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How to Go from Volunteer Firefighter to Career Firefighter

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If you’re currently a volunteer firefighter, you know that it’s one of the most rewarding ways to spend your time. There’s nothing that compares to being able to serve your community as a firefighter and helping those in need. But have you thought of turning that passion into a career? The majority of volunteer firefighters have to balance their day job with getting in a few calls on a regular basis. That doesn’t necessarily have to always be the case, though.

FireLink recently put together a how-to guide on becoming a paid, full-time firefighter. It’s definitely possible and our team at My Responder Gear can help you make it happen! Let’s dive into this five-step process.

  1. Be an active volunteer - During long days in particular, it can be difficult to perform at peak levels. But where else do you have the chance to possibly save someone’s life? Going above and beyond required duties will show your department and community that you are committed to keeping the town safe.
  2. Volunteer for other causes - It’s great to be a dependable, hard-working volunteer who’s willing to do whatever it takes to take things to the next step. But during the selection process, department officials typically look for community involvement. For example, maybe you can pick up a part-time coaching gig at the local school or even volunteer at a nearby soup kitchen.
  3. Get your CPAT card - Just about every fire department today requires a current Candidate Physical Ability Test card. At the time of the test, you must be at least 18 years old and show a government issued ID. As far as training tips are concerned, it’s advised that you train for and get your CPAT as early on as you can. Keep in mind that any delay in passing the test can result in not meeting your department’s application deadlines. FireLink suggests talking to the department you want to join in order to find out specific requirements, as all departments are different.
  4. Plan on signing up for an entrance exam as soon as possible - Even for a volunteer, the entrance exam is incredibly valuable. Not to mention, it’s essential in becoming a paid firefighter. A helpful piece of advice? Call ahead and make an appointment with a station explaining that you’d like to speak with someone about what it takes to become a full-time firefighter. Be sure to ask all the essentials, such as whether the department is currently hiring, how to apply, etc. Want to make a really good first impression? Bring some cookies for the entire crew.
  5. Get your EMT-1 certification and Fire Science Degree - At this step, the prospect of becoming a full-time firefighter is real. Now’s the time to get your EMT certification, which is required just about everywhere in the United States once you’re a paid firefighter. In terms of a degree, it’s best to consider either a two or four-year program. As a fire science student, you will receive all the basics of fire suppression, as well as an in-depth understanding of industry science, administration, fire detection systems, hazardous materials, fire behavior, crisis management, and incident salvage. Today, departments are looking for a combination of firefighter experience, academy completion, and an advanced degree.

Once you’ve completed all five steps, you’re that much closer to your dream of becoming a full-time firefighter! But you aren’t in the clear quite yet. It’s a good idea to invest in some high-quality first responder medical bags and other first responder gear. For parents of recent program graduates, emergency medical bags make a great gift.


My Responder Gear features a wide selection of first responder bags for not only fire professionals, but also police, EMS, and sports medicine experts. Shop now and enjoy an upgrade on your first responder gear.