Diploma / GED, be 18 years of age, have reliable transportation, and clean driving record. Once volunteering, they will likely require that you attend weekly or monthly trainings, and respond to a certain percentage of calls annually. Once you have proven yourself, some departments will then pay for you to complete a basic firefighter academy! (that's what happened to me).
Unfortunately, if you live in a more urban area, your local fire departments are likely busier and have a larger applicant pool, and therefore may require more to be a firefighter with them. In these circumstances, they often also require that you already have a basic firefighter certification, basic medical certification, and pass a fitness test.
If you are looking to be a paid firefighter with a large department, some departments don't require any training at all, as many of these departments will put you through an internal fire academy after you are hired, to teach you everything you need to know - their way. That said, most departments of that size, and with those kinds of resources, are highly competitive to get into, so having firefighter certifications, and paid or volunteer firefighting experience, will often be needed to get hired anyway - even though it's not a requirement to apply. Good written test scores, strong physical ability, prior military service, EMT or Paramedic certifications, and an Associates or Bachelors degree will also improve your chances of getting hired.
Here are a few of the major trainings I did to get where I am today:
2011: EMT-Basic School (12 credits at the community college; ~4 hours a night, 4 nights a week for 12 weeks, plus a few Saturdays)
2010-2014: Worked for a volunteer ambulance service
2014-2018: Military service
2015-2020: Volunteer Firefighter
2015: Basic Wildland Firefighter Academy (~24 hours of online training, 2x 8-hour days hands-on
2016: Firefighter I Academy (12 credits at the community college; ~4 hours a night, 1 night a week, 8 hours every other Saturday for 1 Year
Fire academies vary significantly from place to place, in terms of schedule. Mine was one night a week and every other Saturday for a year. I teach at one academy now thats one night a week and every Saturday for 6 months. I also teach at one that is two days a week for 15 weeks, and at one that is 2 nights a week, and every other Saturday, for 15 weeks. Still some are all day, 5-days a week, for 4 to 8 weeks. Generally, all of them around 180 hours total. Contact your local community college and fire department(s) to find out what's common / available in your area.
Thank you for your question. I agree with the comments you've received so far and would like to add a few of my own for your consideration.
Firefighters typically need a high school diploma and training in emergency medical services. Prospective firefighters must pass written and physical tests, complete a series of interviews, go through training at a fire academy, and hold an emergency medical technician (EMT) certification.
The entry-level education needed to become a firefighter is a high school diploma or equivalent. However, some classwork beyond high school, such as instruction in assessing patients’ conditions, dealing with trauma, and clearing obstructed airways, is usually needed to obtain the emergency medical technician (EMT) certification. EMT requirements vary by city and state.
Entry-level firefighters receive a few months of training at fire academies run by the fire department or by the state. Through classroom instruction and practical training, recruits study firefighting and fire-prevention techniques, local building codes, and emergency medical procedures. They also learn how to fight fires with standard equipment, including axes, chain saws, fire extinguishers, and ladders. After attending a fire academy, firefighters must usually complete a probationary period.
Those wishing to become wildland firefighters may attend apprenticeship programs that last up to 4 years. These programs combine instruction with on-the-job-training under the supervision of experienced firefighters.
In addition to participating in training programs conducted by local or state fire departments and agencies, some firefighters attend federal training sessions sponsored by the National Fire Academy. These training sessions cover topics including anti-arson techniques, disaster preparedness, hazardous materials control, and public fire safety and education.
Usually, firefighters must be certified as emergency medical technicians. In addition, some fire departments require firefighters to be certified as a paramedic. The National Registry of Emergency Medical Technicians (NREMT). certifies EMTs and paramedics. Both levels of NREMT certification require completing a training or education program and passing the national exam. The national exam has a computer-based test and a practical part. EMTs and paramedics may work with firefighters at the scenes of accidents. I wish you much success on your journey. Best of luck to you!
Sheila recommends the following next steps:
My son is a firefighter in a major Metropolitian City. Each city has their own requirements (education and physical) to be a firefighter that you will have to research. Also, there are some localities that are non-paid (volunteer) positions. My son took the firefighter exam and it took about a year to receive a call back. Once he did receive the call, he underwent an extensive background investigation, which took several months, and had to complete several physical endurance exams. Once he was hired, he then had to attend and successfully complete the firefighter academy. The firefighter academy consisted of both classroom education and physical education. I remember how exhausted he was every day but he did it. I hope this information helps. Good luck on your career.
James recommends the following next steps:
Firemen are typically required to have a high school diploma or a GED, but some employers also require an associate's degree. Most local fire departments require candidates to meet certain standards and pass a civil service and physical agility exam.