Firefighters are often simply defined as a person who fights fires. Although this is true for the most part, their jobs are more involved than people may realize. On average, a typical fire station is not fighting fires every day; therefore, they respond to various other emergency calls. To become a firefighter a person needs extensive training in EMT and CPR coursework. Requirements vary by state and region but all areas have a few general qualifications that need to be met in order to be considered for the position.


     Due to the physical nature of this job, there is an age requirement. Anyone can submit an application for the job as early as 18 years of age (but still can’t start working until age 21) and must begin work by 29 years of age (sometimes even early 30’s, depending on the region). Each potential candidate will need a valid driver’s license, a high school diploma or equivalent, and CPR training before they can enter the training program. Becoming a firefighter is very competitive because the physically demanding nature of the field eliminates many candidates. Therefore, it is recommended that aspiring firefighters volunteer with their local fire departments to gain some experience, as well as professional guidance directly on the field, and take fire training courses in college.

Physical Fitness is a key component in becoming a firefighter. Strength, conditioning, and endurance will always be advantageous. It is extremely important that potential firefighters have the ability to carry someone heavier than themselves up and down many flights of stairs. The inability to do so can be the difference between life and death.

Mental Toughness is something that many candidates and aspiring firefighters tend to overlook. It is very important for firefighters to always be able to maintain their composure and focus on the job when things get hectic. It can be very hard to continue your day after facing a tragic event or losing the life of a civilian.


     In some places the training is even more extensive and rigorous due to the surrounding environment. The steps to becoming a firefighter involve taking a personality test to determine if you have the mental state to handle the pressures and stress of the job. You then have to take another test to determine if you have basic math and reading skills, and a very hard physical test that requires peak physical fitness. After that is done, you will enroll in a firefighter training program similar to how police officers must attend the police academy. Once that is complete, you will officially be considered an active firefighter. For more state specific information you can visit your state fire department website.

Work Environment

     Firefighting can be a very demanding and rewarding job. Although the typical firefighter will not be fighting fires everyday, it doesn’t change the fact that when the situation does occur it is extremely dangerous and life threatening. You must be in top physical shape and have extensive training in order to lower the chances of something fatal happening to you, your squad, and the people you are trying to rescue. When they are not putting out fires, firefighters are expected to respond to carbon monoxide leaks, floods, and other dangerous situations and natural disasters. Also, based on the state, you may need additional training. For example, firefighters in big cities or dry areas with a lot of forestry are prone to more dangerous fires so more extensive training is needed in those specific areas. It is no surprise that the work environment is a dangerous one when responding to a call, but things are more relaxed in the firehouse and the team is usually a very close knit, family-like unit.


Total Employment: 319,860

Mean Annual Wage: $51,930

Median Annual Wage: $49,080

Top 5 Highest Paying States

State Employment 

Annual mean wage 

New Jersey 5,530 $75,880
California 31,150 $73,860
New York 9,680 $70,560
Washington 8,710 $70,300
Nevada 1,860 $66,670

 Top 5 States with Highest Employment

State Employment 

Annual mean wage

California 31,150 $73,860
Texas 27,900 $53,480
Florida 24,430 $52,170
Ohio 18,670 $46,710
Illinois 17,830 $55,300

 Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics (


Pros: The pros for this job are a wonderful pension in most cases, a lot of job growth and salary improvements, pretty good job security in most states, and it is a very fulfilling job that does not get boring or mundane.

Cons: This job can be extremely dangerous. It is very strenuous on the body; smoke inhalation can cause health complications in the future. Although very rewarding, it can be equally as stressful during times of tragedy.


     Firefighters are tremendously brave individuals and the job is very well respected, the money is great and the retirement benefits could not be better. Although it can be extremely dangerous on occasions, I believe that the reward of saving lives outweighs the risk of a well-trained firefighter getting injured. Based on our metric rating system, NoDegree gives this job an 8.6 out of 10.

Helpful Links and References

A Firefighter's Journal: Thirty- Seven Years on the Firegrounds and in the Firehouses of Philadelphia by Robert Marchisello - Amazon

This is a must read for anyone interested in becoming a firefighter. This book has so many great stories and lessons and really gives insight into the careers of firefighters.

Firefighter Functional Fitness:The Essential Guide to Optimal Firefighter Performance and Longevity by Dan Kerrigan - Amazon

This is a great book for those who are interested in the fitness aspects of being a firefighter. This books goes in depth on exercising and nutrition so that a firefighter can maximize their career and maintain a healthy body.