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How To Become A Firefighter - The Requirements

By Douglas Hanna

If you are serious about becoming a firefighter, it's important you understand the requirements for this job. Naturally, firefighter requirements vary from jurisdiction to jurisdiction but, as you will see, there are some commonalities.

First, here are the requirements to become a firefighter in the New York City Fire Department (NYFD).

To apply to take the next New York City Firefighter Exam, you must be between the ages of 17 and a half and 29.

To be hired as a New York City Firefighter

You must:

  • Pass both the written and physical exams
  • Pass a medical exam and background investigation
  • Be at least 21 years of age
  • Be a U.S. citizen
  • Have at least 15 college semester credits earned as a result of satisfactory completion of course work at a college or university accredited by an accrediting body recognized by the U.S. Secretary of Education and the Council for Higher Education or full time military service with an honorable discharge; or 6 months of full time, satisfactory paid work experience
  • Hold a motor vehicle driver's license valid in New York State
  • Be a resident of one of the five boroughs of New York City, or live in Nassau, Orange, Putnam, Rockland, Suffolk or Westchester County
  • Be a Certified First Responder with Defibrillation (CFR-D)

The city of Piqua, Ohio firefighter requirements

In comparison, here are the firefighter requirements for a small city

  • Take out an application
  • Return application along with a copy of your birth certificate, copy of your diploma or equivalent, and a copy of your high school records
  • Take a civil service test. (This test will cover general knowledge of all types of subjects and current events.)
  • If you place in the top of the group according to how many openings there are, then you move on to the next steps
  • Pass a physical fitness - agility test
  • Pass a physical exam
  • Pass a polygraph and psychological test
  • Be interviewed by a board of Fire Officers
  • Be interviewed by the City Manager, the Human Resource Director, and the Fire Chief

What do these requirements have in common?

  • You must take and pass a physical exam
  • You must take some form of written examination
  • You must pass a physical agility test
  • You must have at least a high school diploma
  • You will most certainly have to undergo an oral interview

Which is most important?

Of these requirements, the most important is the written exam because if you do not score highly on it, you will be eliminated as a candidate for a firefighter position.

The written exam

Piqua, OH seems to have the easier exam as it requires only that the applicant pass a civil service. New York City's requires the candidate to pass a written exam. In this case, the exam is designed specifically to test firefighter applicants. The biggest majority of municipalities also use a similar test designed specifically for firefighter candidates. These firefighter exams are tough. They typically take three hours or more to complete and consist of 100 of more questions. If you would like to see a sample of this test, I recommend the book Barron's Firefighter Exams by James J. Murtagh, which includes samples of the NYC Fire Department Exam.

In summary

The short answer to the question of what is required of a firefighter applicant is that you must be in good health, you must pass a tough written exam, you need to have a clean driver's license, you need to be able to pass an agility test or a test that simulates the skills required to be a firefighter and you will need to do well in an oral interview.

Standing out from the crowd

Getting a job as a firefighter is very, very competitive these days. If you want to stand out as a candidate - and win that coveted badge - you should have some college, especially courses related to firefighting. And it will most likely help if you have EMT or paramedic experience.

Douglas Hanna is the publisher of the popular web site, http://www.howtobecomeafirefighter101.com - a web site full of useful information on becoming a firefighter, including the requirements, the application process and sample firefighter exam questions.

Hanna lives in a Denver suburb and is the author of more than 200 articles on a variety of subjects.

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