How To Get a Firefighter 1 Certification in 4 Steps

Updated January 26, 2023

If you want to become a firefighter, you might wonder how to begin your career. A Firefighter 1 certification is a good start, as it demonstrates essential skills like the ability to extinguish various fires and establish water supplies. Earning this credential qualifies you for entry-level positions and allows you to pursue more advanced certifications. In this article, we teach you how to get a Firefighter 1 certification and explain how it differs from a Firefighter 2 certification.

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What is a Firefighter 1 certification?

A Firefighter 1 certification is a professional credential that demonstrates an individual's firefighter skills. It's available through the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), though the requirements to obtain certification may vary depending on your state's regulations. Candidates typically have to complete training and pass a written and practical exam. Certification helps you obtain firefighter positions by verifying your ability to:

  • Extinguish exterior and interior Class A fires

  • Perform horizontal and vertical ventilation

  • Don personal protective equipment

  • Tie appropriate knots

  • Communicate with telephones and radios during emergencies

  • Establish water supplies

  • Oversee salvage operations

Difference between Firefighter 1 and Firefighter 2 certifications

Firefighter 1 and Firefighter 2 certifications are both professional credentials that demonstrate your firefighter knowledge. Most fire departments require you to have at least a Firefighter 1 certification, making it an important credential to earn to start your career. This certification can help you qualify for volunteer positions and some paid roles. In addition to teaching you basic fire science and safety, a Firefighter 1 certification covers basic rescue operations and the field's history.

After earning your Firefighter 1 certification, you can become a Firefighter 2. This more specialized certification teaches you how to protect evidence and use advanced fire control techniques. It can help you qualify for additional paid firefighter positions, increase your earning potential and expand your responsibilities. Like a Firefighter 1 certification, this credential typically requires you to complete a certain number of training hours and pass exams.

Related: 7 Firefighter Certifications and How To Get Them

How to get a Firefighter 1 certification

Here's how to get your Firefighter 1 certification:

1. Fulfill the basic requirements

Most states require you to be at least 18 years old and have a valid state driver's license to earn your Firefighter 1 certification. Other standard requirements include:

  • Passing a physical fitness test

  • Passing a medical exam and drug test

  • Completing basic first aid training

  • Earning a CPR certification

While a high school diploma or GED is usually sufficient, you can pursue additional education to prepare for training. For instance, you might pursue an associate degree in fire science. Earning a bachelor's degree can help you further prepare for training and increase your future employment opportunities.

Related: How To Get a CPR Certification (With Steps and Benefits)

2. Complete training

After fulfilling the basic requirements, you can begin training for your Firefighter 1 certification. Consider researching programs in your area to find one that's within your budget. Some candidates attend professional fire academies, while others enroll in programs at their local community colleges or universities. Students participate in classroom learning that teaches them the basics of fire science and emergency communications. You also participate in hands-on training to learn how to tie knots and use personal protective equipment. Candidates finish their programs after completing their state's specified number of training hours.

3. Pass the written and practical exams

Once you complete your training program, you can take the Firefighter 1 written and practical exams. Most states administer written exams with 100 questions and require you to pass with a score of at least 70%. The written exam includes fire science content but mainly tests your analytical and critical thinking skills. Questions may also involve basic math, memory, reading comprehension and spatial orientation. Practical exams test skills like tying knots, using protective equipment and forcing entry into restricted buildings.

4. Meet renewal requirements

Many states have renewal requirements that allow you to retain your Firefighter 1 certification. Being an active firefighter is often enough to maintain your status, though you may also complete a refresher course. Understanding your state's renewal requirements can help you keep your job and qualify for more advanced positions.

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Tips for obtaining your Firefighter 1 certification

Here are some tips for obtaining your Firefighter 1 certification:

Shadow a firefighter

Especially if you aren't yet old enough to pursue your Firefighter 1 certification, consider shadowing a firefighter. You can contact your local fire department to see if they offer this opportunity. This experience usually involves a tour of a firehouse and the various equipment these professionals use. By asking questions, you can determine whether this career is right for you and prepare for training.

Secure funding

Earning your Firefighter 1 certification involves several costs. Candidates pay tuition that covers their classroom and hands-on instruction. You may also pay for books, uniforms and exam fees. Consider obtaining a part-time job or using your savings to pay for your expenses. If you require financial support, try to look for funding opportunities. Some programs waive fees for certain populations and offer scholarship opportunities. You can also apply for grants and loans through your local community college.

Related: 22 Firefighter Side Jobs (With Salaries)

Improve your physical fitness

Training for your Firefighter 1 certification is physically demanding. Candidates learn how to carry heavy equipment up ladders and use forcible entry. Aside from strength, candidates benefit from good cardio that allows them to manage lots of stairs. You can prepare for training by improving your physical fitness. Consider participating in regular strength training and aerobic exercises.

Look for flexible programs

If you have a part-time job or take care of your family, try to find a flexible training program. Programs offer day and night classes that you can fit into your schedule. You may also choose an accelerated program that allows you to complete your training quicker than most candidates.

Please note that none of the companies or certifications mentioned in this article are affiliated with Indeed.

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