Firefighters are responsible for combatting sudden outbreaks of fire in all types of residential and commercial buildings. As first responders to unforeseen fire eruptions as well as medical emergencies, they put out fires, rescue anyone trapped in a burning building, and provide first aid to anyone in need.
Pennsylvania’s firefighters are also licensed EMTs (Emergency Medical Technicians) and are often referred to as Firefighter EMTs. According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, there are close to 4,400 firefighters performing their duties in the Keystone State as of 2019. Do you want to join this profession? Here is a detailed guide to tell you exactly how to become a firefighter in Pennsylvania.

Should I Become a Firefighter in Pennsylvania?

  • Education
  • Area(s) of Study
  • Licenses/Certifications
  • Experience/Training
  • Key Skills
  • Annual Mean Salary (2019) National
  • Job Outlook (2018-28)
  • Annual Mean Salary (2019) – New Jersey
  • High School Diploma/GED (General Educational Development) Certificate
  • Fire Science, Fire Management, Emergency Medical Services, Fire Engineering, etc.
  • Required
  • Required
  • Public Safety and Security, Communication, Multi-Limb Coordination, Active Listening, Arm-Hand Steadiness, Static Strength.
  • $54,650
  • 5%
  • $58,720

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (2019)

Working as a firefighter comes with significant health and safety risks. This is especially the case whenever a plea for help involves going into a burning building. Because of this, fire departments require people with supreme physical fitness. Work shifts tend to rotate but most fire service personnel have to be on call throughout the day.

Career Outlook

According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, firefighting jobs will grow by 5% from 2018 to 2028. This is about as much as the average increase expected in other professions. Even with the vastly improved quality of building materials and adoption of better safety protocols, firefighters would still have a job to do as unforeseen fire eruptions remain a possibility.

Steps to Become a Firefighter in Pennsylvania

Meet the Educational Demands

To become a fire service professional, you are only required to complete a High School Diploma or GED (General Educational Development) Certificate. However, attaining any level of specialized post-secondary education will be beneficial for your career.
In this regard, you can go for different diploma and certificate programs (6 months to 1 year) in Fire Science or a related subject. There are also in-depth degree programs available such as the following:

  • Associate of Science in Fire Science (2 years)
  • Bachelor of Science in Fire Engineering (4 years)

Submit Your Employment Application

Once the education criteria have been fulfilled, you can apply for a job with your local or state firefighting unit.

Pass the Written Test

The written test is usually the first assessment to be cleared. It involves questions on basic reading, listening skills, problem-solving techniques and mathematical/analytical abilities.

Qualify the Physical Exam

You may need to take the standardized Candidate Physical Ability Test (CPAT). Various departments also have their own evaluations in this regard.

Medical Test and Background Scrutiny

Following the physical exam, you must clear the medical test and undergo an extensive background investigation.

Complete Firefighter Training

After coming through the initial screening process, you will be selected for training at a fire academy within the state. Over there, you have to undergo firefighting and EMT training for 5 months. You will graduate with Firefighter I and EMT certificates to begin your career.

How Long Does It Take to Become a Firefighter in Pennsylvania?

If you decide to pursue employment with a fire unit immediately after high school, then you just have to undergo training. This takes less than a year. However, if you plan on attaining some specialized post-secondary education first, then the time taken (between 1 and 5 years) will depend on your chosen study program.

What Are the Requirements for Becoming a Firefighter in Pennsylvania?

Following are the requirements for becoming a firefighter in Pennsylvania.

  • At least 18 years of age.
  • Hold legal US citizenship, whether by birth or naturalization.
  • Possess a High School Diploma or GED Certificate.Candidates must have a clean criminal record
  • Have a valid Pennsylvania driver’s license.
  • Must not be a convicted criminal.
  • Successfully complete firefighting and EMT training.

How Much Can I Make After Becoming a Firefighter in Pennsylvania?

As per the latest data made public by the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, Pennsylvania’s firefighters had an annual mean income of $58,720 in 2019. This figure is higher than the national annual mean salary of $54,650.