The UK's official graduate careers website

Not signed up?


Firefighter: Entry requirements

So you think you want to be a


See how well you suit this job in Career Planner.

Try Career Planner

Firefighter positions are open to graduates and diplomates in all subjects, but a degree or formal further education qualifications are not essential and entry without a degree or HND is common. Personal qualities and physical attributes are more important than academic qualifications, though a good general education is required, and GCSE or equivalent passes in English, maths and a science subject are particularly useful.

There are, however, a number of vocationally focused graduate entry degree courses available, run in partnership with local fire and rescue services. These include:

These courses do not guarantee entry into the fire and rescue service but aim to equip students with the skills needed to pursue a career in the fire industry. Contact the course providers for further details and entry requirements.

Other relevant degree courses in areas such as fire engineering, fire safety and risk management, and fire and explosion are also available, as well as degrees in related areas such as disaster management. For details, see the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS) .

Although there is no minimum age to become a firefighter, applicants are usually aged 18 or over. In order to become a firefighter you must pass a series of National Firefighter Ability (NFA) tests as well as a Personal Qualities and Attributes (PQA) test to ensure you are suitable for the role.

There are three written tests covering the following areas:

  • working with numbers (maths test);
  • understanding information;
  • situational awareness and problem-solving.

On successful completion of these written tests, applicants move on to a series of physical tests carried out in full firefighter uniform:

  • coping in a confined space;
  • ladder carrying and lifting;
  • assembling and carrying equipment;
  • casualty evacuation.

Good vision in both eyes and good hearing are also essential. For full details of current eyesight requirements and medical checks, see the Fire Service  website. Having passed the other stages, applicants are invited to an interview lasting around 45 minutes.

To improve your chances of entry, you need to remain fit and gain as much information about both the role and fire and rescue service in general as possible. It may be useful to join the Fire Service website discussion forum to keep up to date with relevant fire issues.

Due to health and safety requirements it may not be possible to carry out work experience and you will not be able to attend incidents or travel in a fire appliance. It may be possible, however, to be placed as an observer in a fire station. Contact the fire and rescue service you are interested in direct to see if this is possible.

As well as physical fitness, candidates need to show evidence of the following:

  • effective communication skills, both oral and written;
  • composure and a reassuring manner;
  • ability to follow instructions;
  • teamworking skills and the ability to work with others both in the fire and rescue service and in the community;
  • problem-solving skills;
  • patience and understanding;
  • sensitivity when dealing with people in distress;
  • confidence and resilience;
  • adaptability and flexibility;
  • integrity;
  • sound judgement, courage, decisiveness, quick reactions and the ability to stay calm in difficult circumstances - accidents and emergencies may result in fatalities and you must be able to deal with these situations;
  • the willingness and ability to learn on a continuing basis;
  • an interest in promoting community safety, education and risk prevention.

You may also be required to hold a full UK driving licence. See the Fire Service website for a full list of PQAs required for the role.

Fire and rescue services only recruit when they need firefighters to replace those who are retiring or leaving the service. There is no set time of year when recruitment takes place. Each fire service recruits independently following national fire service recruitment procedures and you should contact the personnel or recruitment department of the fire and rescue service to which you intend to apply.

The current economic climate may affect the number of jobs available.

For more information, see work experience and internships and search courses and research.

Written by AGCAS editors
August 2012

Spotlight on...

  • Curtin University
    Broaden your perspective with a study abroad experience

  • Study your Masters in China
    Xi'an Jiaotong-Liverpool University (XJTLU) is the largest Sino-Britishinternational collaborative University in China, jointly founded by Xi'an Jiaotong University and the University of Liverpool.

Sponsored links


This website is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with CSS enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets if you are able to do so.