Frequently Asked Questions
What are some of the minimum qualifications I need to become a firefighter?
Not every fire department has the same hiring procedures; however, there are some standards that many departments uphold.
- A minimum age requirement between 18 and 21 (some departments have a maximum age, which can range from 30 to 45)
- A high school education or a GED (some departments have a higher education requirement)
- A clean criminal record
- Excellent physical and mental health
- A valid driver's license and a satisfactory driving record
What is the written exam to become a firefighter like?
The written exam is designed to test basic skills and aptitudes. Reading comprehension, ability to follow directions, judgment and reasoning skills, and your ability to read and understand maps and floor plans are some of the skills tested in the written exam. You may or may not be tested on your memory or your math skills, however, you should know that you will not be tested on your knowledge of fire behavior, firefighting procedures, or any other specific body of knowledge.
What is the Physical Ability Test like?
Like the written exam, the physical exam varies from department to department. However, you can guarantee the test is going to be job-related. Some of the tasks you will be asked to complete are:
- Drag a dummy
- Drag a hose
- Climb stairs
- Climb through a tunnel
- Raise and climb a ladder
- Jump over a wall
What are the oral interview and the oral board like?
The oral interview and oral board are critical to the hiring process. The oral interview may find you face-to-face with the chief of the department. You can depend on discussing what the job is like, how well you think you can do the job, and why you want to be a firefighter to begin with. These discussions allow the interviewer to assess your interpersonal skills, and your honesty and comfort level in discussing these topics. In some cases, the interview will include an oral board. The oral board is designed to assess your interpersonal, communication, judgment and decision-making skills. The board itself may consist of two to five people, who may be firefighters, civilian personnel, or even interview specialists. Be ready to answer the same questions you answered in the interview, and to respond to hypothetical situations. Be prepared for both the interview and the board, by practicing answering some questions in advance.
What is the psychological evaluation like?
Not every city requires a psychological evaluation, but it is designed to evaluate your emotional and mental stability before putting you in a high-stress job such as firefighting. The evaluation may consist of written tests or an interview with a psychologist. The test often asks about your interests, attitudes, and background. The interview will cover such topics as your relationships with family and friends, your habits, and your hobbies. Be honest and open as the manner in which you answer your questions, is more important than the answers themselves.
I was told I need to have a medical examination, what is it like?
The medical examination follows a conditional offer for employment. Once you have received a conditional offer, you must pass the medical examination. The exam is similar to a standard physical exam by your doctor. They will check your blood pressure, temperature, weight, heart, lungs, eyes, ears, nose, and mouth. You will also be asked to submit blood and urine for a drug test. It is important that firefighters are in peak physical condition so that they can meet the demands of this job. You will probably be notified in writing in a few weeks, after the test results have come in.
How do I find a job with a fire department?
Career firefighters are generally employed by a municipal or county fire department, usually serving a community with a population of 50,000 or more. Large cities generally have the largest number of career firefighters. In addition, both federal and state government agencies hire firefighters to protect government property and facilities. Privately owned industrial companies also have their own firefighting forces, as do airports, shipyards, military bases. Investigate each of these opportunities to find an employer that is right for you.
Aside from fighting fires, are there other duties required of firefighters?
While the main duty of a firefighter is to fight fires, there are many other tasks included in the job description. Firefighters provide emergency services for natural disasters, gas pipe explosions, bomb threats, and hazardous waste spills. In these situations, basic medical care may be administered by firefighters. In addition, firefighters conduct fire safety inspections, and offer educational seminars to community groups and schools.
What are some tips you can offer to someone looking to begin a career as a firefighter?
The decision to become a firefighter may be the easiest step in this process. Once you've decided to apply, there are still several steps to complete before you are hired. Some tips we have found to be particularly helpful are:
- Get fit. You will need to be in great shape to be considered for the force, so establish a physical fitness program and follow it.
- Do some networking. If you speak with enough people about your plans, you are likely to come across someone who is or knows a firefighter. Use them as resource. Ask questions and get firsthand knowledge of what it is really like to be a firefighter.
- Do some research, contact firefighting organizations, and keep on top of issues and events that affect firefighting.
- Prepare for the written exam. Your test score will determine your future as a firefighter, so be prepared. Study and take practice tests in advance so you will be prepared for the real thing.
- Prepare for the oral interview. To effectively and comfortably answer the questions asked of you during the interview, you must be prepared. Enlist the help of friends or family to conduct mock interviews. Think through your answers ahead of time, but don't memorize your responses; simply prepare yourself to be confident and honest.
What is the typical salary for a firefighter?
This, like many answers to questions about firefighting, depends upon the department. In general, your salary will depend upon where you work and for whom you work. Your level of experience and your level of seniority on the job are also factors in determining your salary. For example, if you work in a smaller city you can expect your salary to be less than a New York City firefighter. In general, the work week is anywhere from 40 to 56 hours per week, and firefighters are entitled to overtime pay which begins after 53 hours per week. Benefits also vary between departments. Usually, unions play a large role in negotiating the salaries and benefits firefighters receive.
What does it require to be a certified firefighter in Virginia?
Attendance at 115 hours for Firefighter I (HMA-CPR) *72 hours for Firefighter II (HMO) ** These hours include Hazardous Materials Awareness and Operations
Do I have to be certified to be a firefighter in Virginia?
There is no requirement to be certified in the Commonwealth of Virginia; however, many jurisdictions do require certifications.
What are the requirements for Fire Officer I, II, III, and IV in Virginia?
There are pre-requisites for each course. Please check the course list for more information
Can I be a fire inspector without having police powers?
Yes – you can be an NFPA 1031 Certified Fire Inspector without police power.
Can I be a firefighter at age 14, 15, or 16?
Only 16 and 17 year olds who are certified as Firefighter I can participate in firefighting duties. See Section 40.1-79.01 for more specific language.
Why does Virginia require CPR and HMA to become certified as a firefighter?
CPR is formatted in the curriculum with a basic first aid course to protect our firefighters on the scene and civilians. HMA is an OSHA requirement under 29 CRR 1910.120 Q
I live in ________ state, how do I transfer my credentials to Virginia?
Contact the VDFP Division Chief where you plan to live. Please check our Office Directory for the contact information of the appropriate Division Chief.
Do you recognize DOD firefighter certifications?
Firefighter II and Hazmat Operations
Virginia accepts NBFSPQ (Pro Board) and IFSAC
What does the term Pro-Board mean to me as a firefighter?
NBFSPQ credentials allow firefighters to easily transfer credentials to an accredited state.
What is IFSAC certification?
IFSAC is the International Fire Science Accreditation College; IFSAC is the second accrediting agency in the US for firefighters.
Applications are available in all area offices as well as on the VDFP website. Cost is $15.00 per individual or $10.00 for group agencies.