The First 5 Things You Should Do To Get The Firefighter Job.

“I really want to work on the fire department.  What should I do to get started?”  several hundred would-be firefighters first words each time I meet them.

People waste alot of time with highly unproductive activity in their pursuit of a life in the fire service.  It drives me a little crazy because I did it when I first got started, and it causes me pain to even think about.  I’m going to use my first post to save fire candidates ALOT of time.  There are five things you can do right now to dramatically increase your chances of getting hired on a fire department.  They are:

1.  Enroll in an EMT course.

The EMT course is the single most effective use of your time for several reasons.   First, most departments are requiring it, and those that aren’t, still love to see it.  Second, it provides you with a certification that will allow you to apply for jobs surrounding the profession of firefighting within a few months of start.  The EMT course lasts for approximately one college semester and leaves the successful student with a certification allowing them to work for fire departments, ambulances, hospitals, and even basic life support transport services.  Third, it provides the candidate with a fantastic introduction to the fire service.  How you ask?  Over 80 percent of our daily lives as firefighters are spent responding to medical emergencies.  We do alot more, but one should always know how they’ll handle the most common emergencies we respond to.

2.  Figure out the range you can travel to test for jobs and join a test announcement service to get updates on those available in your travel area.

Many unsuccessful fire candidates have fallen into the trap of testing in only one or a few local areas.  They take a test and then wait for another year or two to hear about another.  This is a recipe for failure and a future that includes the statement:  “Yeah, I always wanted to be a firefighter, but it just never worked out.”  You will dramatically improve your likelihood of getting the job by testing frequently in as many areas as you can physically and financially handle.  Even a few places you’re not sure you’d like to end up makes sense because they will give you practice in the exam environment and help you to see what you need improvement on in the process.  Furthermore, if you do end up getting offered a job in one of these departments, you’ll be a much stronger candidate for other testing opportunities while working in the field or be able to include yourself in a much easier selection process in a “lateral hire” event.

Note from Paul:  I used Perfect Firefighter Candidate well over a decade ago in my own pursuit of the badge!

3.  Start applying now.

Never wait to finish courswork, get a degree, or “get some experience” in the field before applying.  One of the biggest secrets to fire service hiring is that departments don’t hire on resumes, they hire based on their assessment of the individuals.  Here’s a personal example:  When I was selected as one of 28 new hires in a field of over 2000 applicants, I thought it was because I’d finally prepared properly for the testing process AND because I had completed my Bachelor of Arts in Public Administration, put myself through EMT and EMTP school, was working  in the field,  volunteered, and spoke a second language fluently.  I found out my first day that I was one of two people with a degree, one of a small handful (less than 5) of Paramedics, and one of two that spoke a foreign language.  In fact, the majority of my academy class had EMT basic training or less and no field experience of any kind.   We’d all been hired mostly because we’d excelled in the testing process.

4.  Purchase or borrow firefighter exam training materials and begin studying them in earnest in preparation for your first tests.

The biggest reason for getting hired on any department of any size:  KNOWING HOW TO EXCEL IN THE TESTING PROCESS.  You must be a testing master to get the offer. I’m going to be posting alot more about this on this blog, but for now, you need to get the best materials you can get your hands on and get started.

5.  Once you begin receiving dates for your tests, create a schedule and preparation timeline that will help you hit benchmarks for excelling in the different portions of the test including the written, physical fitness, and oral board sections of your exams while maintaining optimal energy and focus.

You will be presenting yourself to a variety of fire departments, and at times, testing may begin to feel much like a (second) full time job.  Managing your time and energy will be critical as the process will require you at your best and most prepared at each phase.  Each job posting attracts hundreds (often thousands) of applicants, and very few are chosen.

You’ll notice that I left ALOT of things off this that have been suggested by your friends, parents, career counselors, teachers, and even well-meaning firefighters that you’ve run into…That’s because most of them are a waste of time for you right now.  Focus on the above first will get you the career of your dreams…sooner.

Best of Luck AND Preparation!


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18 Responses

  1. Paul Holmes Says:
    December 7th, 2010 at 4:38 PM

    Thank you for the encouarging word. I am just starting my EMTP but I have compleated my fire and emt. I am about to start appling for firefighter job and other in the field relateting job. I look forward to reading more of your blog.

  2. Paul Card Says:
    December 7th, 2010 at 7:34 PM

    Hi Jonathan. Welcome to the blog, and thanks much for the kind words! The commitment…at times…must be all-consuming. The most worthwhile things in life often are!

  3. Paul Card Says:
    December 7th, 2010 at 7:39 PM

    My pleasure! Great job on your work so far! You’re going to find that the EMTP program is all about consistency. If you keep your studies on a schedule, you’ll get the most out of it and do very well. The medic certification is going to put you into a whole new hiring pool! Don’t forget to test agressively! You’ve got alot going for you already…Time to perfect your testing skills. I’m going to have a surprise for you and the other commited candidates around the holidays to help out.

  4. To EMT Or Not To EMT?… That is the Question. « Says:
    December 12th, 2010 at 11:35 AM

    […] is a major component of the fire service.  Enrolling in an EMT class is Paul Card’s first of 5 things you should do to get a fire job and rightfully so.  As Paul points out, medical emergencies make up over 80% of the calls […]

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  7. Samsung Soul Says:
    December 26th, 2010 at 5:57 AM

    Pretty insightful post. Never thought that it was this simple after all. I had spent a good deal of my time looking for someone to explain this subject clearly and you’re the only one that ever did that. Kudos to you! Keep it up

  8. Rock and roll hall of fame Says:
    December 27th, 2010 at 9:23 AM

    Aw, this was a really quality post. In theory I’d like to write like this also – taking time and real effort to make a good article… but what can I say… I procrastinate alot and never seem to get anything done… Regards…

  9. Paul Card Says:
    December 28th, 2010 at 10:28 AM

    @Samsung Soul – So many people see it as some big mystery…Its just not. Its just doing the right things to get there. The post is designed to shorten your journey to the first goal. I really hope it helps. Look out for some exciting stuff coming in the next week!


  10. Paul Card Says:
    January 5th, 2011 at 4:34 PM

    @erotyka- Thank You Very Much. I’ve got exciting things coming soon.

    @Nils- Yes. The National Registry is becoming the standard for a large portion of departments across the country. Passing it and having the cert will make life that much easier wherever you’re testing.

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  13. Paul Card Says:
    February 18th, 2011 at 8:55 PM

    Congratulations on your decision to be a FF/P! You can expect to do a lot of studying during your class phase. Its a lot of work, but if you study daily and DO NOT FALL BEHIND, you’ll be fine. You should be looking to test for departments around your schedule if possible.

    I’ve been a medic for a very long time…Believe me when I say you’ll find everything you’re looking for and more.

    Best Regards,


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