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How to become a firefighter

The role of a firefighter is to respond to emergency situations and protect the people and environment involved. Firefighters work closely with the community to promote fire safety and ensure that public and commercial spaces meet fire safety standards. Firefighters also deal with more than just fire emergencies. As a firefighter, you’ll also respond to road traffic collisions, chemical spillages, flooding, threats associated with terrorism, and help people who are trapped.

A firefighter’s average salary starts at approximately £24,000 and increases to over £60,000 with experience. Firefighters typically work 41 to 43 hours per week during a shift pattern, including evenings, weekends, and bank holidays.

Why choose a career as a firefighter?

A career as a firefighter is guaranteed to be a rewarding one. It’s a career that provides great earning potential as you progress through the ranks with the opportunity to earn over £60,000. The career also offers benefits such as a good pension scheme, support with childcare, training opportunities, and interest-free loans.

Fire fighter with hose

What are the key responsibilities of a firefighter?

As a firefighter, your main place of work will be the fire station, although you may also work from a client’s home or business too. When responding to an emergency, you may be working in high-up or cramped conditions, or in physically or emotionally demanding situations. Your day-to-day role as a firefighter will typically include the following tasks and responsibilities:

  • Inspecting and maintaining the fire engine and its equipment.
  • Responding to emergency calls and attending emergencies such as fires, road traffic accidents, spillages, floods, incidents of terrorism, and rail and air crashes.
  • Controlling and putting out fires.
  • Rescuing people and animals who are trapped.
  • Checking and cleaning the site after an incident.
  • Promoting fire safety in the community by educating and informing the public through talks in schools and community groups and inspecting buildings to ensure they meet fire safety regulations.
  • Participating in drills and physical training as well as maintaining your physical fitness levels.

What skills do I need to become a firefighter?

To become a firefighter, there are some eligibility criteria you need to meet such as holding a full UK driving license, no unspent criminal convictions, and a willingness to gain an LGV driving license. You’ll also need good physical fitness levels and the following skills and qualities:

  • Strong communication skills and the ability to stay calm in difficult situations.
  • The ability to work within a team and follow structures.
  • Confidence, integrity, resilience, and composure.
  • Problem solving skills and the ability to adapt and be flexible.
  • Patient, sensitive, understanding, and reassuring manner.
  • The ability to react quickly and with sound judgement, courage, and decisiveness.
  • A passion for promoting community safety and risk prevention and education.
  • An ability to work well under pressure and pay attention to the detail.
Fire engine

You can apply to join the fire service once you are over 17 and a half years old.

To become a firefighter, it is vital that you meet the eligibility criteria. You will need to complete fitness and medical tests to ensure that you can cope with the demands of the job. Alongside this, you’ll also need to meet the following eligibility criteria in order to apply to be a firefighter:

  • Aged over 17 and a half years old on the date you submit your application.
  • You are a UK or EU citizen or a permanent resident in the UK without any work restrictions.
  • Hold a full UK or EU driving license – this must be a manual license, not an automatic.
  • A willingness to achieve an LGV driving license within 18 months of joining the fire service.
  • Men must be willing to be clean-shaven to allow them to safely wear breathing apparatus when fighting a fire.
  • Have no unspent criminal convictions.

The most important qualifications to become a firefighter are GCSE English Language and Maths. You will need to hold a grade 4 (equivalent to a grade C) in both of these subjects. The next step you take to become a firefighter depends on what suits you best. Here is an overview of the routes you could take to become a firefighter:

  • Apprenticeship – you could choose to become a firefighter by joining an operational firefighter advanced apprenticeship, or you could train to be a firefighter through the Royal Air Force (RAF).
  • Volunteering – another great route to become a firefighter is to volunteer with the fire service which will help you to understand more about the job and give you visibility of internal vacancies.
  • Apply directly – you can also apply to join the fire service directly through your local fire service. Each fire service sets their own entry requirements, so you will need to check with your local service. It’s likely that you will need to pass a series of aptitude tests as well as practical and physical tests and an interview.

A small number of universities also offer degrees in fire and rescue, which you may want to complete if you would like an in-depth understanding before you join the fire service.

Once your application has been approved, your initial firefighter training will begin. This intensive training programme will take between 12 and 18 weeks to complete.

What opportunities are there for career progression in the police force?

As you gain more and more experience in your firefighting career, you will be able to apply for promotions. There is a clear progression route for firefighters to climb the ranks and progress to managerial and chief positions.

You can also choose to specialise in an area of fire and rescue you feel passionately about. These areas include:

  • Fire and risk management
  • Disaster management
  • Fire engineering
  • Fire and leadership

For the specialisms mentioned above, you can also choose to study a funded degree. If you choose to specialise in fire safety and prevention, there is also the opportunity to study for membership with the Institution of Fire Engineers (IFE).

If you’re ready to take your next step towards becoming a police officer and you need help meeting the entry requirements for your chosen route, get in touch with our team.