Teens in high school who are interested in pursuing careers as firefighters or EMTs (emergency medical transporters) may first be interested in becoming volunteer firefighters. Many fire departments, such as the Island County Fire District #3 in Oak Harbor, Washington, offer high school firefighter volunteer programs. Volunteer firefighters under the age of 18 are required to have their parent's or guardian's approval to enroll in the program, as well as a valid driver's license. These programs also hold their teen volunteers accountable for academic performance and school attendance.

Condition your body to pass the physical fitness and agility exam. According to the Don McNea Fire School in Cleveland, Ohio, 60 percent to 70 percent of the physical demands of firefighting require excellent strength, lung endurance and speed. Begin physical training a year before your firefighter's fitness and agility exam. Focus workouts on sprint and strength training. Use a heavy pack (a backpack weighted with sandbags or weights) when training to simulate carrying a firefighter's air tank and gear. In addition to sprint training, run up flights of stairs, uphill and around a track (for at least 2 miles) as quickly as possible.

Contact your local fire department. There are many fire departments that allow teens as young as 16 years old to work as volunteer firefighters; however, the standard minimum age for most fire departments is 18 years old. Talk to the chief of your local fire department to gain more information about the regulations and requirements for joining his department. Ask if the department offers a high school firefighter volunteer program.

Study for the written exam. The written exam is a 150- to 200-question multiple-choice test that covers 14 subject areas, including math and spelling. Purchase study materials, such as Norman Hall's "Firefighter Exam Preparation Book" or the "Don McNea Fire School Reading Comprehension and Mathematics Book" to help you prepare for the exam. Also, take practice firefighter's written exams.

Prepare for the oral exam/interview. Your interview will be administered by a board of at least three officers and doubles as your oral exam. Questions range from "Tell us about yourself" to "How would you handle these conflicting orders at an emergency?" Prepare by practicing your interview often with family and friends, in front of a mirror or with a camcorder.

Prepare for the psychological exam. This exam tests your metal stability and ability by asking the same true or false questions over and over again, but in a different way. For example, the first question could be "True or false: I work out daily," and question 92 could be "True or false: I would describe myself as a physically active person." If you answer true for one and false for the other, this could be viewed as an inconsistency and cause a red flag on your evaluation. The key is to answer each question quickly and honestly. However, if you fail the initial psychological exam, you are legally entitled to request a second opinion.

Complete the medical exam. Depending on where you apply, the department will require you to see your own physician or its physician for a complete physical and mental evaluation. Stop or cut back on any unhealthy behaviors, such as excessive drinking or smoking before your physical. Your physical may also include a drug screen.


Drive to the testing location a few days before your exam to be sure you know where you are going on test day. On test day, arrive early, dressed professionally and comfortably.

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