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Preparing for a Firefighting Career

Firefighting does not require advanced preparation. However, it is a very competitive job field and having certain skills, abilities and experience can provide you with a foundation to advance your career in the fire service.

Medical Coursework

  • A good place to start is by taking a CPR class. Classes are available through a variety of local organizations, such as the American Red Cross, Carle, Presence Health, and Parkland College

  • If you would like to go a step further, start working towards your Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) certification.  Locally, Parkland College offers several programs:  a 5 credit-hour EMT-Basic certification; EMT-Paramedic certification, which is a 12-month, 29-credit-hour program; and an Associate’s degree, which is a 66-hour program. Programs incorporate clinical experience and internships; upon completion, students are eligible to sit for their licensing exams.

  • If you are not located in the Parkland College region, contact your local community college for similar offerings.

Volunteer as a Firefighter

Another great way to prepare for a career as a Firefighter is to volunteer as one!  Champaign County has several volunteer fire departments:

If you are not in Champaign County, contact your local agencies for volunteer opportunities.

Volunteer in the Community

Volunteering is a great way to get to know your community better. Here are some websites that can offer you up-to-date opportunities based on your areas of interest:

• CU Volunteer (for those in the Champaign County area)

• Volunteer Match


• Red Cross

(We aren’t endorsing any agency or organization in particular—these are just ideas of where to start).

Skills & Abilities

  • Mechanical skills or physics

  • Knowledge of life sciences (most firefighters are also Emergency Medical Technicians)

  • Map reading skills

  • Computer skills

  • Construction skills

  • Excellent physical condition

  • Basic math and reading skills

  • Team player

  • Able to multi-task and work well under stress

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