Skip Navigation
Photo of a Firefighter City of San Luis Obispo
Fire Department

SearchContact UsCity Home

So, you think you want to be a Firefighter?

Q. What exactly does a Firefighter do?

  • Extinguish fires of all types (structure, vehicle, vegetation).
  • Provide emergency medical care to the sick and injured as EMT's/Paramedics.
  • Respond to traffic collisions and perform technical rescue.
  • Respond to hazardous materials incidents.
  • Perform fire prevention and safety inspections of buildings/ occupancies.
  • Presentations to the public on fire safety and disaster preparedness.
  • Training (your education never ends)-Firefighters must be proficient at many things. 
  • Clean, maintain, and repair fire apparatus/equipment and stations.

Q.  What education/work experience/qualifications should I have?

  • Complete your high school education.
  • Go to college-get a 2-year or 4-year degree (e.g. AA in Fire Science, BS-any major). College helps make you a well-rounded individual, helps you develop your communication skills, exposes you to a variety of people and situations.
  • Obtain EMT-I certification (Allan Hancock College, ph# 805-922-6411 or Cuesta College ph# 805-546-3140 offers this certification class).
  • Firefighter-I academy/certification (Allan Hancock College has a fire science program).
  • Get experience-Cal-Fire (805-543-4244) or US Forest Service (805-925-9538) as a seasonal Firefighter, reserve/paid call Firefighter with Pismo Beach, South Bay, Grover Beach, Arroyo Grande, Morro Bay, Avila Beach, Atascadero, Paso Robles, Cal-Fire/County Fire volunteer companies, etc.
  • Become an EMT-I with a private ambulance company (San Luis Ambulance, American Medical Response).
  • Paramedic school/licensure-Daniel Freeman Hospital in Los Angeles, NCTI in Santa Barbara County, Kern County EMSA).
  • Develop/maintain physical fitness and strength - upper body strength and aerobic capacity.
  • Learn a second language (e.g. Spanish).

Q.  How do I find out about entry level Firefighter examinations?

  • Subscribe to the mailing service of Perfect Firefighter Candidate test notification service (1-800-326-8401), or Fire Hire, etc.
  • Submit interest cards to Fire Department/Human Resource Departments. The State Fire Marshal's Office has a directory of all the Fire Departments in the state.
  • Research the Departments you will be testing with - visit the stations, talk with the people who work there.

Q.  What is involved in the testing process?

A.  It differs from department-to-department, but in general ...

  • Application - often have to wait in line to get one.
  • Written test - general aptitude test which covers math, reading comprehension, mechanical aptitude, problem-solving abilities.
  • Physical agility test - several tasks.   This may be timed and/or pass/fail.  Usually tests strength and aerobic fitness.  Few or no learned skills are tested.
  • Oral Board Interview - the big hurdle.
  • Chief's Oral Interview - the top several candidates get this far.
  • Background check.
  • Physiological testing/physical exam/fingerprinting.

Q.  What type of person is the Fire Department looking for?

A.  Male or female, team-player, motivated, flexible/adaptive ability to think on feet, ability to work long hours under stressful conditions, ability to work with/get along with all types of people/personalities, ability to take direction/follow commands, bilingual, but most of all, someone who enjoys helping others.

Q.  How much do Firefighters make?

A.  Full-time, professional Firefighters start at approximately $50,000 per year locally. Firefighters who are also licensed as Paramedics can make a little more.

In Conclusion ...

Be persistent, don't give up. Take all the tests you can. It may take several years. The competition for entry level positions is very high. Use the time to build your qualifications. It is a great way to make a living!               

About the Department | History | Facilities | Apparatus | Administration | Operations | Training | Public Outreach | Fire Prevention | Disaster Preparedness | CERT | Developer’s Guide | Photo Gallery | Links | FAQs | What’s New | Department Home

About the City | Visiting SLO | City Government | Employment
Bids & Proposals | FAQs | Press Room | How are we doing?

©2014 City of San Luis Obispo