Minimum Qualifications (to take the test or remain employed after getting a job): These items can vary from department to department. Some departments only require a candidate to be 18 years old and have a high school diploma or G.E.D. Others may require a candidate to be at least 21 years old, be a paramedic with at least two years of paramedic experience, and also have a state firefighter 1 certificate.
KEY POINT #1 - Make sure you meet the minimum requirements or your application will usually be rejected. If you don't meet the minimum requirements, take note of what you do need to take that test in the future. Those are things you should be striving to obtain!
KEY POINT #2 - If there are minimum qualifications to take the test, does the application state that you are to provide a copies of those qualifications with your application? If so, follow those directions or your application may be rejected. I've heard too many candidates say they were rejected because they didn't include a copy of a certain certificate. Don't let yourself fall into the same trap - set yourself up for success by reading the job flyer and highlighting things such as what copies need to be included with the application.
Final Filing Date: This is probably one of the most important things to note. Highlight this date and time. I've heard too many candidates say "I thought they were still accepting applications" after the filing period had ended. Note this date and put it in your calendar. You should actually turn that application in a.s.a.p. Some departments (like the one I work for), actually use the date that the application was filed as a tie-breaker in case of a tie score on the hiring list. Why sit on it and take that chance? Also, some departments only pass out a certain amount of applications and accept a certain number back. I've seen filing dates as saying "Friday February 20 (or until 500 applications have been received - whichever comes first."). Application Filing Location: Some departments allow you to mail in your application, while some say you can drop them off in person at a certain location, on a certain date, and/or during a certain time frame. Some departments also only allow the person putting in the application to turn in the application. So before you have your friend or loved one drop it off (and have to face the rejection), read the fine print and follow the directions. I would always suggest going in person because then you know it was received.
Wages and Benefits: You are usually not in the position to pick and choose between fire departments. If you are not already a full-time firefighter, there is virtually no reason why you shouldn't be taking every test you qualify for and then accept that first job offer. However, you still need to be aware of the wage and benefit differences between departments. Some of the wage and benefit issues you should be aware of are as follows:
1. Salary - I can't think of anyone that becomes a firefighter to get rich. Don't get me wrong, I believe I am well compensated for the work I do, and it allows me to lead a comfortable life. Regardless, you need to be aware of salary issues. Every now and then I hear candidates say that they wouldn't work for a certain department because they don't pay that well. If you don't have a job, are you really in a position to say that? I don't think so. Also, why are you becoming a firefighter - because you really want to do the job, or because you want to make great money? I know many firefighters that work at great departments for less money than they could make at not-so-great departments. To them, a great department might mean a high call volume or high fire volume.
Salaries can be deceiving. Many departments start out their recruits at a little over minimum wage. One person told me they wouldn't work for this one big city because they only paid $2000 per month, and they couldn't afford that. I then asked if they had read the job flyer or done any homework. They said no. I told them to not believe everything they read. Yes, that department only pays you $2000 per month during the four-month recruit academy (many departments pay a lower wage during the academy because you really haven't proven yourself yet and because they can). Upon completion of the academy, that department then bumps you up to the range of $5000 per month (step 1 firefighter), and then once a year from that date you complete the academy, you are eligible to receive "step" raises to a top firefighter salary of around $7000 per month.