How long does it take to become a firefighter?
Once you have a high-school degree or GED, it can take anywhere from one day to a year or more to acquire the necessary qualifications to become a firefighter.
Of course, if we’re talking about becoming a professional, paid firefighter, it will most likely take a bit longer than one day. And regardless, most municipalities require several hundred hours of post-hiring training at a fire academy of their choosing. This training usually takes about 3-4 months to complete, or sometimes up to 6 months or so.
Aside from the municipally-designated post-employment academy training, firefighting work has no official minimum required training, though all fire departments do require a high-school diploma or GED. However, it is a competitive field, with applicants outnumbering job openings by factors of 10 up to 100, depending on the municipality. 2 years of fire sciences studies is now not uncommon among applicants for fire-fighting positions.
Volunteer fire-fighting experience
You may also wish to become a volunteer fireman as part of your preparation for professional paid employment as a fire-fighting professional.
Note that even volunteering as a fireman may require 110 hours of study in an NFPA (National Fire Protection Association) course, or a course certified by the NFPA.
How long does it take to actually apply for fire-fighting jobs?
Fire departments often hire new crew members every year or two. So there may be a delay after you complete your training before a job opens up. But if you investigate the hiring schedules of the departments you’re interested in, you may be able to plan in a way that coordinates your training schedule with their hiring schedules, thus minimizing such delays.
The application process itself may take anywhere from a couple of days to a few weeks – in essence, the application process time is comprised of any time you need to prepare your resume, fill out application forms, and write cover letters. Then waiting for responses, attending interviews, performing follow-up, and awaiting the departments’ decision making process are the other parts.
How long does it take to become certified as an EMT?
CPR certification at the least is common to virtually all fire-fighting personnel, but most fire departments require emergency medical technician (EMT) certification. EMT certification will give an advantage to applicants regardless. EMT certification generally entails several hundred hours of training, depending on the state.
Many aspiring firefighters pursue their EMT training concurrently with their fire sciences studies.
Add up to 2 years if you decide to acquire paramedic certification
Full paramedic training takes up to 10 times as long as basic EMT training, involving between one and two thousand hours of training. Some paramedic training programs take about 2 years to complete.
How long does fire academy or fire-sciences degree training take?
The post-hiring fire academy training required by most municipalities includes about 600 hours of class-time, give or take. This covers the fundamental basics.
This is generally about 3 months of study on a full-time basis. It would give an applicant an advantage to complete this training on his own prior to applying, but even better would be to include more advanced fire sciences studies in a 2 or 4 year program.
Total time – 3 months to 7 years
So all in all, we have zero to 4 years of post-secondary education, about 3 months to get EMT certification, and a few weeks to go through the application process.
This amounts to a total period of 3 to 4 months to become a firefighter. Or up to 5 years, if you pursue advanced pre-employment training and experience a longer application process.
Or indeed up to 7 years if you elect to become a full paramedic and acquire a four-year fire-sciences degree.
Once hired, you'll probably have to attend some more municipally-required training and go through a probation process, adding 6 months or more before you become a fully confirmed firefighter.
Your individual case may vary
How long it will take in your individual case will depend on several things. Foremost amont them are these:
1. What fire-fighting position are you seeking?
2. How competitive is the fire-fighting job market in your municipality?
3. How much post-secondary training do you plan to pursue to make your candidacy stand out above minimum requirements?
4. How efficient and hard-working are you when it comes to studies and other qualification preparations?
5. How often do the departments in the municipalities of interest to you hire new crew members?
How long is the probationary period?
Municipal fire departments generally have an initial probationary period for new hires. This is typically 6 to 12 months. In many cases, this will roughly coincide with the period needed to complete the municipally-required post-hiring training at the designated fire academy or NFPA-certified program.