How To Become a Firefighter: Education, Skills and Salary

By Indeed Editorial Team

Updated 20 January 2023

Published 2 August 2021

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Firefighters play a vital role in ensuring the safety of their communities. Working as a firefighter necessitates proper education, training and experience. In addition, you may need a comprehensive set of hard and soft skills to succeed in the profession. In this article, we outline how to become a firefighter, what to expect from the training programmes as well as the various types of skills needed for the job.

Related: How To Become a Paramedic (With Skills and Qualifications)

What is the role of a firefighter?

A firefighter responds, combats and extinguishes flames as well as provides fire prevention instruction. In addition, firefighters respond to life-threatening accidents and help protect public health in emergencies. Firefighters are often trained as paramedics or first responders, which allows them to offer emergency care to injured victims on site. They are responsible for a number of tasks, including:

  • Responding to emergency calls, including medical emergencies, traffic accidents and natural disasters

  • Providing emergency medical treatment

  • Inspecting building for fire safety and enforcing safety standards

  • Preventing and extinguishing fires using water hoses, pumps and fire extinguishers

  • Operating, inspecting and maintaining various firefighting tools and equipment between uses

  • Participating in firefighting drills, disaster response training or specialised rescue exercises

  • Undertaking community outreach to educate the public regarding emergency aid and fire prevention

  • Performing search and rescue

How to become a firefighter

Here's a step-by-step guide on how to become a firefighter:

1. Finish your education

As a basic requirement, complete your secondary school or obtain a diploma to become a firefighter. You're eligible to take on the position if you have good O-Level, NITEC, higher NITEC or diploma results. There's a considerable number of sponsorships and scholarships available from the Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF).

2. Obtain a medical certification

Applicants for physically and medically demanding courses conducted by the Civil Defence Academy (CDA) are required to be in good physical and mental health. Medical certification is required for a number of courses. As such, participants in these courses can show a medical examination that a certified doctor completed and provide the medical reports and Certificate of Fitness to the academy prior to the course.

3. Pursue specialised training

Attend training and workshops conducted by the CDA to learn the foundational skills and knowledge surrounding firefighting, disaster management, search and rescue and pre-hospital medical services. At the CDA, you may get practical training exposure using realistic simulators. The facilities at the CDA are intended to offer a safe training environment while reducing training hazards. Thermal sensors, gas monitors and ventilation systems act as simulators, ventilating the building if dangerous circumstances are detected. Listed below are some available courses the CDA offers:

  • Advanced Fire and Rescue Course for CERT

  • Advanced Ship Fire Fighting Course

  • Amusement Rides Safety Course

  • Basic Fire and Rescue Course for CERT

  • Basic Ship Fire Fighting Course

  • CBRE Course for Emergency Response Team

  • Emergency Response Plan Course

  • Fire Safety Workshop

  • HazMat Response Course for CERT

  • Incident Management Course

4. Create a resume

Make a resume that includes your highest level of education, qualifications and relevant job experience. Your job experience typically contains the names of the organisations you've worked for, your employment period and a synopsis of your duties and achievements. If you've never worked in a fire department before, emphasise how your abilities from previous positions relate to the one you're applying for.

5. Apply for firefighter positions

Once you've finished the appropriate education, training and certifications, look for job vacancies and apply for the ones that match your experience and education using your updated resume and cover letter. If no opportunities are readily available, you can get experience as a volunteer firefighter right away. You might also seek part-time or temporary work.

What are the requirements to become a firefighter?

Here are the requirements to fulfil in order to become a firefighter:

Education

To be a firefighter, you need at least a good O-Level, NITEC, high NITEC or diploma result. You may also get a bachelor's degree and work as a paramedic prior to enrolling in the academy. The fire academy might prefer to recruit those with experience as a paramedic over other candidates. Because of the substantial medical training, many fire departments consider paramedics for firefighting roles, despite the fact that they didn't attend a fire academy beforehand.

Training

Firefighters get the majority of their training in the fire academies, where they learn how to execute rescues, drive fire engines and battle fires properly. Specialised training, like aerial firefighting, is also available to firefighters. Other specialist courses include:

  • Disaster Assistance and Rescue Team Specialist Course

  • Urban Search and Rescue Specialist Course

  • Paramedic Training Programme

  • Info Comms Specialist Course

  • Search Dog Handler Course

  • HazMat Specialist Course

  • Instructor Preparatory Course

  • Fire Investigation Specialist Course

The training doesn't cease after you complete your course at the fire academy. Firefighters often go through a probation during which they get hands-on, on-the-job training, depending on the department's needs. In this phase, try to gain as much information as possible pertaining to the role and expectations.

Skills

Firefighters typically possess a mix of soft skills and technical competence to be successful in the profession. Among these skills are:

Physical strength and stamina

Firefighting is a physically demanding job that frequently necessitates firefighters to stand for extended periods of time while carrying heavy equipment and wearing an uncomfortable uniform. As a firefighter, you may need to undertake and pass both physical and medical examinations to verify that you're strong enough to carry equipment, climb up flights of stairs, rescue victims from danger and lift large items. To satisfy the rigours of the work, a firefighter has to be in top physical condition. In addition, firefighters may need a strong cardiovascular system to prepare for emergency situations.

First aid skills

Firefighters are frequently the first people to arrive at the site of an accident. It's essential that they have a basic understanding of emergency care and first aid to help victims prior to a hospital visit. Many fire stations often need paramedic qualifications.

Communication

Effective communication entails actively listening in order to respond and behave effectively and responsibly in an emergency. You may learn how to deal with angry citizens, how to use radios to relay vital information to your team, how to calm scared victims, how to console devastated family members and how to convey vital patient information to doctors and nurses. It's also necessary to learn workplace etiquette in order to communicate in a clear, respectful and open manner. Direct and honest communication can decrease the probability of confrontation between colleagues as well.

Teamwork

As a general rule, firefighters are inevitably part of a bigger team. Being a team player and knowing how to work coherently in a team setting is imperative. Keep in mind that your other team members are always depending on you to effectively do your job. Essentially, you can only achieve the goal and maintain the team's safety if the entire team can work together as a cohesive unit.

Read more: How To Be a Good Team Player in 7 Steps

Ability to remain calm and respond promptly

As a firefighter, you're expected to respond quickly and remain composed in challenging situations. To avoid exacerbating the danger at hand, firefighters must keep a cool head and look at the situation objectively. This includes the capacity to work under stress and undertake your responsibilities under various time-sensitive, high-stress and life-threatening circumstances. Agility, flexibility and adaptability are crucial characteristics of a good firefighter.

Decision-making skills

A good firefighter has excellent problem-solving and decision-making skills. You can achieve this by mastering the personal safety and contingency measures to allow you to instantly know what to do and what not to do. Moreover, it's essential to maintain your situational awareness at all times to exercise wise judgement.

Mechanical knowledge

A firefighter typically needs some fundamental mechanical aptitude to understand how things work and operate. This knowledge serves as the basis to come up with creative solutions to mitigate issues and manage disasters. Given the uncertain nature of the job, a firefighter has to understand a broad range of concepts and master a comprehensive skill set.

Related: 10 Best Skills To Include on a Resume

How much does a firefighter earn?

Many firemen work full-time, while some work part-time, as volunteers or on a temporary basis. Salaries vary greatly depending on geographic location and cost of living. The average salary for a local firefighter is $2,609 per month, which is around $31,300 per year.

Please note that none of the companies mentioned in this article are affiliated with Indeed. Salary figures reflect data listed on Indeed Salaries at time of writing. Salaries may vary depending on the hiring organisation and a candidate's experience, academic background and location.

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