Fire Department Career

Press Enter to show all options, press Tab go to next option

How to Get Started in the Fire Service

Here are some tips from our Fire Fighters and Fire Captains about steps to get started in preparing for a career in the Fire Service:

  • Become a Cadet, Explorer, or volunteer for exposure to Fire Departments
  • Ride along with different Fire Departments
  • Take as many fire science courses as you can to learn about the field
  • Obtain a driver’s license
  • Obtain your EMT certification (College of San Mateo as well as other local Junior Colleges offer EMT courses, and there are private institutions that offer them)
  • Paramedic training is a bonus

Characteristics of a Fire Fighter

  • Performs well under pressure
  • Able to think clearly
  • Adapts to ever changing situations
  • Skilled in learning about different tools, machinery and special equipment
  • Interacts well with the public
  • Has a sense of humor
  • Able to live and work closely with all different kinds of people
  • Is in good physical condition and exercises

Positions and Requisites for each role in the Fire Department

Fire Prevention Officer


Possesses a combination of experience and education in the following areas:

  • Fire inspections
  • Fire investigations (including determining a cause and origin of fires, collections and proper handling of evidence, testifying and presenting said evidence in court).
  • Ability to develop and implement community fire prevention programs
  • Interpret and enforce applicable codes, ordinances and laws
  • Knowledge of fire and life safety systems such as fire sprinkler systems, fire extinguishers and fire alarms systems

Fire Fighter


  • Minimum of 30 semester college units, successful completion of a Firefighter 1 equivalent training program and a current EMT certification; or
  • Paramedic certification and completion of a certified Firefighter 1 equivalent training program; or
  • One year (a cumulative total of 12 months) firefighting experience as a paid career or seasonal Firefighter and a current EMT certificate; or
  • Three years (a cumulative total of 36 months) volunteer firefighting experience and a current EMT certification.
  • Possession of, or ability to obtain, an appropriate valid California driver’s license.

Fire Fighter / Paramedic
In addition to the above qualifications for Fire Fighter, our Fire Fighter/Parmedics also go through over one thousand hours of medical training. The training includes classroom training, a hospital internship, and a field internship. After the extensive training program, a Firefighter/Paramedic can perform all kinds of life saving skills. These skills include administering IVs, death cheating drugs, providing advanced airway and breathing support, along with delivering jolting electrical energy to a quivering heart.

Fire Captain


Knowledge of:
Principles, practices, and procedures of modern firefighting and the protection of lives and property; rules and regulations of the Fire Department; operation and maintenance of the apparatus and equipment used in modern firefighting activities; local geography, including the location of mains and hydrants and the major fire hazards of the City; first aid, rescue, and resuscitation equipment and practices; principles of supervision.

Ability to:
Operate apparatus and equipment used in modern firefighting activities; lead Fire Fighters effectively and maintain discipline; administer first aid and operate a variety of rescue equipment; prepare complete and concise reports; establish and maintain cooperative relationships with those contacted in the course of work.

Four (4) years of experience as a Fire Fighter and current employment as a Fire Fighter with a municipal fire department.

Equivalent to completion of the twelfth (12th) grade. Completion of 30 units in Fire Science, Public Administration or a related field, from an accredited college.

Possession of a valid California Driver’s License, EMT-I Certification, and Fire Officer Certification.
If promoted to Captain from firefighter’s position, may also maintain their paramedic certification and perform paramedic duties as secondary medic.

Battalion Chief


  • Five years as a Fire Captain
  • Equivalent to an Associates of Arts degree from an accredited college

Role as Battalion Chief

  • While working as a shift commander, direct and supervise forces in the suppression of fires, in the control of incidents involving hazardous chemicals and other materials as required; ascertain the need for and the type of additional resources necessary to handle the emergency; make technical decisions as to the best methods of extinguishing fires after observing the fire and receiving reports from Captains.
  • Assist in the development and implementation of goals, objectives, policies and priorities for the fire department.

Fire Chief


  • Four years as a Battalion Chief
  • Equivalent to a Bachelors Degree from an accredited college or university

Role as Fire Chief

  • The ability to plan, develop and implement policies, goals, objectives and priorities for the Fire Department.
  • Must plan, direct, coordinate and organize the departmental operations of fire suppression, prevention and fire safety activities.