Firefighters are typically employed by regional or municipal governments and firefighter qualifications vary between employers. Generally, firefighters must have completed high school although some local governments require firefighters to have completed vocational college courses. Additionally, many employers include basic medical training among the firefighter qualifications that job applicants must possess. Normally, an applicant for a firefighter job must possess a valid drivers license, and in many countries firefighters must be at least 18 years old.
In some countries, universities offer college degrees in firefighting and emergency services management. While many firefighter jobs are entry-level positions, individuals wishing to become captains or senior officers typically have to complete a college degree. Additionally, some community colleges offer short-term non-degree programs in fire science and related topics. Aside from vocational courses, some government agencies prefer to hire firefighters who have completed college courses or degrees in topics such as management.
Firefighters are often the first emergency services personnel to arrive on the scene after an accident or another type of incident, and often have to perform first aid. Many employers require firefighters to have attended classes in which techniques such as cardiopulmonary resuscitation are taught. Certificates of completion are often distributed at the conclusion of these classes and these and other types of first aid certificates are among types of firefighter qualifications that employers typically demand. Some employers even require firefighters to have completed more complex medical training programs or associates degrees.
Aside from academic qualifications, firefighters have to be physically fit due to the nature of their work. Applicants have to undergo a rigorous fitness test which is normally graded by an experienced officer or a personal fitness trainer. Successful candidates normally receive a certificate of completion at the end of the test and this certificate must be turned in with the job application. Additionally, some employers require applicants to pass a written examination which may cover fire safety topics and test the applicant's aptitude. Usually, someone who fails the written or physical test cannot proceed with their application.
New recruits are often hired on a temporary or probationary basis. For a certain number of weeks or months, new recruits are given on-the-job training which may involve tackling fires, planning fire rescues or dealing with other types of staged emergencies. Experienced firefighters preside over the training process and new recruits who perform poorly are dismissed from service before the end of their probationary term. Successful candidates are officially given full-time positions at the conclusion of the training course. Firefighter qualifications include successfully completing the entire training process.