How to Become a Wildland Firefighter [INFOGRAPHIC]

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A Wildland Firefighter is an expert at preventing, tackling, and extinguishing angry flames that attack our great outdoors.

“Taxing” does not even begin to describe the mental and physical demands that men and women experience in this line of work. However, at the end of all that hard work, there is great reward and satisfaction.

If you see yourself in a career that involves a love of nature, grueling labor, unparalleled comradery, and pushing yourself to extremes, then this may be the job for you!

Here are the steps required to begin your career as a Wildland Firefighter.

General Requirements

  • U.S. Citizen
  • 18 years of age
  • High school diploma or equivalent

Knowledge Base

Basic Education

You will need to take a handful of courses as a minimum qualification for many wildland firefighting positions. The following courses (or course equivalents) are offered at community colleges, four-year universities, and vocational institutes:

  • Survival Training
  • Fire Behavior
  • Incident Command

Advanced Education

A college degree is not typically required for an entry-level wildland firefighting position; however, it may help show how serious you are about the profession, and help you advance in your career down the road. Here are some of the most popular degrees among wildland firefighters:

  • Wildland Fire
  • Fire Science
  • Emergency Medical Technician
  • Forestry
  • Fire Ecology
  • Fire Technology

Written Test

For a wildland firefighting job, you will have to pass a written test issued by the National Wildfire Coordinating Group (NWCG). This standardized test is about 100 questions long and gauges your:

  • Spatial awareness
  • Mechanical reasoning
  • Logic

Physical Strength & Endurance

As a wildland firefighter, you’ll go through countless strength and endurance tests, so it’s important to find out now if you can withstand the required physical demands. The NWCG requires that you complete the Work Capacity Test before you become a wildland firefighter.

Test highlight: a 3-mile hike carrying 45 pounds of weight that needs to be completed in less than 45 minutes (no jogging or running)

  • Your employer will issue this test the first day you report to work and if you do not pass you have two weeks to take it again – if you do not pass at that point, you may have to start over.

You should prepare for this test with lots of cardio + added weight.

Vacancies & Applications

Now that you feel mentally and physically prepared to take on a career as a wildland firefighter, it’s time to find an opening. Government wildland firefighter vacancies are listed on Here are the steps to apply:

  • Create an account
  • Build or upload your resume
  • Search vacancies and select ones that interest you
  • Carefully review requirements specific to that job to determine if you qualify
  • Now Apply!
  • oMake sure to provide all the necessary documents
  • oSubmit your application
  • oTrack its status

These sites offer great tools to help you navigate the portal:

  • U.S. Forest Service United States Department of Agriculture
  • Wildland Fire Jobs U.S. Department of the Interior

Private Contractors also hire and train wildland firefighters. Check with individual companies to see if they are hiring and what their requirements are. A great place to start looking for these employment opportunities is through the National Wildfire Suppress Association (NWSA) at

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