How to Become a Retained Firefighter

Written by ericka watson
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How to Become a Retained Firefighter
Firefighter wearing an SBA (emergency image by Mat Hayward from

Becoming a retained firefighter is a challenging process that takes careful planning and perseverance to succeed. Fire brigades are becoming more complex, and competition for open positions is fierce. Some departments require training and certification to even submit an application, while others will invest in training the right candidates. Knowing some simple strategies will enable those interested in the fire services to become a retained firefighter.

Skill level:


  1. 1

    Research the hiring requirements of the fire brigades for which you want to be retained. All fire brigades are different and have varying employment requirements. Before applying, make sure you meet the minimum requirements: be at least 18 years old, have a high school diploma or equivalent, and possess a valid driver's license and CPR card, and proof of a physician's physical. Many fire brigades also require Firefighter I & II as well as Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) certifications as a condition of employment.

  2. 2

    Complete an accredited firefighting training course resulting in Firefighter I & II. In some instances, this step will be required. In those cases when it's optional, having this training will prepare you for the job and give you an edge over the competition.

  3. 3

    Complete EMT or Paramedic training and become certified. As in the case of firefighting training, having an EMT certification may or may not be required, but it will be highly desirable to hiring officials, earning you higher starting pay in most instances. The same is true for Paramedic. The more education you have, the more valuable you will become to a fire brigade.

  4. 4

    Volunteer as a firefighter. Sometimes becoming a volunteer firefighter is as difficult as becoming a retained one, but the experience on your resume is invaluable. Hiring officials are looking for dedicated individuals who put service above self.

  5. 5

    Apply to several fire brigades. Fire brigades receive hundreds of applications for each vacancy announcement. Increase your odds of becoming a retained firefighter by being flexible in commuting or relocating if hired for a position.

  6. 6

    Stay in excellent physical condition and pass a physical fitness test. All fire brigades administer physical fitness and agility tests and most use the scores to rank applicants to decide who continues forward in the hiring process. Superior physical ability will help move you to the top of list, and closer to being hired. Not only that, firefighters must be in good physical condition to perform their duties and it's often a condition of continued employment.

  7. 7

    Pass a written exam and oral board. Most fire brigades administer a written exam of some sort, either before or in conjunction with the physical fitness test. They also have an interview process called an oral board. The purpose of the oral board is for several hiring officials to interview the job candidate to find the best person for the job.

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