Firefighters help to protect people from fire and other dangers, and give advice on fire prevention.
Salary range: £23,500 to £38,500
How to become a firefighter
You can get into this job through:
- a college course
- an apprenticeship
- applying directly
- a fire service training course
You could take a Level 2 or 3 Diploma in Public Services before applying to the fire service, although this is not essential.
You’ll usually need:
- 2 or more GCSEs at grades 9 to 3 (A* to D), or equivalent, for a level 2 course
- 4 or 5 GCSEs at grades 9 to 4 (A* to C), or equivalent, for a level 3 course
You may be able to start training on an operational firefighter advanced apprenticeship.
You’ll need to be employed by a fire service to do this.
You’ll usually need:
- GCSEs grades 9 to 4 (A* to C), or equivalent, in English and maths
Volunteering and experience
Volunteering or working in a support role, for example emergency call handling or fire safety, will give you an idea of what the job is like, as well as access to internal vacancies.
You can apply directly to join the fire service. Each one sets its own entry requirements.
Many ask for GCSEs at grades 9 to 4 (A* to C) in English and maths, or equivalent qualifications.
You’ll need to pass:
- an online test to assess your judgement ability in a realistic work setting
- number and reading tests
If you’re successful, you’ll:
- do practical selection tests to find out whether you can do the physical tasks needed for the job
- be interviewed
You could prepare to apply for a job by doing a Level 2 Certificate in Fire and Rescue Services in the Community. This course is usually run by local fire services and is aimed at people who have some responsibility for fire safety, like housing wardens and fire prevention officers.
Most fire services take on new recruits once every 12 months, so you’ll need to find out when they are recruiting next.
You can ask your local fire and rescue service for a firefighter careers and recruitment pack.
What it takes
Skills and knowledge
- knowledge of public safety and security
- customer service skills
- the ability to accept criticism and work well under pressure
- patience and the ability to remain calm in stressful situations
- to be thorough and pay attention to detail
- sensitivity and understanding
- knowledge of training and how to present information
- the ability to work well with others
- to be able to carry out basic tasks on a computer or hand-held device
Restrictions and requirements
You’ll need to:
- pass a fitness test
- pass a medical check
- pass enhanced background checks
- have a full driving licence
- be over 18 years of age
Some fire services may only accept applications from people living in the local and surrounding areas.
What you’ll do
Every day will be different, but you could:
- inspect and maintain equipment
- carry out practice drills and take part in training
- respond to emergency call-outs
- rescue people and animals from burning buildings and accident sites
- control and put out fires
- deal with bomb alerts and floods
- manage chemical or hazardous substance spills
- give presentations to schools and community groups
- inspect buildings to make sure they meet fire safety regulations
You could work at a fire station, at a client’s home or at a client’s business.
Your working environment may be at height, physically and emotionally demanding and cramped.
You may need to wear safety clothing and use safety equipment and a uniform.
Career path and progression
All fire services have a programme that lets you plan and track your career development.
You could work your way up to crew manager, watch manager or station manager. If you’re prepared to move between services, you could become an area manager, a brigade manager or a chief fire officer.
If you’re involved in fire safety and prevention work, you can take professional qualifications leading to membership of the Institution of Fire Engineers (IFE).
You could also get a Heavy Goods Vehicle (HGV) licence for driving fire engines.