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How Long Does It Take To Become a Firefighter?

We receive approximately 8 e-mails a day from people asking: how long does it take to become a firefighter? As always with these questions, the answer depends on a few things. There isn’t a clear-cut, pre-determined path to becoming a firefighter, and hence there’s no one accurate timeline that can be given; everything will depend on the exact route you decide to take, how much training and preparation you decide to do before applying for a job at the fire department, and how much actual work you can get done in a certain amount of time.

Before you continue, consider reading the following two articles for a better understanding of what the steps involved in becoming a firefighter are:

  • How to become a firefighter
  • Requirements to become a firefighter

Now let’s take a quick look at each part of the process and see how much times it takes to complete for a better understanding of how long it takes to become a firefighter.

How Long Does Fire Academy Training Take?

IPORTANT NOTE: There is no clear-cut road to becoming a firefighter, nor a “minimum required prior training.” The fire department will hire those who seem most desirable to them, so the more training and knowledge you have before applying, the better your chances are. Many applicants nowadays have 2-year degrees in fire science or a similar field.

While fire training is not officially required by most fire departments, it will give you a significant advantage over other applicants. Depending on the type of training you enroll at, how extensive it is, how many different fire-related subjects it covers and how much hands-on teaching is conducted, you can expect this part of the process to last a minimum of 1 month and a maximum of 4 years. Basic quality fire academy training last around 600 hours, however there is an increasing number of firefighting applicants who obtain 2 or even 4 year degrees in fire science or any other related study.

Conclusion: We can say that this part of the process will last approximately 2 years.

How Long Does EMT Training For a Firefighter Take?

The majority of fire departments will require an EMT certification, and those who don’t require it will significantly favor candidates who posess such certification. To become a certified EMT, you will need to undergo anywhere between 40 and 350 hours of training, depending on the requirements set forth by your state. On average, you should expect your Emergency Medical Technician training to take 200 hours.

Keep in mind, however, that you can usually undergo EMT training in parallel to your fire training, so if you’re determined, it will should not add to the total time required to become a fireman.

How Long Does The Application Process Take?

Once you have your fire training and EMT certification, it’s time for the application process.

Most fire departments look to hire new crew members once every 12 to 24 months. If you’re only applying to one fire department, then find out what their hiring schedule is like so you can plan your training so that its end coincides as closely as possible with the upcoming recruitement session.

Conclusion: let’s assume it will take 6 months for you to apply for the job once your training is complete.

How Long Does a Firefighter’s Probation Last?

Assuming you are accepted on your first attempt, you will become a probationary fireighter for 6 to 12 months, and it is only after the probation period that you will become a fully-pledged professional firefighter.

Adding Things Up

Here’s what we have so far:

    1. ~24 months of fire academy training
    2. 200 hours of EMT training
    3. ~6 months to be accepted and hired by the department
    4. 6 to 12 months of probation

So how long does it take to become a firefighter?

– If you are very dedicated, undergo your fire training and EMT training in parallel to each other, and get accepted by the fire department on your first attempt, it will take you 3 to 3.5 years to become a firefighter (though you will be a probationary firefighter after 2.5 – 3 years).
– If you are dedicated, though don’t have time to run your EMT training in parallel with your fire training, and assuming you are hired by the department on your first attempt, it will take you 3.5 to 4 years to become a firefighter (though you will be a probationary firefighter after 3 – 3.5 years).

If you are not accepted by the department and/or fail during any phase of their recruitement process, you’ll need to wait for their next hiring roudn. In this case, the time required to become a firefighter will be extended by however long you need to wait / however many times you need to apply / whether you want to apply to more than one department or not.

Remember – There are Exceptions

Depending on how competitive the fire service industry is in your state, the estimations above may vary. For instance, if you’re applying to a fire department where competition is sparse, you probably won’t need 2 years of fire training to stand a high chance of being hired, in which case the total time required to become a firefighter may be cut by a year or more. Likewise, if you’re applying in a state and to a fire department where competition for a firefighter’s position is fierce, you will need to prepare much better to differentiate yourself from the other applicants, meaning it may be wise to complete 4 years of some sort of fire training to differentiate yourself from other candidates.

Here’s a tip: visit the department you’d like to apply to, or a station belonging to that department, and inquire. Ask about the hiring process, how many applicants they get during each round, how often do they hire, what percentage of applicants usually gets accepted. You can even speak directly to firefighters – they love to help out newcomers, so don’t be shy; ask as many questions as you like. Let them know you want to become a firefighter and you’ll receive some very valuable tips.

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