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Firefighter Entry Certifications

The majority of fire departments in CA that are hiring new firefighters are taking advantage of the great number of fire academy graduates who are looking for fire jobs. They write into their minimum qualifications items that will save them time and money in training new hires. Things like, Firefighter One Certificate, Emergency Medical Technician, High School Graduate, and sometimes Paramedic, are becoming more and more common. So letís look at what these credentials really entail for the fire fighter candidate.

Firefighter One Certified Lateral Candidate

This is for the full time firefighter looking to change departments. The lateral candidate is usually required to have been a full time employee of a fire department for one year or more depending on the agency requirements. These are pretty common especially for departments looking for experienced people or paramedic/firefighters.

Firefighter One

This is for the fire academy graduate looking for work. Most fire departments in CA set this as a minimum criteria in an effort to cut the costs of training the recruits after hiring them. A great number of departments in CA still do not require this training and the aggressive fire department job seeker will key in on these, testing as much as possible. Itís always nice getting hired and not having to put oneself through all the costs and time associated with the fire academy experience. There area a great number of junior colleges in CA offering the fire academy certificate. To find the nearest one the prospective candidate can simply call the local college and ask who does offer it in the area. Or, go to the CA State Fire Marshalís web site using any search engine. The CA State Fire Marshal has set minimum standard criteria for the fire academy system and all colleges offering the program must obey those standards or risk loosing their accreditation. Now comes the secret. Not all of the academies are the same. They all must meet the minimum standards, but many have chosen to exceed them, costing the student more time and money before graduating. Exceeding the standard is not a bad thing in any way except time spent in school. Those running longer than average academies are obviously offering more education. Itís up to the student to set his or her own value as to how much time they want to spend in school before getting a job. A student can graduate with the same certificate in up to 2 weeks faster than one at another college academy. So, itís important to really check into the college you choose to attend. It is also important to note that the different colleges offering the fire academies set different pre-academy requirements. Some require one or two classes at that college, some require quite a few classes at their college prior to application, and some do not require any. So, itís important to check on that when looking for a fire academy. And, lastly, some colleges are impacted in their fire science divisions. This means that some classes may be hard to get, and some colleges run lotteries to get into their academies causing a potential wait of up to a year before getting into the academy, even when fully qualified. Itís like shopping for a car. Take your time and find the one that best suits your needs and desires.

Emergency Medical Technician

Many fire departments are requiring this certificate of the applicant. This is a state certified class offered by a number of institutions. Itís easiest to find in the junior colleges in CA, however a number of ROP programs offer it also. Itís a medical class that meets State EMS requirements. The final exam is a state exam and therefore offers a state certificate. The certificate is good for two years, and then in order to stay certified, the student must take a recertification class and exam before their certification expires.


Many fire departments across the state and the country are now asking for paramedic licensed applicants. Again, this is an effort to save them literally thousands of dollars in training their medics. They hire people already trained and licensed. The Paramedic/Firefighter who has been a medic as well as a firefighter for a paid fire department for some time is in the best possible position for hiring on any department. So, there is quite a lot of movement for people with these credentials. What does it take to be a paramedic? First the candidate has to have his or her EMT Certificate and have had some working experience using the certificate. This can be gained working for an ambulance company, as a reserve firefighter, volunteer firefighter or in an emergency room. Then the candidate must enroll in a college that has a paramedic program and there are a bunch all over CA. The paramedic license is a set series of classes and field work over almost a yearís time. There is classroom work, lab work and actual field work involved. And tests, lots of tests all through the process. In fact, itís suggested in many cases that the potential paramedic student should take an anatomy class or two ahead of time to make the study easier during the classes. Then lastly, after acquiring the license, the medic must keep the skills learned current by actually working as a medic on a regular basis. Again, in an emergency room, or for an ambulance company, or on a fire department in some fashion.


In summary there are a number of ways to get a job as a firefighter. The very best way is to begin testing with any department you are eligible for. Start today! Then, while testing around the state or country, go for the classes. Go for the academy, EMT and maybe paramedic. When done with those get your degree in fire science or fire technology. With luck youíll be hired long before putting yourself through the classes detailed above. Some lucky fire department will pay for you to go through the classes after youíre on the job and earning a salary. Good luck.

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