How to Become A Firefighter in California

Firefighters are responsible for putting out fires and dealing with related hazards in homes, offices, shopping malls, etc. They are first responders during any fire outbreaks. Other than dealing with infernos, they also administer first aid to the injured and rescue people trapped in burning buildings.

California’s fire personnel are also registered Emergency Medical Technicians (EMTs). In 2019, as per the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, there were 33,780 of them serving the residents of The Golden State. If you want to join their ranks, this piece has all the information on how to become a Firefighter in California.

Should I Become a Firefighter in California?





High School Diploma


 GED (General Educational Development) Certificate


 CHSPE (California High School Proficiency Examination) Certificate

Area of Study

Fire Safety, Fire Science, Emergency Medical Services, Fire Engineering, etc. 







Key Skills

Critical Thinking, Operation Monitoring and Control, Active Listening, Problem Sensitivity,  Arm-Hand Steadiness, Static Strength

Annual Mean Salary (2019) – National


Job Outlook (2018-2028)


Annual Mean Salary (2019) – California


Sources: O*NET OnLine and US Bureau of Labor Statistics

The role of a Firefighter is one of great responsibility and high pressure. There are obvious health and safety risks associated with entering burning structures. Because of this, having supreme physical fitness is a major requirement of becoming a fire professional. Work hours are based on rotating shifts but most firefighters are on call throughout the day and night.

Career Outlook

According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, jobs for firefighters will increase by 5% between 2018 and 2028. This growth is similar to that expected for most other professions. Even with the improved quality of buildings, better construction machinery, and stricter safety standards in place, firefighters would still have a major role to play in dealing with unforeseen fire outbreaks.

Steps to Become a Firefighter in California

Following are the steps to become a Firefighter in California.

Step 1: Complete the Required Education

You must obtain one of the following.

  • High School Diploma
  • GED (General Educational Development) Certificate
  • CHSPE (California High School Proficiency Examination) Certificate

Step 2: Pass the Firefighter Candidate Assessment (FCA)

Before applying for employment with a California fire department, you need to pass the FCA (Firefighter Candidate Assessment).

Step 3: Apply for Firefighting Employment

Once the FCA is out of the way, you can apply for employment with your preferred California fire service.

Step 4: Clear the Initial Test/Interview

After your employment application has been accepted, the first assessment is usually the initial written test. Some departments, like the LAFD (Los Angeles Fire Department), conduct interviews instead of written tests.

Step 5: Qualify the Physical Exam

California’s fire departments accept an applicant’s score on the CPAT (Candidate Physical Ability Test) or the CAP (Candidate Advancement Program) Fitness Assessment. Some units may also conduct their own fitness evaluations.

Step 6: Background Investigation

A thorough investigation into your background will take place once you clear the physical assessment.

Step 7: Medical, Psychological and Drugs Test

Next up will be the medical, psychological, and drug tests. Pass them and you will make it to the fire academy.

Step 8: Fire Academy Training

Fire academy training lasts for 4 to 6 months.

Step 9: Get Your EMT License

To join a fire unit after training, you must obtain a valid California State EMT (Emergency Medical Technician) license.

How Long Does It Take to Become a Firefighter in California?

If you apply for a firefighting job straight after high school, then you will need about a year or so. This will be the time taken by the application, selection, and training procedure. However, if you decide to go for some specialized education first, then it can take you between 2 and 5 years (depending on the duration of your chosen degree program).

What Are the Requirements for Becoming a Firefighter in California?

The following are the requirements for becoming a Firefighter in California.

  • Must be at least 18.
  • Should finish high school.
  • Have a valid California driver’s license.
  • Citizenship is not mandatory at the time of application but candidates must have proper status (work visa, green card, etc.) and legal clearance to work in the United States.
  • Obtain a valid EMT license.
  • Must not have a criminal record of any kind.

How Much Can I Make After Becoming a Firefighter in California?

According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, Firefighters in California had an annual mean wage of $84,370 in 2019.

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