How To Become a Firefighter in Wisconsin

Firefighting is always a necessary job, and it’s continued to be a growing position. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the projected employment of firefighters through 2029 is six percent—two percent faster than the average. With population growing and people flocking to larger cities like Madison, both rural areas and metropolises alike are going to need firefighters to protect the growing population. 

But what do you need to do to become a firefighter in the state of Wisconsin? 

How to become a firefighter in Wisconsin: 

1. Meet the standard requirements.

2. Receive your State of Wisconsin Firefighter I certification or equivalent.

3. Receive Emergency Medical Technician Training. 

4. Pass the Candidate Physical Ability Test. 

5. Pass the written examination. 

6. Pass the background check and oral interview.

But what is the process in Wisconsin for each of these steps? Read on to find out how you can become a firefighter, and what the quickest route is to getting placed in a department. 

Meet the standard requirements.

How to Become a Firefighter in Wisconsin

All candidates in Wisconsin must be 18 years old with either a high school diploma or a GED certificate before applying. All candidates should be able to complete the physical requirements of the job, have a valid driver’s license. 

There are some areas in the state that require you to have an associate’s degree or above in a major such as fire science or fire protection. Some areas also require you to be a legal U.S. citizen and have Hazmat Operation levels certification. 

Others require you to live in the city in which you are applying. Also note that some departments have an age cap—typically, if there is a maximum age it is around 35 years old.

Receive your State of Wisconsin Firefighter I certification or equivalent.

How to Become a Firefighter in Wisconsin

As soon as you make your standard requirements, you will have to go into some sort of training. Before you can become a firefighter in most areas, you will have to become a nationally registered EMT or paramedic, along with becoming a State of Wisconsin Firefighter I or the equivalent. This standard is set by the National Fire Protection Association and more detailed information about this standard can be found at their website

In Wisconsin, most fire academies are located at a technical college around the state, you can train with a fire department’s training division. For example, you can receive a Fire Emergency Response Management degree at the University of Wisconsin – Oshkosh. It is the only four-year degree in the state of its kind and can open you up to firefighting management down the line of your career. 

In certain municipalities, you may be required to have your State of Wisconsin Firefighter II certification. This builds on the Firefighter I qualifications, adding more knowledge about specialized areas and department management. 

While the timeline varies, a candidate can become qualified as a firefighter within five to ten months of education. 

Here’s what to expect on your first day as a firefighter!

Receive Emergency Medical Technician Training. 

How to Become a Firefighter in Wisconsin

In addition to the fire training program, all Wisconsin firefighters are required to complete the Department of State Health Services emergency care attendant program or the American Red Cross responder training. As any candidate in Wisconsin is required to have some sort of emergency medical technician experience, these programs should fulfill that requirement. 

The American Red Cross provides a 56-hour Emergency Medical Response program where you can learn how to work through emergency situations and learn hands-on skills. While this class does not provide state licensure or certification, it can usually be used to fulfill the Wisconsin fire departments’ emergency medical technician requirement. 

Check to see if your chosen fire academy or technical program has this education included in their curriculum before pursuing it separately. 

Pass the Candidate Physical Ability Test. 

The ability test required by all candidates is a practical exam showing instructors that you can complete the day-to-day physical tasks of a firefighter. 

How to Become a Firefighter in Wisconsin

Typically, the National Testing Network provides the standards for the Candidate Physical Ability Test. These standards are considered international, so whether you test in a different state and move to Wisconsin or take the test in the state, you should be covered. 

The test itself allows candidates to first attend a pre-test program of two orientation days within an eight-week period, along with two timed practice runs before you take the test. These are not mandatory, and you will have to sign a waiver if you do not, but you can go directly to the testing portion if you wish. 

Candidates will be required to wear a 50-pound vest to simulate the weight of gear, and then another 25-pound weight for the stair climb event to simulate the weight of a hose. You can expect to complete a stair climb, hose drag, equipment carry, ladder raise and extension, forcible entry, search and rescue, and ceiling breach and pull events within a ten minute, twenty second period. 

Pass the written examination. 

How to Become a Firefighter in Wisconsin

After all training is completed, candidates will have to pass an examination of basic skills and a written exam. 

The written exam covers the curriculum learned in the classroom portion of the class, which can include but is not limited to rescue, hazardous material management, preparedness, and operations. 

Depending on what program you go through, this exam could be provided at the end of your degree program or the fire academy. Make sure you check with your instructors to see if this is included in your program. 

Pass the background check and oral interview. 

How to Become a Firefighter in Wisconsin

Following the exam, candidates will complete and pass a background check, and then they can apply for positions within the state. Your training is usually valid for two years before you must take the exam and receive a background check, or you will have to attend the fire training again. 


Depending on the department, a few issues may stop you from becoming a firefighter. If you have had a background investigation within the fire department within the last two years and have failed, it could disqualify you. 

How to Become a Firefighter in Wisconsin

If you have been terminated, resigned, or left your post with criminal or civil charges pending, you could be disqualified from service. 

If you have a conviction and cannot get your EMT license, you may be rejected. 

Regardless of the pathway that you take to become a firefighter—through an academy or by receiving a degree—the job itself is both dangerous and extremely rewarding. Serving your community, both on its best and worst days, is reserved for only the strongest of people—both physically and emotionally. If you think this is the right job for you, follow these steps and you can find yourself in a fire department in Wisconsin in no time. 


Do I have to be a firefighter to become an EMT in Texas?

Firefighters in Wisconsin all must receive emergency medical technician training. If you just want to become an EMT, you will not have to attend the fire academy. 

How many years does it take to get a fire science degree?

Like many bachelor’s degrees, a fire science degree takes about 120 hours of coursework within a four-year period. There are many technical colleges within Wisconsin that can provide you with a relevant degree. 

Related Articles

Do Civil Servants Really Have to Identify Themselves?

To learn how to best prepare and study for your firefighter exam click here.

Free civil service guide. Click here to learn more:

Please note: This blog post is for educational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. Please consult a legal expert to address your specific needs.