The Difference Between Firefighter 1 and 2

What is the difference between Firefighter 1 and 2? It’s a common question from those that are interested in becoming a firefighter.

You’d probably be surprised to know that a few extra hours of training could have a huge impact on your future career as a firefighter.

So, what is the difference between firefighter 1 and 2?  The difference lies in the amount of training hours as well as the topics covered.  These topics include fire behavior, firefighting theory, practical training with tools, ladder training and many more. 

The job requires a lot of different skills and areas of expertise that you won’t get anywhere else.

This means many hours of training to reach that level of proficiency with the equipment, to understand the best tactics and to appreciate the finer details of the role.

In this article, I want to take you on a journey from the day you apply for training to the day you are considered a fully qualified firefighter.

It all starts with the requirements for signing up for training in the first place.

Then I will discuss the training content, hours of study and exams of Firefighter 1 training.

From there, I will move onto Firefighter 2 training and its advanced content.

This also means a chance to discuss the benefits of continuing your training from a professional point of view.

Let’s start with the requirements for applicants.

What are the requirements to become a firefighter?

The good news for those looking to join is that there aren’t too many restrictions on who can sign up.

To apply for training, you need to be 18 years old (or older), with a valid driver’s license and no damaging criminal convictions.

If you meet these criteria you will then have to go through a training program, pass your exam, pass a drugs test and complete a physical examination.

The physical exam ensures that you capable of handling the physical requirements of the job. Some pre-existing disabilities and medical conditions could prohibit you from signing up.

Anything that makes you a liability is an issue for everyone on the scene of an incident.

The drug test is also important to show that you have no substance abuse issues.

How many hours of study are required to complete firefighter training?

New trainees should also be aware that the minimum hours of study can vary from state to state.

Some regions will require a lot more time in the classroom or more hands-on training than others.

A couple of examples…

Where I work, Ohio, I am a Firefighter 2.  Here we commonly refer to the certification as a “240”.  This is because in the state of Ohio to become a firefighter 2 you must complete 240 hours of initial training. (In the past few years the requirement has been increased to 260 hours).

Florida’s academies call for a minimum of 206 hours of training.

This is a significant amount when you add up all the different sessions. But, fire academies providers need to be sure that trainees are fully prepared for what is ahead of them.

Firefighter 1 Training.

All new firefighter recruits will start with Firefighter 1 training.

This certification is designed to provide trainees with all of the basic knowledge they need about operations and methods on a fire department. This means both theoretical training on strategies and principles in firefighting and practical training with equipment.

Think of a firefighter 1 certification as the most basic level of what you need to know to be a proficient firefighter.


Trainees will spend a lot of time in the classroom learning about different aspects of fire safety and fire suppression methods.

This includes different techniques they will use when dealing with different types of fires.

They will learn lots of methods for various situations including car accidents, fuel tank fires, house fires, issues with hazardous waste and entrapment. This could also include methods for extracting victims, providing ventilation and more.

The theoretical training in the classroom will also cover some of the more mundane but equally important lessons.

Firefighters need to understand the basics of health and safety codes when working on fire scenes.

They can’t do anything that might compromise the security of anyone at the scene. They will also learn about the basics of hazardous materials and the right tools to use to extinguish them.

All of the most basic knowledge about the job ensures that recruits can join a team more cohesively.

Practical Skills

A lot of the skills that firefighter trainees learn are practical. These are typically split between knowledge of gear and equipment and knowledge of standard operating procedures on a fire scene.

Firefighters have to deal with a lot of tools and items of gear during their day. This means a lot of protective gear to keep them safe in a fire as well as tools used for tasks like fire suppression and forcible entry.

Recruits must be able to put on their protective clothing, air packs and masks securely and take them off without damage. This also needs to be done quickly to keep their response time low.

As for the practical skills on-site, firefighters must show that they can handle themselves during a fire. They will learn how to use hoses and other fire suppression equipment to deal with a blaze.

The final exam.

Once trainees have completed all of the hours required, they need to pass their exams.

Exam subjects include the ability to put on their gear correctly, demonstrate basic skills like knot tying and practical tests like ventilation and forced entry.

Applicants usually need a minimum passing score of 70% to proceed (this can also vary depending on the fire academy you attend).

Those that pass their exams are now qualified to work as a firefighter in your state.

That being said, there are still some restrictions on what recruits can do. Some departments will keep Level 1 graduates on a tight leash because they only have a basic education.

Others will insist that they continue with their training if they want to be a fully active member of the department.

Some trainees that want volunteer roles or lower-level placements may be able to get by with Level 1 training alone.

However, most full-time departments will expect front line crew members to have advanced knowledge and training.

Now begins your Firefighter 2 training.

What are the specific differences between Firefighter 1 and 2?

There’s actually a pretty big difference between these two certifications.

The former ensures that recruits know the basics about their role on duty. It is only typically enough to allow them to work under tight supervision or for volunteer departments.

The latter (firefighter 2) is far more advanced and usually required for advancement through the different ranks in the fire service.

Trainees can learn a wider range of operations skills that will help them on a fire scene.

This includes further training on fire damage mitigation, how to rescue people from the scene and how to use the best equipment for the job.

Trainees will also learn about communication methods and what to do after the fire is out.

Essentially, recruits get to build on everything they learned and take their skills to the next level.

Every fire or accident is unique with its own victims, risk factors and environmental influences. Teams need to use their theoretical and practical skills to find the best solutions and follow current guidelines.

The more that firefighters know about equipment, operational tactics and other key skills, the better the outcome on a job.

Firefighting is unpredictable. Crews have to think on their feet to tackle blazes as they develop. They also have to adapt to complications with new strategies.

This advanced training means that crew members can look at options from different angles for an efficient response that may save lives.

This may also mean working against old standard practices in favor of modern solutions now taught in this Firefighter 2 training.  I promise at some point in your career you will run into an older fireman who will tell you that you must do something because that’s the way it has always been done.

It also helps if firefighter trainees receive some first aid training.

Depending on the academy you attend or the state requirements this can be as simple as basic CPR or as advanced as getting your EMT-Basic certification.

This is important as some stations may even demand that staff are certified as emergency medical technicians.

For example, where I work in Ohio, you are required to have both a firefighter 2 certification as well as be a Paramedic in order to even apply.

Career advancement with Firefighter 2 training.

All of this new knowledge is useful for those that want to advance in their career and become the best firefighter possible.

I also want to take a moment to point out that Firefighter 2 training also brings some extra perks in terms of your salary.

In 2016, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics released the following statistics about firefighter salaries.

Firefighters earned a median annual salary of $48,030, with those in the 25th percentile earning $32,670 and those in the 75th percentile earning $64,870.

That’s a huge gap between the 25th and 75th percentile.  While there are many factors that can affect your salary, you education level and certification levels will certainly play a big role.

Thus, it definitely pays to work towards completing your firefighter 2 certification. Those that don’t may not be able to increase their earnings as well in the future.

So if you’re someone who has been wondering what the difference is between Firefighter 1 and Firefighter 2 certifications or which would be right for you, I highly recommend you pursue your firefighter 2 if at all possible.

Let’s go over some of those key points again.

All applicants must put in the time and effort to gain that 70% score on their Firefighter 1 exams. This qualification opens the door to career opportunities within a station.

From there, recruits can continue with Firefighter 2 training to increase their skills and knowledge. This means further career advancement and usually an increase in pay.

Finally, if at all possible I would also highly suggest doing everything you can to acquiring an EMT-Basic or Paramedic certification.  While it may not be your favorite, it will certainly help you stand out from other candidates during your firefighter interview.