Firefighter Careers

How to become Firefighter

What does a Firefighter do?

Firefighters protect and save people and property from fire and other hazards. This involves the provision of practical emergency services and of advice and education on fire prevention.

Emergency services provided by firefighters include controlling and extinguishing fires, rescuing victims from burning buildings, other accident sites or dangerous situations, and dealing with bomb alerts and spillage of chemicals or other hazardous substances.

Fire prevention work includes giving presentations to schools and other community groups, inspecting premises to ensure that they meet fire safety regulations, and liaising with construction professionals to give fire safety guidance before and during the construction of a building.

Routine station duties include inspecting, cleaning and maintaining equipment, carrying out practice drills and taking part in training. Senior officers write detailed reports of incidents and carry out management and policy work.

What's the working environment like working as a Firefighter?

The work may be full-time or part-time ‘retained’. Full-time firefighters work 42 hours a week. This includes day and night shifts in order to provide a 24-hour service. Overtime may be available. Retained firefighters usually cover rural areas and small towns, and generally have another job but make themselves available to attend emergency situations.

The work is stressful, physically demanding and often very uncomfortable. Conditions can be hazardous, involving extreme heat and cold, working at heights, in enclosed spaces, and in smoke-filled buildings. All-weather work and exposure to danger from collapsing buildings, vehicle fumes and explosions are all part of the job. Protective clothing and breathing apparatus is worn. Firefighters carry heavy and awkward equipment.

What does it take to become a Firefighter?

To be a firefighter you will need:

  • stamina and a high level of physical fitness
  • the ability to react quickly and remain calm in hazardous situations
  • courage and determination
  • a high level of personal discipline, the ability to follow instructions and to adhere to brigade regulations
  • good team working skills
  • initiative to deal with rapidly changing developments
  • good practical skills to operate a range of tools and equipment
  • excellent communications skills
  • the ability to inspire confidence when dealing with members of the public
  • assertiveness in dealing with possible obstacles to rescue work
  • the ability to write accurate incident reports which may be used by accident investigators and insurance companies.

Firefighter Career Opportunities

Most firefighters work for local fire brigades. There are 58 brigades in England and Wales, eight in Scotland. In Northern Ireland the Fire Authority oversees four commands (North, South, East and West). There is fierce competition for full-time work and many more applicants than vacancies. There is almost always a national shortage of retained firefighters, especially in small towns and rural areas.

Other separate fire services include the British Airports Authority, which provides fire brigades at airports, and the Defence Fire Service, which provides fire services to military and other MOD sites. Some large private organisations also run their own fire service. There may be opportunities with Her Majesty’s Fire Service Inspectorate for experienced firefighters.

The new IPDS scheme has meant a change in the structure of the fire service. Promotion is to crew manager, then to watch manager and possibly on to station, group, area and brigade management.

Further information

If you would like to know anything about Firefighter that does not appear on Hotcourses, further information can be found below.

For recruitment enquiries, contact the personnel or recruitment departments of local fire services. Addresses are in local telephone directories, or can be found on the UK Fire Service Resources website (below).

UK Fire Service Resources

Fire Authority for Northern Ireland
Human Resources
Brigade Headquarters
1 Seymour Street
BT27 4SX
Tel: 028 9266 4221


Facts and Stats:

  • The Ministry of Defence is British Industry''s largest single customer
  • Every year, civil servants are responsible for public spending of around £300bn
  • If every MP turned up at the chambers of the House of Commons at the same time, there would not be enough seats for them all to sit down

Similar careers