We are often told by our peers that we are never too old to start our lives over, even when it comes to changing careers.
Whether we decide to go back to school and gain extra qualifications, or we decide that we would like to apply for a new career path, there is often no age limit. Did you know that Sir Christopher Lee was a flight lieutenant in the Royal Air Force before he started his acting career in his 30s?
Harrison Ford was a carpenter before he received his first major role. Steve Buchemi used to be a firefighter, and even returned to his previous career for a short period of time following the 9/11 attacks, helping out the New York Fire Department.
Of course, those people mentioned all became famous actors. Unlike them, many of us don’t have the future goal to star in Hollywood blockbusters (although we would love the money that comes with it).
However, if these seemingly ‘normal’ people were able to become world-famous stars after leaving their old jobs behind, what is stopping anyone else from changing their career path later on in life?
If you are reading this article, you may be considering Buchemi’s previous occupation: you have thought about becoming a firefighter, and whether or not you would be able to.
Being a firefighter is no easy task, and there is no doubt that you are already aware of this fact. Perhaps this is what has drawn you to the career in the first place: you love a challenge, and you want to help others.
Good for you! However, as you surely are aware, being a firefighter is a fairly active profession, and requires strength and mobility.
If you have hit the big 3-0, whether it was recently or a couple of years ago, you may be wondering if you are actually too old to consider this as a new career. Maybe this door has shut forever, and you will never be able to live out your true dream.
Don’t panic! If these questions are lingering on your mind, we’re here to help you.
Continue reading to find out how old - or, rather, how young - you must be to start a new career in the fire department.
Is There an Age Limit?
Let’s cut straight to the case: are you too old to become a firefighter?
You will be happy to learn that the answer is, generally, ‘no’. There are many fire departments that do not have an age limit, meaning you can join whether you are 30, 40, or even 50.
Some departments do have age limits, but they will make you aware of this when you make an application.
The age range can sometimes be, roughly, between 18 years old and 40 years old. This is great news for those of you who are still in your thirties as you almost definitely have a shot, but for those who are a little older, you may need to look slightly harder for an opening.
This doesn’t mean that you don’t have a shot: it just means you have less options.
Some areas are particularly strict, and their cut off age may be as young as 25-30. However, there are so many areas in which there is no age limit, and you should be able to apply. There are many options out there for you, so don’t be quick to call it quits.
Requirements to Become a Firefighter
The main reason that age becomes a factor when hiring a firefighter is pretty obvious and fair: as a general rule, the older you are, the less fit and healthy you are. This is a generalisation, however, and there are definitely several 50 year olds in this world who could outrun some 20 year olds.
Age is not always a clear indicator of health, and this is why a lot of fire departments do not require an age limit.
Having said all that, it doesn’t mean that you will automatically be given a job as a firefighter just because your chosen department doesn’t have an age cut-off.
The same rules apply to younger people: even if you are a fresh-faced 18 year old, you’re still not guaranteed a place at this particular workplace.
There are several requirements that need to be met by aspiring firefighters, and these rules are pretty strict. Being a member of the fire department is a very serious occupation, and you will need to consider the following conditions before you think about applying for that job opening.
Meet Age Requirements
While there may not be an age cap at most fire departments, there is still an age requirement in the sense that you must, legally, be eighteen years or older.
Those below the legal age of requirement can look into training as a junior firefighter from the age of sixteen in some areas, but the work is limited until you become of age.
Maintain a Clean Record
Everybody makes mistakes in life, but if you have a tarred criminal record, it may be harder for you to apply for this career.
During the interview process, the ones doing the interviewing and hiring will do a background check on each applicant at some point, so there is no way you can hide it from them.
The best thing you can do is be honest about your past mistakes (if you are asked about them) and depending on how serious those mistakes were, you may or may not be considered for the role.
Meet Qualification Requirements
Depending on where you are from, you will need certain qualifications to get into the firefighting career. It is important that you gain as many certifications as you can while you are in school, and owning a degree in a suitable area could also help your chances.
It is also useful to have some experience as an EMT (Emergency Medical Technician), or any other kind of qualification that relates to this job, and would impress the board.
There will also be a written exam during the interview process, so you will need to make sure that you have studied hard beforehand. This exam will include questions with multiple choice answers, and they will be divided into several sections.
Make sure that you have studied thoroughly before you take the exam, as this could be the difference between you passing or failing the overall interview process.
Maintain a Healthy Lifestyle
While the previous steps are just as important, this is the one that may make or break your chances at getting into this career. If you are out-of-shape, there is no way you will be able to pass the physical ability tests.
You will need to be in pretty good physical condition to become a firefighter for the obvious reasons: there will be a lot of climbing, lifting and other forms of strenuous activity involved in this job, and if you are unable to keep up, you won’t get in.
The physical tests will be difficult to pass if you are even slightly out of shape, so take this into consideration before you apply.
Any health conditions will also be considered during your application, so think long and hard about whether this job really is suitable for you and your lifestyle.
It is also important that you have a healthy mental state. If you suffer from a mental illness or disorder, you will need to be evaluated in order to ensure you can work safely.
If your mental health is manageable, and it is known for certain that it won’t affect your ability to work, there should be no problem. After all, being a firefighter is an extremely important role to play: if you make a mistake at the wrong time, someone could lose their life.
A firefighter needs to be dependable, both physically and mentally.
The Pros and Cons of Being Older
So, let’s say that you have all the achievements and skills that are required to become a firefighter: we now must go back to the original question.
While there may be no age limit for this career, in many cases, your age may still affect your chances of getting the job.
Even if you are in incredible shape, and you have the ability to run circles around your possible co-workers, you are still more likely to become more seriously injured than a younger person applying for the same job.
Recovery times get longer as you get older, and your employers may take this into consideration if the decision comes down to choosing between you and someone in their early twenties. This is an unfortunate reality that you may come to face.
On the other hand, you may have qualities that younger people will lack.
You are not just older than these other applicants physically, but also mentally, meaning that you may have had relevant experience over the years that they haven’t. It’s pretty cliche, but you’ll most likely be wiser than these younger people, too. This could be taken into consideration.
While physical ability is extremely important while applying to become a firefighter, your mental ability is equally important. If you have gained qualifications over the years that could give you a head start in this career, even better!
If you have the physical and mental ability that is required, there is no reason that the department shouldn’t consider you as a candidate for the job.
So, To Answer the Original Question
The overall answer that you are looking for is: realistically, you may be considered too old to apply for some firefighter positions.
However, there are plenty that you will be able to apply for, and providing you do your research, you should have no trouble finding a place at the fire department that you will be qualified to apply for.
As we discussed, there are plenty of factors that are considered when a person applies for a firefighter position, and if you don’t meet a number of the criteria mentioned, you won’t be able to join this career anyhow.
So, if you do meet the previously mentioned criteria, and you believe that you are fit and healthy despite your age, there is no reason you shouldn’t apply for this career. So many people disregard their chances at applying for a new job after reaching a certain age, and for no reason!
Even if you are 50 years old, you’re still considerably young, and if you feel that you are both physically and mentally prepared for the tasks at hand, you should definitely
While it can be an extremely tiring, and sometimes draining occupation, it is also so rewarding.
The good outweighs the bad, and if you are lucky enough to gain a career at a fire department, you will be able to sleep easy at night knowing that you are spending your days helping those in need.