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How To Become a Firefighter in Florida (FL)

Welcome to our step by step guide on how to become a firefighter in Florida (FL). We’ll go over minimum requirements, required certifications, what to expect during the written exam and oral interview, your background check and physical ability test. We’ll also briefly discuss average firefighter salaries in Florida, and take a closer look at the fire service situation in Jacksonville. Let’s begin with finding a fire department in Florida.

Locating Fire Departments in Florida (FL)

There are well over 300 fire departments in Florida. Before you can become a firefighter in the state, you must pick the department(s) you want to apply at. Each department will a somewhat different hiring procedure. Make sure to contact them and ask about any special requirements they might have.

Minimum Requirements To Become a Firefighter in Florida (FL)

The following are requirements you need to meet if you want to work as a firefighter in Florida:

  • Must be 18 or older
  • Must have a high school diploma or G.E.D.
  • Must have a clean background record
  • Must possess a valid driver’s license
  • Must have an EMT or Paramedic certificate
  • Must complete a 16-hour Emergency Vehicle Operator’s Course (EVOC)

Depending on the department, you might also need a Class D driver’s license.

Is a Fire Degree Required To Apply For a Firefighter Position in Florida?

No, it is not. You don’t need to have a fire degree to apply for a fireman position in Florida. However, candidates who have a fire degree are usually looked upon more favorably by the hiring committee. Nowadays, a considerable percentage of all applicants in Florida have 2 years of fire education, and some have 4 years or more. If the hiring committee is faced with two equally attractive candidates, only one has no prior fire education while the other does, it’s obvious who will be chosen.

Below is a list of some of the better fire academies in Florida if you’d like to attend.

Please check this list of Florida Community Colleges, as some of them offer fire education as well.

What Does The Hiring Process Look Like?

The exact steps will vary from department to another.

Important note: before you can begin working as a Firefighter in Florida, you will need to complete the Firefighter I and Firefighter II courses. Different Florida fire departments will require that you present proper certification at different stages of the hiring process. Make sure to contact your fire department(s) of choice to inquire about the exact procedure before you begin your planning.

First, you will submit an application. Make sure to fill this out in advance, as the amount of information you’ll need to provide can be significant. Be prepared to provide contact details of family members and close friends for your background check. Exceptionally detailed information regarding your education and prior work experience will need to be provided as well. It may take you a few weeks to get together all the data you need to fill out the application completely.

Next, participate in a written exam. Only those who meet the minimum requirements set forth above will be notified about the written exam. Some of the Florida fire departments however do not conduct a written exam at all. The exam is a multiple-choice test, wherein your problem-solving abilities and comprehensive reading skills will be tested. No questions relating to your firefighting knowledge will be asked at this point.

Now comes the oral interview. Those who pass the written exam will be contacted to attend an oral interview. Much like a regular job interview, you’ll be asked about your life goals and reasons for wanting to join the fire service. The more you know about a firefighter’s duties at this point, the better, as the interview panel will be looking to get a feel for your level of commitment.

You’ll need to present your EMT/Paramedic certificate. Some Florida fire departments will ask for the certification at the beginning of the hiring process, while other departments will only require that you be certified before the end of your probationary period (more on this later). Whatever the case may be, you will need to become a certified EMT or Paramedic at some point before you are hired.

Next, you must pass a physical ability test. Certain fire departments will conduct the test themselves, though the majority will require that you present a CPAT (Candidate Physical Ability Test) certification. This test is conducted at various facilities in Florida, and events will involve 3+ minutes of stair climbing while wearing a 75 lbs. vest, hose dragging, forcing an entry, and much more. See our detailed CPAT guide to get better acquainted with the test.

Now comes the best part. If you successfully completed the written exam, passed the oral interview, and submitted the required certifications, it’s time for:

  1. A criminal background check. An employee of the fire department will dig into your past very thoroughly. An abundance of parking tickets, a felony conviction, and even a misdemeanor – all are enough to disqualify you from becoming a firefighter in the state of Florida. Recently it has become standard practice at some departments for some portions of the background check to be completed through an online service. The cost is $24.
  2. A physical and psychological evaluation. Your mental stability and physical health will be very thoroughly examined. Testing can last up to 10 hours, depending on the requirements of your fire department. Your eye-sight will be tested, as will your body fat levels. A treadmill cardiovascular/respiratory test will be performed as well.
  3. A polygraph examination. While not standard practice in all Florida fire departments, it’s quite possible that you’ll be put through a polygraph.

Your Probationary Period / Firefighter I & II Training

After successfully completing all the steps above, you’ll be hired as a probationary firefighter. Depending on where exactly in Florida you applied, this period can last anywhere from 6 and 12 months. During this time you need to complete the Firefighter I and Firefighter II course – a total of almost 400 hours of training. Some fire departments will provide you with funding for the course, though usually you’ll have to pay for it yourself (approximately $5,000 in total). You’ll also become familiarized with the inner-workings of fire stations in your region, and the day-to-day duties and responsibilities of Florida firefighters.

After your probationary period is over, you will officially become a full-time Florida firefighter.

How Long Does It Take To Become a Florida Firefighter?

Most FL fire departments hire new personnel a few times a year. The application procedure described above typically lasts around 3 weeks. This does not include the time required for acquiring any required certificates (EMT, CPAT, etc.). Don’t forget to factor in the duration of your probationary period as well (6-12 months). Here is the best you can do:

  1. Read our article on how long does it take to become a firefighter for much more information.
  2. Contact your fire department(s) of choice and find out how often do they hire

Between the above two, you should be able to figure out how long it will take you to be hired as a firefighter in Florida.

How To Become a Firefighter in Jacksonville?

The procedure for becoming a Firefighter in Jacksonville are exactly the same as outlined above for the state of Florida, with a few important things to remember:

  • Many Jacksonville fire departments will require that you possess a valid Class D driver’s license
  • A polygraph test is likely to be conducted
  • Before you can even submit an application, you’ll need to become a certified EMT (or Paramedic). You will also need to have some firefighter training under your belt prior to submitting your application. Use this e-mail address to inquire about training centers and training requirements for Jacksonville fire departments: jfrdstandby@coj.net

What Is The Average Salary of a Firefighter in Florida?

According to 2013 statistics, a probationary firefighter in Florida will earn an average of $39,000 a year. The salary increases with each year of service. After 5 years of working as a firefighter, the average salary is $48,000. This salary increases significantly as you move up the ranks in your fire department. A Florida Chief Battalion, for example, can earn $95,000 a year.

How To Become a Firefighter in Florida (FL) – Summary

Thanks for reading and we hope this guide will get you closer to becoming a firefighter in Florida. Questions? Post them in the comments below or send us an e-mail. We reply to everyone.

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