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If you are the type of person who thrives on the excitement of an emergency and wants to serve your local community, then a career as a firefighter may be the right choice for you.

Discovering your passion

As part of the military community, you live in an environment where your spouse may find himself or herself in dangerous situations. By choosing a career as a firefighter, you can experience a similar level of excitement and adrenaline. Firefighters often work in physically demanding, stressful and sometimes dangerous environments. Firefighters have one of the highest rates of injuries and illnesses of all occupations. You will also be expected to work around the clock, in 24-hour shifts. To be successful, you need to have a natural drive to make your community safer and a better place to live.

If you are considering a career as a firefighter, review the Research Occupations tool on MySECO. Take the Strong Interest Explorer and Myers-Briggs self-assessments to make sure your skills and interests align with this career path.

Education and training

Once you decide to pursue a career as a firefighter, you can explore the many tools and resources on MySECO to assist you in achieving the education requirements necessary to practice in your profession.

While the exact requirements vary by jurisdiction, most firefighters have at least a high school diploma or equivalent. To increase your marketability, you may also wish to consider taking postsecondary education courses that will help you achieve certifications, such as Emergency Medical Technician, EMT-Basic. As part of maintaining your license, some states require a certain number of continuing education units, or CEUs, per year to renew a license. You can review the MySECO articles, License Finder, About Continuing Education Units and Finding the Right CEUs for Me, to find information on your state’s rules and regulations and assistance with selecting a CEU.

If you move due to a PCS, your service branch can now help reimburse licensure and certification costs up to $1,000. Learn more. Be sure to visit the Department of Labor Military Spouse License Recognition Map for up-to-date legislation and licensure information for your specific state.

College Scorecard is a great starting point for researching and selecting an education institution. When you visit College Scorecard, search by program/degree, location, size and more to find a program of study near you. You can also use the Scholarship Finder on MySECO to assist with finding funding relevant to the military community to help pay for classes.

To apply for a firefighter position, you typically must be at least 18 years old and have a valid driver’s license. You will also be required to pass physical and medical exams, including vision, hearing, strength and agility, as well as written exams. After completion of your exams, you typically go through a series of interviews and are required to take a lie detector test and drug test. After you are hired, you may be subject to random drug tests.

To be a firefighter, you must be prepared for the following:

  • Dealing with difficult weather
  • Fighting fires in different types of buildings and locations
  • Protecting lives and property from fire damage
  • Understanding the crew and equipment needed for each fire emergency
  • Managing difficult hours and on-call schedules
  • Teaching fire prevention
  • Responding to emergency situations quickly and capably

Finding employment

Once you are confident that you have the necessary requirements, it’s time to find a job in your occupation. Many states and local jurisdictions handle their own recruitment and hiring practices for firefighters. You can check local job boards and visit the webpages for these departments to search for vacant positions. You can also search for firefighter positions using the MySECO Job Search Tools, which include the following:

Consider volunteering, if possible, or doing an internship, and proactively networking to build contacts and experience in this field.

Professional organizations and networking

You may want to consider joining a professional organization in your career field to gain a better understanding of current trends in the firefighter profession. Professional organizations are great ways to continue your education through workshops and conferences, which will add to your transferable skill set as you move. Networking with other professionals in your industry will give you an edge in meeting the right people who may have the connections you need to obtain an interview or restart your career at your new location. Read The Value of Professional Associations for more information on how becoming a member can help enhance your career.

Next steps

To explore additional information related to starting your career as a firefighter, check out the Research Occupations tool on MySECO. Enter the keyword 'Firefighter' to learn more about the occupational overview for your specialty field.

If you need additional information about the occupation, you can speak with a SECO career coach by calling Military OneSource at 800-342-9647 to discuss any questions or concerns you may have. Coaches are available to review your resume, practice interviewing, discuss networking or assist you in understanding employer requirements for this field. For additional guidance, use the Live Chat feature on the MySECO website. 

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