Southwestern College

Frequently Asked Questions

I want to be a fire fighter.  What classes should I take first?        FS 101 & EMT 101 & 109 (or EMT 125)

The first Fire Science class to take is FS 101 “Fire Protection Organization,” which is our introductory class and covers career opportunities; philosophy, history and organization of fire protection; fire service nomenclature; basic fire chemistry and physics.  FS 101 is the recommended preparation class for many of the other fire science courses, but can be taken concurrently.  Make Fire Science classes a priority over general education classes as you start working towards a degree or certificate of completion.  Taking Fire Science class will help you get the knowledge and experience needed to get hired faster than general education classes will. Firefighters do not necessarily need a degree to get hired, but it will help make you more competitive.

Most fire departments require firefighters to be certified as an EMT so some of the first classes you want to take are EMT 101 and EMT 109 “Emergency Medical Responder.”  You will learn advanced first aid and CPR in these classes and they are the pre-requisite classes for EMT 113 and 113L “EMT Basic.”  After successful completion of EMT 113L you are eligible to take the National Registry test and get your EMT certification.  Many fire departments in southern California are hiring firefighter/paramedics, so working towards getting a paramedic license is also advised.  (Obtain separate paramedic information packet from the Otay Mesa Paramedic office or .)

Firefighters use a variety of skills everyday.  Other areas of study include physics, hydraulics, computers, algebra, geometry, chemistry, auto mechanics, building construction, hazardous materials and physical fitness.  Learning to use power tools and (rescue) rope systems for lifting, climbing and rappelling is also beneficial.  Communication skills, both verbal and written are essential too.

I want to be a fire fighter.  How do I get some experience?

In order to gain some training and experience, you can join a volunteer or reserve fire department. They generally have minimal qualification requirements and are a great way to increase your knowledge and skills and enhance your resume.  Experience can also be gained through an explorer or cadet program if you are age 16-21.

Working as a seasonal wildland firefighter is also good experience towards getting a job with a municipal department.  (Take FS 144 in the spring semester.)

How do I get a job as a fire fighter?

Most fire departments post job announcements with a description of the position and the minimum qualifications and then accept applications during a specific time period.  Along with submitting an application, the qualified candidates usually take a written test, and a physical abilities test.  They often also have to pass interviews, a physical exam and a background check.  Our FS 10 (Skills Prep) course is designed to prepare you for the testing process when applying for a fire fighting job.  FS 30 prepares you for the physical fitness tests and FS 33 gives you basic skills for firefighting.

Start Applying:  The hiring process for firefighters is long and involved, and very competitive.  The more experience you have at testing and being interviewed, the more prepared you will be when you apply with the department(s) you really want to work for.  There are many publications (magazines, journals) and Internet resources for locating firefighter job announcements.  Many fire departments use an “interest card” system and will notify people who have filled out an interest card when applications will be accepted.

Do I need to get a degree in FS before I can get a job?

Not necessarily.  Firefighters frequently get hired before they complete the Fire Science certificate or degree.  They can get hired with a minimal amount of training and experience, depending on what type of agency they are applying with.  Many departments are looking at a combination of education, experience and personal development.  When planning your class schedule, focus on EMT and Fire Science classes first and general education second. 

Many  colleges have bachelor degrees in Public Administration which fits well with the fire service.

Do I need to be a paramedic before a fire department will hire me?

Most city fire departments in the San Diego area are primarily hiring paramedics, but some still hire at the EMT level of medical training.  Find out what the requirements are for the department or agency you want to work for.

How do I get a Firefighter I certificate?

Attend a firefighter academy either at a college or a fire department. (Usually requires application and acceptance to academy or fire department.  Highly competitive!)

A few Websites to visit ….

** New** Career info website:  (excellent resource)

State Fire Marshall: (has many related links)

CA Fire Fighter Joint Apprenticeship Committee links:  (Physical Fitness Test)

Chula Vista Fire:
East County Fire:
Campo Fire Dept:
Carlsbad Fire Dept:
San Diego Fire-Rescue Dept.
San Diego Cadet Program:
San Diego Rural Fire Protection District:  (Reserve & volunteer)
Heartland Fire &Rescue   click on Jobs, then Reserve Program
US Forest Service jobs:

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Last updated: 7/3/2017 7:41:14 AM