Want to become a firefighter in Florida?
Whether you live in Florida or are planning to move there, this guide will tell you everything you need to know.
The path to becoming a firefighter in Florida is similar to other states, except with a few differences. You will have to meet a set of minimum requirements, pass tests and written exams, become an EMT, go through the application process, pass recruit training, and make it through the probationary period.
That might sound like a lot, but we are going to break it down for you!
So, why Florida?
Well, Florida actually has one of the highest employment rates for firefighters by state. It’s also loved for its weather and, in general, is one of the nicest states to live and retire.
With that said, let’s go over with the minimum requirements for becoming a firefighter in Florida.
The minimum requirements are what you will need to meet before applying to become a firefighter in Florida.
To put it simply: if you do not meet the following, it is not worth your time to apply. You will not be considered if you do not have them. These requirements apply to every fire department in Florida, so make sure that you have these on your resume before you send off any applications.
18 Years of Age
You must be at least 18 years of age. Some departments prefer 21, but the general minimum age to become a firefighter is 18.
As for age limit, there is no age limit to become a firefighter. Depending on the fire department, you can still be accepted in your late 40s or early 50s if you have the right qualifications, fitness, and experience.
High School Diploma
You must have a high school diploma before you can apply to become a firefighter. As an equivalent, a GED will also be accepted.
You must be a US citizen to apply, or be legally able to work in the state of Florida.
US Driver’s License
You must have a valid US driving license to apply to become a firefighter. If you do not have one, it is something that you will have to obtain before applying.
While not all firefighters are expected to drive the firetruck, a valid driver’s license is still something that is required.
Clean Criminal Record
All firefighter applicants have to go through a thorough background check. This includes your criminal history, credit score, and social media history.
With that said, it’s worth combing through your social media accounts and removing anything that might be considered unacceptable. This includes asking friends to delete any undesirable posts, if applicable.
If you do have a criminal record, you must demonstrate how you have reformed, or how you are currently reforming.
Good Level of Fitness
You must have good physical fitness at the point of applying to be a firefighter. If you are deemed physically unfit or medically unfit, you will not be accepted as a candidate.
Firefighter training, including recruit training and Fire Academy, involves a lot of physical drills, exercising, and hands-on training.
This is because firefighters are expected to be fit, quick on their feet, and able to move in and out of a building with speed - often lugging heavy gear and equipment at the same time.
With that in mind, it is best to prepare yourself as early on as possible. If you think you could be more physically fit in terms of your stamina and general strength, start working on this as soon as possible!
Emergency Medical Technician
All aspiring firefighters in Florida must be EMTs. This stands for Emergency Medical Technician, and will show that you have general knowledge and skills in treating emergency patients. This includes emergency care, CPR, administering medicine, treating allergies, and so on.
EMT training can take up to six months to complete. You will also have to shoulder the cost for the training, no matter where you choose to take it.
Like the above, being an Emergency Medical Technician is one of the minimum requirements for becoming a firefighter (both volunteer firefighter and professional firefighter/career firefighter). If you do not have EMT certification, you should aim to obtain it as soon as possible before applying.
If you are not an EMT, you will not be considered.
Firefighter 1 and Firefighter 2
Firefighter 1 is the next step you will need to take after earning your EMT certification. Take note: you will need to be a certified EMT to be able to enroll yourself for Firefighter 1!
Firefighter 1 is a training program that equips with you with the basics for becoming a firefighter. In Florida, in particular, it is one of the requirements.
The coursework and training involves classes, lectures, physical tests, manipulative evolutions, and live-fire drills. You will need to complete the minimum of 206 hours of training to complete the program.
To give you a general idea, the program will include fire science and fire behavior, forced entry and extrication, using equipment such as ladders, ropes, and fire hoses, as well as working effectively in a team.
After Firefighter 1, you can progress to Firefighter 2. Again, this is a requirement for becoming a firefighter in Florida!
Firefighter 2 will provide you with extensive firefighter training, with a more advanced take on applying the basic firefighting skills you learned in Firefighter 1. By the time you have completed Firefighter 2, you can consider yourself ready to become a professional firefighter.
Remember: Firefighter 1 and Firefighter 2 training is something you will have to pay for, as well as apply for.
EMT and Firefighter 1 and 2 training are requirements in Florida. Having earned these qualifications will also make your application more appealing in other states!
However, if you decide to, you can take your training further if you really want to stand out when applying to become a recruit at any Florida fire department.
Optional firefighter training can include volunteer firefighting, volunteer charity work - or anything public service-related - and paramedic training (the next stage after EMT training).
While this will require you to invest more time and money, it could pay off in the long run by effectively getting you hired quicker. Of course, the more qualified you are, the higher the chances will be for you to ace the application process and be accepted as a recruit.
How to Apply to Become a Firefighter in Florida
Once you meet the minimum requirements, including EMT, Firefighter 1 and Firefighter 2 certification, you are ready to start applying to be a firefighter in Florida!
You may have a fire department in mind, maybe one that is located close to where you live or where you want to live. Take note that fire departments are not all the same, with some fire departments
In general, fire departments in Florida will hire in batches, as opposed to on a single-person basis.
Apply to More Than One Fire Department
As stated, fire departments hire in batches. Because of this, you can expect to face a lot of competition at the hiring stage, no matter where you apply or the time of the year that you choose to apply.
This also makes it a good reason to be as qualified and as mentally and physically prepared as possible before you start applying. For some, it can take months, or sometimes years, to be accepted to their fire department of choice.
For that reason, it is a good idea to apply to as many fire departments as you can. This will obviously increase your chances of getting hired. And if you get accepted by multiple fire departments, you can simply choose the fire department that you find the most ideal for you.
It is worth asking yourself, then, how flexible you are in terms of where you want to work and where you want to live in Florida.
Once you are accepted into a fire department, you will be officially accepted as a firefighter recruit. This will come with additional firefighter training, along with a full-time salary.
At this stage, however, you will still not be considered a professional firefighter.
Recruit training, similar to Firefighter 1 and Firefighter 2 training, is mandatory for all recruits (at any fire department) even if you have Firefighter 1 and Firefighter 2 certification. The good thing is that you will be prepared, as well as getting paid throughout the duration of the training.
After recruit training, you will be hired and expected to go through the probationary period. At this point, you will be considered a professional firefighter. Congratulations!
Probation is necessary for all hired firefighters and can last anything from a year to two years.
In general, you will be under supervision throughout probation in terms of how well you are applying your skills and working together as part of the fire department team.
From this, only your department supervisor will decide when you are ready to become a fully-fledged career firefighter.
Frequently Asked Questions
How Long Does It Take to Become a Firefighter?
The answer to this question depends on whether you choose to earn some of the optional qualifications and achievements, which we listed above. While these will take time, they will increase your chances of getting accepted as a recruit.
As a general estimation, however, how long it takes to become a professional firefighter in Florida can be anything from 3 years to 6 years, sometimes longer.
This accounts for EMT training, earning your Firefighter 1 and Firefighter 2 certifications, applying to fire departments (and getting accepted), recruit training, and the probationary period after being hired.
How Much Does It Cost?
While it will cost you to earn the necessary qualifications to apply to become a firefighter, you can quickly earn this back if you are accepted as a firefighter recruit, which is when you will start getting paid.
Remember, you will have to pay for your EMT training, as well as your Firefighter 1 and Firefighter 2 training. If you are yet to obtain your driving license or US citizenship, these are things that you will also have to pay for.
Depending on where you choose to enrol on these programs, it can cost you several thousands of dollars. Therefore, it’s worth saving up as soon as you can.
What is the Salary for Firefighters in Florida?
The salary for firefighters in Florida varies depending on the city and the fire department itself.
But, in general, the average salary for a firefighter in Florida is between $32,000 and $54,000 a year.
Another factor that might affect how much a firefighter in Florida earns is the qualifications they have at the point of applying.
How Hard Is It to Become a Firefighter?
As firefighting is a public service role that involves putting yourself in danger and saving lives, it is not an easy job. Training to become a firefighter is also difficult.
Firefighter training will challenge you mentally, physically, and academically. Expect long days involving classes, workouts, manipulative firefighter drills, exams, fitness tests, and squeezing in time to study.
Of course, if you are driven and determined to become a professional firefighter, and consider helping others to be your calling, or passion, in life, then this will make your path to becoming a firefighter easier - even enjoyable!