Fire Department Career


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.