How To Become A Firefighter In New Jersey

New Jersey is often portrayed as a state in the shadow of NYC, but that doesn’t keep many people from asking how to become a firefighter in New Jersey.

But, we can never marginalize the significance of its history, culture and all those that work to protect it. New Jersey fire departments have seen their fair share of major incidents and disasters, including the horrific 9/11 attacks on the other side of the Hudson River.

New Jersey firefighters need to be tough and capable of anything.

How to Become a Firefighter in New Jersey

  • Between 18- 35 years of age
  • High school education or higher
  • New Jersey resident with valid driver’s license
  • Physically fit
  • Volunteer experience often recommended
  • EMT training recommended

The basic requirements to become a firefighter in New Jersey are as you would expect in most states. Volunteers and entry-level career firefighters can all enter the initial application process if they meet the minimum age, are physically fit and have the right education.

Some departments will have their own ideas on conduct and requirements, but below I will focus on the more general expectations set out by the state’s Civil Service Commission.

Firefighting in New Jersey

Professionalism is important to all fire departments including ones in New Jersey. They need to be seen as responsible, reliable public servants that provide the best possible service. There will always be different views on what this means.

Some department can be strict on factors like tattoos and facial hair. For example, an Atlantic City firefighter sued his department in 2019 after they made him shave his beard. He claimed he should be allowed to keep it on religious grounds.

So, it helps to be aware of policies on personal appearance when applying to be a firefighter.  Here’s the link to the story

The state of New Jersey Civil Service Commission is very precise about what they expect from firefighters in the state.

Therefore, we can take these qualifications as standard for the majority of fire departments across the state. It is a good idea to contact specific fire departments separately to see if they have any other requirements or changes to the rules.

Some may do so based on specific roles in the jurisdiction. You can read more about the specifics here. For now, I will cover some of the essential facts.

New Jersey’s towns and cities are prone to all kinds of risks with accidents, hazardous spills, fires and storm damage.

Therefore, all firefighters must be ready to handle emergencies that are particularly risky to life and property. Those that have additional certifications and training in extraction, toxic materials, communications between departments and other strategies with thrive.

It is also essential that all firefighters here have the right medical training to get casualties the help they need. EMT and paramedic training is a must.

New Jersey State officials also have high expectations of the way that firefighters interact with citizens in their area.

Community support, outreach and prevention methods are as important as fire suppression and rescue.

New Jersey expects its fire crews to appreciate this and work to the best of their ability. This means working on educational programs with school children, seniors and more.

Therefore, firefighters here need the interpersonal skills to communicate information in a friendly and responsible manner. This is one of the reasons that good character is so important for this job.

An interesting factor here is the emphasis on Spanish as a special skill. They state that applicants should be able to understand and communicate in Spanish and English.

This is in case they have to deal with Spanish speaking communities or victims during an emergency. This isn’t as important of a requirement in other states. This is largely due to the ethnic make-up of New Jersey.

The 2010 census showed there were 14.59% Spanish speakers and 1.23% Chinese. Anyone with a Spanish speaking background or volunteers that learn Spanish in their spare time will do well.

Dealing with New Jersey Weather

One of the growing concerns for firefighters in New Jersey is the rise in major storms and the damage they cause. Most of these incidents will come from the cold, violent nor’easters that hit the Jersey coast.

This can bring high winds and a lot of snow. The storms are tough enough, but the aftermath can be a big issue if communities are cut off or buildings are damaged. Firefighters with training in rescue, extraction and other special operations can help.

Unfortunately, these storms are only going to get worse with time. The same is true for any weather events on the tail-end of hurricanes and tropical storm.

While they are rare this far north, they can have a significant effect on coastal communities. This was the case in 2012 with Hurricane Sandy.

The bigger the risk, the greater the need for well-staffed departments and training in emergency preparedness. If you want to know how to become a firefighter in New Jersey, then you need to be ready for this.

Fire Academies in New Jersey

The state has many different institutions and fire academies that provide official training or academic programs.

You can work towards a certificate or degree to improve your chances of employment. Or, you can work with a fire academy or fire department training center to build on skills while gaining first-hand experience.

It is important to emphasize the need for on-going education in New Jersey because of the diversity in calls and risks involved here.


Lawrenceville is home to the Fire Academy of Mercer County. This small center provides an accessible resource for those in the county that want to learn more about working in the fire service.

Students can come here to gain their Firefighter 1 training, but there are also more specialist courses on Hazmat operations, understanding fire behavior, traffic incident management and more.

Therefore, it is a valuable resource for new recruits and those advancing their career. You can see more of the courses they offer here.


Rowan College in Pemberton has a great partnership in place with the Moorestown Fire Department.

Students can enroll in the Technical Studies program to help them achieve their Firefighter I certificate.

Anyone that is part of the program and wishes to extend their fire education also receives a 10% discount on tuition. Find out more here.

Major Fire Departments in New Jersey

New Jersey has a group called the Metro USAR Strike Team. This is where nine departments in the north of the state work together in times of major emergencies and disasters.

This level of cohesion is essential, but it also means that every department needs the same level of training and great communication skills.

How to Become a Newark, NJ Firefighter

  • Between 18- 35 years of age
  • High school education or higher
  • New Jersey resident with valid driver’s license
  • Physically fit
  • Volunteer experience often recommended
  • EMT training recommended

Newark will always play an important role in that strike team because of its manpower and facilities. There are 16 stations in the city that look after the needs of just over 280,000 people in 26.1 square miles.

The city has lots of equipment on hand for different types of emergencies. This includes the hazmat team, fireboats, rescue boats a wildland team and air crash rescue.

Therefore, they can handle any call that comes in from the water, the airport, major highways and more. Learn more here.

How to Become a Jersey City, NJ Firefighter

  • Between 18- 35 years of age
  • High school education or higher
  • New Jersey resident with valid driver’s license
  • Physically fit
  • Volunteer experience often recommended
  • EMT training recommended

Jersey City is the second-largest in the state with around 250,000 people to look after in 21 square miles.

It is densely populated so poses plenty of fire risks in commercial and residential areas. There is also a high likelihood of medical emergencies, so staff need to keep up with their EMT and Paramedic training.

The city’s fire department was the only one to receive any official call to help with the 9/11 terrorist attack.

The experience and professionalism of the crew mean that they need to be prepared for any further major emergencies. Find out more about the city’s department here.

Job Prospects for Firefighter in New Jersey

New Jersey is the state with the second-highest mean annual wage of $76,530 and an hourly rate of $36.80.

Looking at high employment rates by metropolitan area, the New York-Newark-Jersey City of New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania is the second highest employer with 13,070 and 1.38 per 1000 people.

This area also pays pretty well with $78.840 annually and $37.90 hourly.

If you’re wondering how to become a firefighter in New Jersey, be aware that they have high expectations of its new recruits, and it isn’t difficult to see why given its history and location.

But, those that have the right character and motivation can slowly climb the ladder and achieve great things. The pay on offer here reflects the dangers in the major cities and the work rate of crews. Train hard to understand all the different risk factors, comply with department rules and you will do well.