Firefighter Job Description & Requirements. What do firefighters do?

Although it may seem obvious what firemen are doing from the name of this job, but it’s not that simple. They not only fight fires and save property, but save people’s lives, assist other emergency services like police or paramedics. Successful firefighters have a lot of knowledge and skills that helps them to execute the following job duties:
  1. Preventing fires by providing regular inspections
  2. Responding to emergency cases (mainly fires, but also can be medical problems, etc.) and providing assistance
  3. Reducing fire damage with the help of own equipment and by making sure it’s in the right working order
  4. Keeping station and equipment in great condition and providing regular maintenance, inspection, repair
  5. Participating in public educational activities within local community on preventing fires
  6. Acquiring more professional knowledge and skills by taking part in trainings, workshops, self-education
  7. Updating records for incoming service calls, equipment inspection or repair and other accountable aspects of fire department’s day-to-day job
  8. Following safety working policies and reporting needed changes or unsafe activities and conditions

As you can see, range of fireman’s job duties exceeds just firefighting far too much. Of course, coping with fires will be your main duty, but your work will be much more effective if you spend your effort on preventing fire and educating your community or conducting inspections. Activities like these are supervised by Fire Chiefs or Fire Captains, but it opens a door of opportunity to choose something within this career that really excites you apart of firefighting itself.

As a firefighter you will often apply your first-aid skills (and this is why it’s recommended to undergo EMT training). This is another opportunity to see if healthcare job is for you.

As a summary, we can say that firefighters are all-rounded professionals with life-saving skills who have an opportunity for career growth and picking extra responsibilities.


To successfully perform job duties mentioned above, firefighter will have to satisfy an extensive list of requirements.

Besides formal educational requirements, many other personal qualities, aptitudes and abilities are needed to fulfill the complex and challenging job of firefighting. We divide these into 5 main categories and summarize them below.

Physical qualifications

  • Adequate vision to function in rapid paced maneuvering, including in situations of low light, heavy smoke, and glare
  • Clarity of hearing and speech sufficient for rapid-fire in-person and radio communications during emergency management, including often noisy situations
  • Manual dexterity sufficient for grappling with varied emergency sites, operation of fire-fighting equipment, medical emergency equipment, and communications equipment
  • Overall physical health, personal mobility and reflexes for handling rapidly moving situations where quick maneuvering in less than ideal situations involving obstacles, challenging climbing requirements and structural collapse can be decisive


  • Adapt to evolving community economics, demographics and culture, and to municipal political developments and department policies and procedures
  • Decision-making in time-sensitive situations
  • Efficient basic computer skills
  • Excellent high-pressure oral communication skills for communications with co-workers during emergency situations, and for vital communications with victims, other emergency personnel, building managers and factory crew
  • Excellent oral and written communications for department organizational and planning work, and for communications with victims and victims’ families and other members of the public in situations of stress and tragedy
  • Functioning effectively within a structured command hierarchy
  • Organizational, time-management and efficiency to perform varied duties in time-sensitive situations
  • Quick-learning of new technologies, techniques and methodologies, and scientific advancements
  • Resourcefulness and ingenuity in confronting new situations and problems
  • Stress management in the face of constant involvement with life and death emergency situations, responsibility for crucial actions affecting the preservation or loss of major property assets
  • Team-work in a context of stressful situations and threats to personal survival and well-being
  • Understand and follow written operational instructions and guidelines

Knowledge and Skills

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  • Competence with relevant medical equipment
  • Computers and related software
  • CPR and other emergency medical skills
  • Fire inspection skills, including knowledge of the uniform fire code
  • Fire-fighting related incident reporting, record-keeping, computer, and paperwork skills
  • Fire-trucks and other vehicles and fire-fighting equipment
  • Fundamental math and science education
  • The details of public utility infrastructure, such as gas, plumbing and electrical lines, location of industrial fuel tanks and other quantities of flammable chemicals and other potentially hazardous materials or substances
  • Geography of the area he or she will work in
  • The location of hydrants
  • Up to date understanding of the specific methodologies appropriate for different types of fires – forest fires and other wild-fires, industrial and commercial, vehicular fires, aircraft and airport, residential, explosive or flammable substances, and others

Prerequisite qualifications

  • High school diploma / GED
  • 18 years of age or older
  • EMT certification
    *In some jurisdictions, equivalent experience or training may be substituted for some qualifications

Optional but helpful qualifications

Paramedic certification (compared to EMT certification, requires approximately 10 times as many class-hours and training)