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How To Become a Firefighter in Illinois (IL) – Chicago And More

This guide will teach you how to become a firefighter in Illinois (IL). We’ll cover the requirements, procedures, tests you’ll be going through, and even provide information on average salaries for Illinois firefighters.

Requirements To Become a Firefighter in Illinois

The following requirements apply if you want to become a firefighter in Illinois:

  • Must be betwee 21 and 35 years of age.
  • Must have EMT-B certification or paramedic certification (depends on the fire department in question).
  • High school degree or an equivalent.
  • Firefighter II certification, aka Basic Operations Firefighter (learn more).
  • Must be in excellent physical shape and very stable psychologically.
  • Perfect 20/20 vision
  • Depending on the Illinois fire department, you might be required to be a resident of the area where you want to become a firefighter.

Is a Fire Science Degree Required To Become a Firefighter in Illinois?

While Basic Operations Firefighter certification (see above under “requirements”) is required to become an Illinois fireman, obtaining a degree in fire science from a fire academy or community college is not an official requirement. It does, however, increase your chances of being hired, as fire departments want the most dedicated and passionate people to join their ranks. It’s been noted that an increasing number of applicants for firefighting jobs have 2 years of fire training behind them. Again – this is not a requirement, and you can absolutely become a firefighter in Illinois without a fire science degree; it can simply give you an edge.

Below is also a list of a few fire schools in Illinois if you’d like to attend:

Fire Department Tests For Aspiring Illinois Firefighters

If you meet all of the requirements for becoming a firefighter in Illinois, you can then apply to a fire department of your choice. You will then go through a few different tests:

Written examination: your basic math, map reading, fire service skills will be tested, among others. This exam is rather simple and you can prepare for it by reading a few books, for example the “Firefighter Exam: The Complete Preparation Guide” by Learning Express.

Candidate Physical Ability Test (CPAT): this test, usually conducted by a third party, will measure your capabilities in 8 different firefighting-specific fields, such as: stair climbing, hose dragging, carrying heavy equipment, forcing an entry, raising a ladder, rescuing a dummy, breaching a ceiling and crawling through tight spaces during a simulated search operation.

Oral Exam Panel: If you pass the written exam and your CPAT, an oral exam will be conducted, aimed at finding out what type of person you are and whether you are suitable for the being an Illinois firefighter. Following the oral exam is a full-body evaluation by a licensed physician.

Background test: expect the Illinois fire department you are applying at to do some heavy digging into your personal life and past. Convicted fellons will be automatically rejected. Your friends and close family members will be contacted directly by a representative of the department and questions about your personality will be asked.

Drug test: a complete drug panel will be performed. You should also expect these tests to be performed after you are hired as a firefighter in Illinois.

Fire Departments in Illinois

To find a complete list of all the major fire departments in the state of Illinois, visit this page. As you can see, there is a huge number of them available.

Choose the departments you are interested in and contact them; ask about any specific firefighter requirements they may have, and also inquire about their next hiring round so you can prepare in advance. Remember that you can apply to more than one department to increase your chances of becoming a firefighter in Illinois.

How To Become a Firefighter in Chicago?

The steps for becoming a firefighter in Chicago are pretty much the same as they are state-wide. You’ll have to meet the requirements outlined above, and go through the fire department’s tests as outlined earlier as well. You cal locate fire departments in Chicago by following the links in the “Fire Departments in Illinois” section above. Some good news here two: firefighters in Chicago earn some of the best salaries in the entire United States, averaging $58,000 a year, with the top 10% Chicago firefighters earning over $92,000 a year on average, and the best of the best earning well over $110,000.

Probation Period

Once you’ve been hired, you will become a probationary firefighter for 12 months, as regulated by Illinois law. During probation you will have to undergo firefighter training, including Firefighter I / II.

How To Become a Volunteer Firefighter in IL?

Make sure to view the list linked to in the “Fire Departments in Illinois” section above, and then locate the fire departments that accept volunteer firefighters, as not all do. Then you can get in touch with the department and ask them about their specific requirements for volunteering, which can vary significantly from department to another.

The Average Salary of a Firefighter in Illinois

As determined by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average firefigher salary in the state of Illinois in the year 2010 was around $50,000 a year, with the top 10% of firefighters earning close to $88,000 on average. These numbers are higher than the national average salaries, making Illinois a great place for professional firefighters.

How To Become a Firefighter in Illinois – Summary

We hope that the guide above helps you pursue your dream of becoming a firefighter in Illinois. Any questions? Let us know in the comments below and we’ll try to help. Good luck and stay safe.


  1. Angel De La Torre says:

    This was very helpful thank you

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