Kory Pearn is the author of The Complete Guide to Becoming a Firefighter, now in its second edition. Pearn also hosts Firefighter Career Expo, held twice a year in Ontario to give attendees a chance to network with chiefs and chief officers and learn from the experts how to land jobs in fire services.
Fire fighting is a challenging and rewarding career. If you’re thinking about becoming a firefighter, here are some things to consider.
Planning for your future
High school is a great time to start planning for a career in fire fighting. Students who recognize their passion for becoming a firefighter at an early age have a great head start on their future. Tailoring your academics to complement your aspirations of becoming a firefighter is wise and is encouraged. However, most high school courses will support your career choice. You should be aware that a few post-secondary firefighting programs require math, English and sciences.
Fire department chemistry
It’s paramount that firefighters responding to emergencies work together as a team to neutralize any emergency situation. Being a team player is definitely something fire departments look for in recruits. Being involved on sports teams in high school can help to demonstrate your ability be a team player. Also, being an active member of your community, such as volunteering your time with children or seniors or at the local food bank, for example, also improves your chances of getting hired.
It’s critical that potential firefighter recruits achieve the minimum education level. There is no point thinking about getting hired by a fire department if you don’t have the credentials (check fire department websites to determine their minimum education requirements). It is also good to have a plan B, such as a trade or a degree, in case you are not immediately hired by a fire department.
Municipal firefighter recruitment process
Fire department recruitment processes vary. Each fire department can establish its own recruitment process and the minimum qualifications and standards it requires. Recruitment processes can be complicated or they can be simple. The objective of a fire department recruitment process is to determine an applicant’s aptitude for fire fighting. Fire departments use multiple evaluations to determine each applicant’s ability to execute firefighting-related tasks, the ability to function under physical exertion, the overall health and fitness level of each applicant and the ability to understand written and verbal information.
Recruitment programs help fire departments determine which candidates possess the skills, aptitude, attitude and abilities needed to be a successful firefighter. Potential firefighter candidates must be successful at each stage of the recruitment program to be considered for employment.
In Ontario, many fire departments have signed on to a standardized candidate testing service (CTS), run by the Ontario Fire Administration Inc. Learn more about this province-wide candidate evalution system, which launched in 2014, in an indepth feature in the August 2014 issue of Fire Fighting in Canada.
Recruitment program stages
- Candidates submit their application before the deadline
- Chosen candidates write an aptitude test
- Candidates are notified of test results
- Successful applicants are notified of first interview
- Successful applicants are notified of second interview
- Physical ability test is arranged
- Candidates undergo medical
- References are contacted
- Conditional job offer is made
Choosing a firefighting program
You want to attend fire school but you’re not sure what course to take or which school to attend. Finding the answers can be difficult. It’s one thing to find a good fire school but it’s another to find the right fire school. Choosing the perfect fire school program depends on criteria such as where you live, because different regions endorse different fire programs or schools.
When choosing a fire school or program ask the following questions:
- Is the program recognized by fire departments in the region(s) in which you want to work?
- Does the program offer distance learning?
- Does the program meet the standards required by fire departments in your region?
The last thing you want to do is to spend your time and money on a fire program that isn’t recognized or accredited. Governments and organizations regulate the standards of fire training and accredit schools to teach to these standards. These regulations are in place to ensure that students receive a level of training that provides a strong foundation on which to start their firefighting careers.
What about my age?
Don’t allow your age to discourage you from pursuing a career in fire fighting. Fire departments are looking for certain qualities and qualifications. It doesn’t matter whether you are an older recruit or a younger recruit; if you meet the criteria and prove yourself worthy of a job, your chances of getting hired should be among the best.
However, there are advantages and disadvantages to each age category: younger recruits lack life experience but the department gains strength, endurance and a desire to learn; mature recruits have a shorter career window but bring experience, loyalty and work ethic. Not every recruit falls into these categories – there are exceptions – but during recruitment drives departments are generally bombarded with resumes and it’s difficult for departments to weed out the potential recruits.
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