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Firefighter Fireman, firewoman

Firefighters save people and property from fire and other dangers, and give advice on fire prevention.

Salary, a pound sign Salary: £22,000 to £42,000 average per year
Hours, a clock face Hours: 42 per week

1. Entry requirements

You must be 18, although you can apply slightly earlier if you'll be 18 by the time you get the job.

You'll need to pass a series of physical and written tests, a medical and an interview.

You can find out more about the selection process by getting a firefighter recruitment pack from your local fire and rescue service.

You may need GCSEs (or equivalent) at grades 9 to 4 (A* to C) in English and maths, depending on which fire service you want to join.

Volunteering in a support role will give you an idea of the job, as well as access to internal vacancies.

Before you can begin any work, you usually need to pass background security checks by the Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS).

2. Skills required

You'll need:

  • excellent communication skills
  • the ability to operate a range of tools and equipment
  • leadership and problem-solving skills
  • ability with numbers, IT and report-writing

3. What you'll do

You’ll work for a fire and rescue service run by your local area or county, overseen by a fire and rescue authority. Your work will be a mix of fire station duties, fire prevention and dealing with emergencies.

Every day will be different, but could include:

  • inspecting and maintaining equipment
  • carrying out practice drills and taking part in training
  • rescuing people and animals from burning buildings and accident sites
  • controlling and putting out fires
  • dealing with bomb alerts and floods
  • managing chemical or hazardous substance spills
  • giving presentations to schools and community groups
  • inspecting buildings to make sure they meet fire safety regulations

4. Salary

Starter: £22,000 to £29,500

Experienced: £31,100 (crew manager)

Highly Experienced: £38,000 to £42,000 (station manager)

Part-time on-call firefighters are paid £2,000 to £3,000.

These figures are a guide.

5. Working hours, patterns and environment

You can work full-time (wholetime), or as a part-time (retained) firefighter.

If you're full-time, you'll work a 42 hour week which includes shifts to cover a 24 hour service. A typical shift pattern is 2 day shifts, 2 night shifts and 4 days off-duty.

As a retained firefighter, you'll have no formal hours but agree to be available quickly in emergency situations.

This job can be stressful and demanding, both physically and emotionally. You'll often work in uncomfortable and dangerous situations, for example at heights, around toxic chemicals or in enclosed spaces.

You'll need a full driving licence.

6. Career path and progression

All fire services run the Integrated Personal Development System (IPDS) which allows you to plan and track your career development.

You could work your way up to crew manager, watch manager or station manager. If you’re prepared to move between services, you could also become an area manager, a brigade manager or a chief fire officer.

If you're involved in fire safety and prevention work, you can take professional qualifications leading to membership of the Institution of Fire Engineers (IFE).

You could also get a Heavy Goods Vehicle (HGV) licence for driving fire engines.

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Last updated: 11 April 2017