The sirens, the flashing lights, the big truck, the Dalmatian. That's a lot of excitement for a kid, so lots of them dream of becoming firefighters when they grow up.
You can get your foot in the door with a GED or high school diploma in most places, but that doesn't mean that it will be easy to land a firefighter position, says James Ridley, assistant to the general president for education, training and human relations for the Washington, D.C.-based International Association of Firefighters.
Many job candidates will also need to pass a criminal background check, a physical agility test, a psychological and medical exam, a peer review from fellow firefighters, and have to prove they don't have a fear of heights or closed spaces, says Ridley. But job competition is fierce. According to the BLS, "a department often receives hundreds or thousands of applicants for a single position."
After entering the fire service, new recruits spend up to a year learning about fire science and prevention, equipment operation and maintenance, building codes, and emergency medical treatment.
"It's a physically and emotionally demanding job. You deal with loss a lot for the people you're sworn to protect, whether it's personal property or even loss of life," says Ridley.