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Exactly how many levels are there to being a firefighter?

I am interested in becoming a firefighter, but I need to find out what I need to do to become one, such as classes or degrees to do so.

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John’s Answer

DarMario let’s start with the minimum requirements needed to start working as a firefighter. All firefighter entry-level job applicants must be at least 18 years old, possess a high school diploma (or equivalent) and have a valid driver’s license. Applicants will also be required to obtain Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) certification, either at the time of application or shortly thereafter.

During the recruitment period, applicants will normally be required to take and pass one or more written tests, a medical exam, a psychological evaluation, and a test measuring physical strength and endurance. Firefighting is a physically demanding job that frequently necessitates firefighters to stand for extended periods of time while carrying heavy equipment and wearing an uncomfortable uniform. To satisfy the rigours of the work, a firefighter has to be in top physical condition. In addition, firefighters may need a strong cardiovascular system to prepare for emergency situations.

DarMario consider earning a postsecondary degree or certificate in fire science, it's not an absolute necessity to entering the firefighter profession, however some employers give preference to new hires with an undergraduate degree or certificate in fire science or a closely-related subject. Earning a postsecondary degree or certificate will also provide you with the specialized knowledge and skills needed to advance your firefighting career.

Hope this was helpful DarMario
Thank you comment icon Thank You Maris. Only by giving are we able to receive more than we already have. John Frick
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Ryan’s Answer

Hello DarMario! There is no easy answer to your question because every fire department has different minimum requirements. Some will hire you with zero training, certifications, or education, but then send you through a fire academy. Others expect you to put yourself through training on your own so they can put you to work as soon as they hire you!

If they expect you to have any training or certifications prior to hiring you, they will probably be looking for a Firefighter Academy and an Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) license. Both of these are typically offered at one of your local community colleges. Each usually takes one semester, so plan on another full-year of schooling after high school.

As far as your other question, about how many levels there are in firefighter, the answer also depends. FDNY in New York City will have many more "levels" than the Portage, Indiana Fire Department. That said, in just about all fire departments:

-The junior most firefighter is a Probationary Firefighter, or "probie". Your next level up is Firefighter, usually achieved after about one year. You ride in the back of the fire engine, and put out fires.
-The next promotion, if you want to promote, is Engineer (sometimes called a Chauffeur, or Driver / Operator) and usually comes after 3-5 years as a Firefighter. You're still certified as a firefighter, but you now drive the $500k+ fire engine or fire truck.
-Next comes the company officer (Lieutenant or Captain). This is the first supervisory level position. You also still fight fires, but you have the added responsibility of supervising your Engineer and Firefighter. If you're the first to arrive at any emergency call, you'll be in-charge of that incident!
-Above the rank of company officer is typically your first Chief level position - the Battalion Chief. The Battalion Chief is no longer on an engine or truck, they usually respond in their own SUV type vehicle. They supervises multiple company officers. On large incidents that require multiple fire trucks, like a house fire, the Battalion Chief will assume command of the incident from the first arriving company officer once the Battalion Chief arrives.
-In larger sized departments, a Division Chief oversees the Battalion Chiefs. Unlike all the previous positions, the Division Chief no longer lives in the fire station working rotating shifts. They're usually assigned to the headquarters, and work normal business hours. While they may still respond to major fires and disasters, their job is much more focused on training, supplying, equipping, setting policy, standardizing procedures, etc.
- Regardless of size, every department has a Fire Chief. The Fire Chief is responsible for everything, from budget to strategic planning to organizational culture, and beyond. The Fire Chief often reports directly to the City Mayor, or a Board of Directors.

I hope this answered your question about levels of firefighting, and what certifications / training / education you need to become one. If there is anything I can go into more detail about, just ask!