How Do I Become a Smokejumper? (with pictures)

Dan Cavallari
Dan Cavallari
The job of a smokejumper isn't a good fit for everyone, such as individuals with children or health issues.
The job of a smokejumper isn't a good fit for everyone, such as individuals with children or health issues.

If you are considering a path to become a smokejumper, you should first assess whether you are prepared for the rigors of the job. Smokejumping is extremely dangerous, and it may not be the best choice if you have health issues, or if you are married and have children.You will ultimately need to decide if you are in the right condition in terms of health and family life to become a smokejumper; a good way to determine this is to volunteer as a firefighter in your area to get a feel for the dangers of the job.

Working as a firefighter can be a step toward becoming a smokejumper.
Working as a firefighter can be a step toward becoming a smokejumper.

You will need to complete training to become a smokejumper, and most smokejumping schools will require that you have a background in firefighting, agriculture, or forestry. Take some college classes in these areas to be prepared for the coursework, and if possible, find work as a firefighter in your area. Research as much as possible about the requirements to become a smokejumper; age, weight, and height requirements are likely, and you will need to pass color-blindness tests as well. Your vision will need to be perfect or near-perfect with or without glasses, and you will need to be in peak physical condition.

Make sure you allot several years to preparing to become a smokejumper. During those years, gain the experience and education you need to qualify for training courses. Remember that smokejumpers often end up jumping out of airplanes into dangerous situations, so if you have a fear of heights or of flying, you may want to reconsider your desire for such a job.

Plan financially for a career as a smokejumper. New smokejumpers are likely to be hired only for a short period of time during fire seasons, and it may be necessary for the new smokejumper to travel anywhere throughout the country or world at a moment's notice. This means the new smokejumper will need to be prepared to support himself financially until his or her first paycheck comes in. Once the fire season is over, the smokejumper will be living off the wages earned during fire season. Diligence in financial planning and budgeting is necessary.

To become a smokejumper, you will need to complete what is known as a pack test. This test requires you to carry a heavy backpack over a set distance within a set time period. It can be extremely difficult, and you should consider preparing for it by exercising regularly and timing yourself on your own pack tests. The physical rigors of smokejumping will require you to prepare extensively by conditioning your body for the most adverse conditions you are likely to encounter.

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    • The job of a smokejumper isn't a good fit for everyone, such as individuals with children or health issues.
      The job of a smokejumper isn't a good fit for everyone, such as individuals with children or health issues.
    • Working as a firefighter can be a step toward becoming a smokejumper.
      Working as a firefighter can be a step toward becoming a smokejumper.