What is the age limit for becoming a firefighter? Am I too old?
We all have dreams and aspirations. Our dreams and aspirations can change in an instant, and sometimes we do not realize what we want to do, or what our true calling might be, until later on in life.
There is no problem with that, as life is not a race! But for some careers, you do need to reach a set number of requirements and be physically able to do the job.
One of those careers is being a firefighter.
As for how old you have to be to become a firefighter, the minimum age is 18. For some fire departments, the minimum age could be 21.
In this guide, however, we will focus on another question: Am I too old to become a firefighter?
First of all, we applaud your ambition. It takes courage to jump into a new career path, and firefighting is not an easy job - nor is it easy to become a firefighter.
But are you “too old”?
Find all the answers you are looking for below.
Am I Too Old to Become a Firefighter?
If you are thinking about becoming a firefighter, but are worried that you are too old, the answer mostly depends on two things:
- The fire department
- Whether you are physically able
Fire service departments in different states will vary in terms of whether you are considered too old, alongside whether young applicants have to be 18 or 21.
However, the most important thing is if you are physically able to be a firefighter.
It’s no secret that firefighting is not an easy job. It is physically challenging, and will require you to be quick on your feet, fit enough to climb stairs (carrying gear), and strong enough to comfortably use the equipment and various firefighter tools.
For the most part, there is no real age limit for becoming a firefighter.
Of course, if you are in your 60s or late 50s, you would, in general, be considered too old. You would most likely understand that already being close to retirement, and would not be pursuing a career in firefighting this late on.
However, that still does not mean there will not be a fire department that would hire you!
All in all, it really depends on the fire department and your level of physical fitness.
Another factor is what you bring to the table in terms of your qualifications and skill set. If you are physically fit and highly qualified, you might even stand out more than the younger applicants!
With that said, what are the requirements for becoming a firefighter?
There are a handful of minimum requirements that need to be met before you can even apply to become a firefighter.
There are also various qualifications that you can earn to put on your resume and make yourself stand out at the point of applying.
The minimum requirements for becoming a firefighter are:
- 18 or 21 years of age (depending on the fire department)
- High school diploma or GED certificate
- US citizenship, legally able to work
- US driver’s license
- Clean background
- Physically and mentally fit
- EMT certification (you are a certified Emergency Medical Technician)
As you can see, you must be at least 18, have a high school diploma or GED, a US citizenship and US driving license, clean background, and be physically fit at the point of applying.
Firefighting is a public service, therefore it is required that you have a clean background. That entails having a clean criminal record and a clean social media history. If you do not have a clean criminal record, you must demonstrate the steps you are taking to reform or recompense.
Also, as touched on earlier, you must be physically fit to be a firefighter. You will exercise daily and be tested on your physical fitness throughout the training process, however it is worth going in with an adequate level of physical fitness.
If you are overweight or clinically obese, this is something that you will have to overcome before you apply.
While the other minimum requirements for becoming a firefighter are things you most likely already have, EMT certification is one requirement that you might have yet to earn.
EMT certification, which means that you have passed the training to become a certified Emergency Medical Technician, is a necessary requirement due to the fact that firefighters do not just put out fires, but save lives.
EMT training will provide you with the necessary foundational knowledge for treating patients in an emergency setting. This includes CPR, resuscitation, medicine administration, emergency patient protocol, and so forth.
The training, depending on where you take it, can take up to six months to complete. You can expect this to involve practical tests, written exams, classes, and studying.
How Long Does It Take to Become a Firefighter?
Here is another thing to take into consideration.
How long it takes to become a firefighter will depend on the requirements you already meet and the qualifications you still have to earn. As we just mentioned, being a certified EMT is one of the minimum requirements.
So, if you still have to take EMT training, this will “set you back” at least half a year.
The short answer is that the path to becoming a firefighter is different for everyone, which means there is no single answer.
If you already meet the minimum requirements, including EMT certification, then you can start applying to fire departments.
Something to take note of, however, is that there is usually a lot of competition to becoming a firefighter. Fire departments tend to hire in batches, too, which means you will be up against a group of other aspiring candidates.
With that said, if you want to increase your odds of being hired, it’s worth making yourself more attractive by investing time in earning more qualifications.
While this is optional, these qualifications can include paramedic certification and a college degree in Firefighter 1 training or a fire-related field.
Again, all of these things will increase the time it takes you to become a firefighter - worth taking into consideration in regard to your current age.
In general, it can take anything from 3 years to 5 years to become a professional firefighter, sometimes longer.
This is a general timeline that includes EMT training, a college degree, the application and hiring process, fire academy training and probation. If you want to be a volunteer firefighter, however, the time frame will be shorter.
The Difference Between Professional Firefighter and Volunteer Firefighter
What is the difference between professional and volunteer firefighting?
This is another important question that will determine whether you are accepted based on your age and how long it will take you to become a firefighter.
As we briefly mentioned, becoming a volunteer firefighter will in general be a shorter process.
You will still need to meet the minimum requirements and go through fire academy training, but you will not have to go through the usual application process, and probationary period, that is required of aspiring professional firefighters.
The same applies, however: there is no age limit for becoming a volunteer firefighter or applying to become a volunteer firefighter. Again, you just have to make sure you are physically fit and physically competent to perform what is required of the job.
Will I Fit In As an Older Candidate?
Something that might discourage you from applying to become a firefighter is if you will fit in as an older candidate.
The thing to remember here is that not all aspiring firefighters are applying directly from college. As detailed above, the path to becoming a firefighter is different for everyone.
This depends on what qualifications they choose to earn for themselves, how long it takes to pass the training, and how quickly they get accepted (hired) as a recruit.
So, it is worth noting that, even if you might be the oldest candidate, you will not be in a pool of fresh college graduates. You can expect there to be candidates of all ages, whether that is candidates in their 20s, 30s, and 40s.
As a result, you will fit in as a candidate for the simple reason that, just like the others, you are an aspiring firefighter. When it comes to the actual recruit training, what will matter the most is how well you perform on a physical and academic level.
In fact, you will stand out as an applicant if you are better qualified. You may also outperform younger recruits during training if you are more physically fit, more experienced and more trained than they are.
With that said, it’s best to go into your career in firefighting as prepared as possible!
Do I Have What It Takes to Be a Firefighter?
This is a question for you to answer yourself.
Whether you have what it takes to become a firefighter is a matter of both your mindset and physical ability.
It does not matter if you are in your 30s, 40s or 50s; if you meet the minimum requirements and have the desire, commitment, as well as physical and mental capabilities, then nothing is stopping you from becoming a professional firefighter or volunteer firefighter.
Ultimately, there is no age limit; the limit is how far you can push yourself mentally and physically!
How Hard is Firefighter Training?
Finally, to have a better idea of whether you have what it takes to become a firefighter - no matter your age - it is worth understanding what firefighter training involves.
Whether you are thinking about enrolling in a college degree at a fire academy, or are wondering what recruit training involves after being hired, it is important to note that firefighter training is both physical and academic.
Expect lectures, classwork, daily workouts and physical tests, evolutions and live-fire drills, written exams, and more. This is all in a five-day week that will require you to be up early, in addition to studying late at night.
Firefighters are required to know how to act fast in life-threatening situations, how to operate different types of mechanical equipment, how to treat patients in an emergency setting, and how to suppress and control fire from a scientific perspective.
Just some of the basic firefighter skills and knowledge that you will have to learn include the science of fire behavior, radio communication, fire hoses and nozzles, ladders, ropes and knots, hazardous materials, forcible entry, extrication, and so on.
It makes sense, then, that being and becoming a firefighter is both a practical and academic challenge.
If you think you can handle studying, working out, and performing under pressure in live-fire drills, then nothing should stop you from taking up a career as a firefighter.