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How to become a firefighter

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Want to join the Boston Fire Department? You need to take the state's civil service exam to become a firefighter. Here's how:


Before you get started

The state holds a firefighter civil service exam annually, usually in the fall.

The civil service exam has two parts — a written test and a physical test. To take the state civil service exam to become a Boston firefighter, you need to meet a few requirements:

  • You must be at least 19 on the date you apply, and younger than 32 on the day you take the exam. (Veterans may add 3 years to the max age with honorable service)
  • You must be a Boston resident at least one year before the date of your exam. Boston residents have preference over non-residents.
  • You must have a valid Massachusetts license.
  • You can't be a smoker.

Apply to take the civil service exam

To apply to take the civil service exam to become a firefighter, you need to create an account and apply on the state’s website. When you apply for the firefighter exam, you will be given options for what cities and towns you want to work in. Remember to pick Boston. If you are fluent in a second language or multiple languages, you may include that skill in your civil service profile. 

The fee for the exam is $75. You can pay on the state’s website with a credit or debit card.

The written part of the exam usually takes place in the fall with a deadline to apply a few months before the test. The state will mail you a written notice and send you an email with the date of the test. After you apply for the exam, the state will also send you a date, time, and location for your physical abilities test.


Prepare for written exam and physical abilities test

The written exam is made up of:

  • multiple-choice questions that test your problem-solving skills and comprehension
  • a Work Styles Questionnaire that tests your motivations and other parts of your personality, and
  • a Life Experience survey that asks about your history.

This state exam guide will help prepare you for the written part of the civil service exam.

The physical abilities part of the exam tests your ability to perform the tasks you'll be doing as a firefighter. You'll go through a series of events that test your strength, endurance, and flexibility. The state created a page with information about the physical test to help get you prepared, along with a video of the physical exam.

Follow @BostonFire on twitter for announcements on any preparation sessions and resources


Take the physical abilities test

The state will also send you a date, time, and location for your physical abilities test. It’s a good idea to show up early and dress for a workout.

If you fail the physical abilities test, you can’t become a firefighter. If you take the physical abilities test and you fail it before the written exam takes place, you may qualify to get a refund for the written test. The state’s website has more information on the refund.


Take the written exam

The written part of the exam usually takes place in the fall. The state will mail you a written notice and send you an email with the date of the test.

It’s a good idea to show up early. You can also bring your own number 2 pencils for the exam.


Wait to hear from the City

You will get a notice about your test score — and your place on the eligible list of potential firefighter candidates — from the state several months after the test.

When we make a call for the list in preparation for the City’s next firefighter class, the state will contact you in the order in which you’re placed on the eligible list.


Screening process and probation period

The next step is the screening process. Our screening of potential candidates includes:

  • a character background check
  • a medical fitness screening
  • a drug test, and
  • a psychological exam.

Based on the results, we add you to a class at the Boston Fire Academy.

If you join the Boston Fire Department, you'll have to go through a probation period of one year. During this time, you will:

  • finish your work at the Firefighter Academy
  • get your Firefighter 1 and 2 certifications, and
  • get certified as an Emergency Medical Technician.

Once you get through your probation period, you become a member of the department as a Boston firefighter.

More Fire information

Are you a veteran?

We hire based on your scores on the written and physical exams. If you're a veteran, you'll get several benefits during the selection process.

If you served on active duty, you may qualify to take the exam until age 35. The state website has more information on veterans’ benefits.

Firefighter pay and benefits

The salary for a Boston firefighter starts at $65,000 per year. The City also offer many benefits, including:

  • several health insurance options
  • 13 paid holidays per year
  • 15 sick days with buyback at retirement
  • paid vacation
  • participation in the Boston Retirement System, with the chance to retire as early as 55, and
  • an option to join the Boston Firefighter Credit Union.
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