So You Want to be a Firefighter!!
Young and old, men and women, people are attracted to the fire service for many reasons: the challenge of a physically demanding job, the rewards of performing a service to the community, and/or good pay and benefits. No matter what your motivations, you have to start somewhere. We hope this document is helpful to you, and we hope you will utilize the New Hampshire Fire Academy as a resource to you on your path to becoming a firefighter.
There are a few things you should know before pursuing fire fighting as a career or a civic service. NH, firefighters are broken into three major categories: volunteer, paid-on-call, and permanent.
Volunteer departments manage their firefighters without compensation and those firefighters view their role as a civic service in their community. Call fire departments do not have regular staffed shifts, but compensate firefighters on a per call basis; or they may include a monthly stipend. About 80% of fire departments in NH operate as call or volunteer departments. State law does not require training for these departments. However, for the sake of your individual safety and the safety of those around you, training is strongly encouraged. Most departments have training requirements as part of their standard operating guidelines. Also, most of these departments require their firefighters to be a resident of the town they serve. To find out if volunteer or call opportunities are available in your community, contact your local fire department.
Permanent firefighters are those whose career is fire fighting. Only about 20% of NH fire departments are covered by permanent firefighters, which makes seeking a career in the fire service in NH a competitive process. There are State requirements to be eligible to be a permanent firefighter; they may include, but are not limited to the following:
- High School Diploma or GED.
- 18 years of age.
- Pass entrance exam including a written general knowledge exam and a physical ability exam.
- Pass a pre-employment physical examination.
- Pass a background check - no felony convictions.
- Pass an oral interview.
- Attain Firefighter II status within 12 months of employment.
The statewide entrance exam is offered annually through the Fire Academy. Visit the NH Fire Academy Web site for information and access to printable exam packets. All individuals who successfully complete this exam process are put on a list for the next year. This list is utilized by NH fire departments to identify qualified individuals. Some fire departments generate their own lists of qualified individuals by holding their own exams.
Though the entrance exam is a requirement for eligibility, it may not be your first step in attaining a career in the fire service. All fire departments are looking for a certain level of training before they will even grant an interview. Generally, they are looking for training in fire fighting as well as in Emergency Medical Services (EMS). Training may be obtained in a variety of ways; such as, with the ongoing training at the NH Fire Academy in Concord, as well as with field classes throughout the State, and with the Lakes Region Community College in Laconia where a Fire Science Associates Degree is available.
Certification levels in fire fighting for NH are:
- Firefighter I
- Firefighter II
Full time departments often seek out those who have attained at least a Firefighter II certification.
EMS training is available throughout the State. A course list may be obtained by contacting the NH Bureau of EMS at (603) 223-4200, or by visiting their Web site.
EMS certification levels are:
- Emergency Medical Technician - Basic
- Emergency Medical Technician - Intermediate
There is a high need for Paramedic level firefighters in the State. Attaining at least an EMT - Basic certification will increase your employability status for a full-time fire department in NH.