How To Become A Firefighter In New York


how to become a firefighter in New York

If you’ve ever wondered how to become a firefighter in New York, you’re not alone.  The fire department of New York City is one of the most famous and well-respected because of their tireless efforts across the city.

This was most evident during the September 11th attacks which claimed many lives. It is an honor for new recruits to follow in the footsteps of this team. However, it isn’t always easy to join the fire service here or in other departments across the state. So, how can you become a firefighter in the state of New York?

How to Become a Firefighter in New York

  • Pass both the computer-based test and physical ability test.
  • Be a U.S. citizen at the time of appointment.
  • Be at least 21 years of age by time of appointment.
  • Be able to prove your identity and the right to obtain employment in the United States under the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986.
  • Pass medical and psychological tests, as well as a drug screening.
  • Demonstrate proof of good character and pass a background investigation.
  • Be able to understand and be understood in English.
  • Hold a valid New York State motor vehicle driver’s license.
  • If applying in NYC, be a resident of one of the five boroughs of New York City or live in Nassau, Orange, Putnam, Rockland, Suffolk or Westchester County.

When we talk about the challenges and requirements for firefighters in New York, we are really talking about two different things.

There are those that want to become firefighters in the state of New York. This could mean as a volunteer firefighter or in a career position in any of the towns and districts across the state.

Then there are those that specifically want to work and train in New York City with the FDNY. There is something special about being a firefighter in this metropolitan area because of the history and the skill needed.

Therefore, I want to divide this guide into two main categories. I want to look at New York City, its challenges, training and department. I also want to look at some of the other options in other areas for training, education and employment.

Firefighting in New York

It isn’t easy to become a firefighter in New York City. This region has high standards about their firefighters and there are a lot of applicants.

First of all, I want to note that this area has one of the lowest maximum age restrictions in the country. If you are over the age of 29 at the beginning of the application process you are too old.

This can some tough compared to other state department rules. There are certainly plenty of people in their thirties in NYC that would have no problem getting hired elsewhere.

Firefighters in this city have a lot to contend with on a daily basis. You have to remember that 40% of the entire state population lives here. It is full of residents, workers and tourists on any given day and any of the major boroughs could see a major incident.

Firefighters here need to be prepared to handle medical incidents, hazardous materials, vehicular extractions, fire suppression in major buildings, rescue operations and much more.

There is also the fact that New York and the Eastern Seaboard around the coast and into New Jersey does encounter major storms. The threat here isn’t as bad as in some other states where there are the tail ends of hurricanes or bitter winters.

But, there are still big snowstorms and other weather events that can bring the city to a standstill. Emergency crews need to be able to keep the city moving, clear the way and help the injured.

Working as a firefighter in upstate New York:

Forty percent of New York residents may live in NYC and the surrounding area but that leaves 60% of the state population in other communities. They all need the right help from highly-skilled fire departments too. The dream for many firefighter applicants in New York State may be to work in NYC.

However, there are 36 other municipalities in the state with either full-time or part-time firefighters. There are also plenty of volunteer opportunities for firefighters across the state. Volunteering is a great way to gain some experience and improve your chances in the hiring process. The requirements are also less strict, and you can work through training during a probation period.

These smaller communities include some of the smaller towns in upstate New York, rural areas and those around the national parks. New York is home to the largest state park in the country – Adirondack Park.

This beautiful area is vital for wildlife and tourism and needs the same amount of dedicated protection as any suburb in the big city. Wildland crews and other rural teams need to be ready to take calls for wildfires, medical incidents in remote places and outdoor rescues.

Skills here can include wildland management, water rescue, rope access and EMT and paramedic training is as important here as it is in the city.

Fire Academies in New York

There are lots of opportunities to train to be a firefighter in New York. Students and new trainees can earn their Firefighter 1 and 2 certificates through a local fire academy, become an EMT and build on their skills across their career.

Dutchess Community College in Poughkeepsie offers two different Fire Science courses: Fire and Occupational Safety and Fire Protection Technology. The first is for students that want to continue in higher education and learn about what it takes to become an officer and manager of a fire department.

It isn’t just about how to fight the fires, it is about dealing with government agencies, legal issues and investigations. The second is for those already in the profession that want to increase their skillset.

It is ideal for those in volunteer roles in New York State that want to make improvements in their knowledge and abilities. You can learn more here.

Those that want to train in New York City itself could attend the Fire Science Institute. They work with firefighters to ensure that they get the best possible training that relates to their experiences in the city. There are also specialist courses available for qualified fire personnel.  Learn more here.

On the subject of training, I also want to take a moment to talk about the importance of language training in New York. On the 2010 census, 17.6% of the population claimed to have Hispanic or Latino heritage. 14.44% spoke Spanish at home.

That’s a lot of families that will appreciate having public servants that can communicate with them in their native tongue. You don’t have to be fluent; you just need to know enough to get by in an emergency.

A basic understanding of Chinese might also be a good idea here. This is the fastest-growing population in the state due to a growth in Chinese immigration. In 2010, 2.61% spoke Chinese at home. That number is sure to have increased.

Major Fire Departments in New York

The following is a list of major fire departments in New York.  While it isn’t comprehensive it’s a great place to start if you’re interested in learning more about how to become a firefighter in New York.

How to Become a New York City (FDNY) Firefighter

  • Pass both the computer-based test and physical ability test.
  • Be a U.S. citizen at the time of appointment.
  • Be at least 21 years of age by time of appointment.
  • Be able to prove your identity and the right to obtain employment in the United States under the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986.
  • Pass medical and psychological tests, as well as a drug screening.
  • Demonstrate proof of good character and pass a background investigation.
  • Be able to understand and be understood in English.
  • Hold a valid New York State motor vehicle driver’s license.
  • If applying in NYC, be a resident of one of the five boroughs of New York City or live in Nassau, Orange, Putnam, Rockland, Suffolk or Westchester County.

As you might expect, the department in NYC is massive. The latest numbers show over 11,000 uniformed personnel, more than 4,000 EMS personnel and 254 stations over 9 divisions.

They handled 619,378 calls in 2018, 27,053 were structural fires and 300,598 medical emergencies.  Learn more here.

How to Become a Rochester, NY Firefighter

  • Pass both the computer-based test and physical ability test.
  • Be a U.S. citizen at the time of appointment.
  • Be at least 21 years of age by time of appointment.
  • Be able to prove your identity and the right to obtain employment in the United States under the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986.
  • Pass medical and psychological tests, as well as a drug screening.
  • Demonstrate proof of good character and pass a background investigation.
  • Be able to understand and be understood in English.
  • Hold a valid New York State motor vehicle driver’s license.

If we want to look at some of the other cities in New York State, we can look towards Rochester. Here there is a much smaller combination department with 51 crew members.

They cover an area of 45 square miles that includes the city itself and the rural communities close by. This means 30,000 residents to protect from three locations. Fire suppression, prevention and medical treatments are all essential skills here.

However, there are also specialist divisions in heavy rescue and forestry. This is where those wildfire skills come in useful. You can learn more about their work here.

How to Become an Albany, NY Firefighter

  • Pass both the computer-based test and physical ability test.
  • Be a U.S. citizen at the time of appointment.
  • Be at least 21 years of age by time of appointment.
  • Be able to prove your identity and the right to obtain employment in the United States under the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986.
  • Pass medical and psychological tests, as well as a drug screening.
  • Demonstrate proof of good character and pass a background investigation.
  • Be able to understand and be understood in English.
  • Hold a valid New York State motor vehicle driver’s license.

The state capital of Albany has significantly more team members at its disposal to look after the city and surrounding areas. They also have a lot of different divisions and apparatus to handle a wider range of calls.

Firefighters here can expect a varied career with different responses to rescues, fires, medical-related situations and more. They have a specialist paramedic engine company, heavy rescue company and an all-hazards response department. Find out more here.

Job Prospects for Firefighters in New York

As of 2018, New York was the fourth-highest for firefighter salaries, the annual mean wage for firefighters was $73,710 and the hourly mean wage $35.44.

Looking at high employment rates by metropolitan area, the New York-Newark-Jersey City region 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 annual and $37.90 hourly. It is also interesting to note that the southwest non-metropolitan area was the second higher payer in that category. Therefore, prospects are pretty good across the state.

As I mentioned before, if you’re interested in learning how to become a firefighter in New York depends on whether you want to be a FDNY firefighter or in a smaller department upstate.

If the dream is to become at the top level of the profession in the city that never sleeps, you need a lot of passion, perseverance and heart. The city brings more challenges and requires a lot of skills.

But, there is as much to gain when it comes to serving communities out in upstate New York. Don’t overlook the potential of a volunteer post or career post working in wildland management and rural services.

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