Can a Felon Become a Firefighter?

Certain mistakes in life can often prove highly costly. Those that lead to prison time and lifelong association with felony status are especially painful. They can result in an end to aspirations that have been nurtured from youth.

Many a child has been fascinated and cheered on the sound of a firetruck zooming past. They idolize the hero firefighters and wish to join their ranks when older. Unfortunately, committing a crime that ends in felony conviction can put an end to any such dreams,

Can a felon become a firefighter? – is a question not many ask. They assume that their conviction automatically disqualifies them from such a privilege.

Can a Felon Become a Firefighter?

Firefighting careers are highly desirous and attract a lot of applicants. In many parts of the country, a single vacancy can attract hundreds of candidates. With so many out-of-work law enforcement and military, many have a beneficial experience.

Even the pay can be quite good. Many departments allow for retirement with full benefits after just 25 years of service.

The working conditions can also vary. This depends on whether the post is a local, state or federal level job. You can even become a firefighter in the military.

The application process can also be quite taxing. From psychological profiling to endurance tests, it can be a long and tough road to selection.

Despite the difficulties ahead, some felons still cling to their earlier aspirations. They may still want to pursue a career in firefighting. The adrenalin rush, generous benefits, and hero status are all things they feel will overshadow a bad past.

Here we will look at whether a felon can become a firefighter. If so, we will look at what needs to be done.

Let’s begin by looking at the criteria applied in this selection process.

Qualifications to Become a Firefighter

Before we touch on how some felonies could disqualify a candidate, let us review more general requirements. These apply to all candidates, felon and non-felon.

  • Be 19 years of age or older, with a maximum age of 28-35 years depending on the department
  • Have completed high school or earned GED.
  • Earned a degree in fire science, qualified as a paramedic, or emergency medical technician (EMT)
  • Take a physical ability test
  • Pass a background check that includes criminal record and credit report
  • Pass the psychological exam
  • Take a written exam
  • Earn fire-fighter certifications from the fire academy
  • Volunteer with the fire department
  • Pass the interview

This is quite a long list of qualifications, but each step is highly important. Failure anywhere along the way and you can kiss this opportunity goodbye.

As said, a career in firefighting is highly sought after and there are many applicants to compete against. If you fail to qualify on any of these standards, there are likely several others who will pass.

Now you know what is needed to qualify. Let’s next consider what disqualifies.

Restrictions from Becoming a Fireman

Restrictions from Becoming a Fireman

Being a firefighter is a heavy responsibility. It involves saving lives and preserving property. A history of certain crimes can make it impossible to trust that a candidate can fulfill these responsibilities.

The first offense we will look at involves arson. Arson is a crime that directly relates to the job at hand. Being known as a firebug totally disqualifies an applicant.

Those with convictions related to theft or robbery are also prevented from such a career. You may be required to work independently and expected to be respectful of others’ property. If you have stolen before, no authority will put you in a position to access such property unrestricted.

Crimes of moral turpitude are also grounds for dismissal. This includes offenses like murder, child abuse, assault, theft, fraud, and domestic abuse.

Also, those under the prison authority may not pursue such work. This means you cannot be incarcerated, nor be on parole or probation. Nor may you be currently indicted.

We have made mention of how some candidates may have a history in law enforcement or the military. This training and experience can give some candidates an edge over the rest. This only, however, counts where they did not get dishonorably discharged.

A history of alcohol and drug abuse can also complicate one’s candidacy. Anyone with a history of drug trafficking is disqualified. Candidates should expect to be drug tested.

Besides criminal offenses, there is also a need to demonstrate a stable work history. Many gaps or frequent changes in the employer may suggest unreliability.

Another issue would be a health condition. Suffering a medical condition, like heart issues would disqualify a candidate. This would be for health and safety concerns that would interfere with their ability to perform duties.

Guidelines for Becoming a Firefighter

Guidelines for Becoming a Firefighter

Here we will look at the steps to become a firefighter and how it relates to felony past.

Basic Requirements

You must be an adult between the ages of 18-35 years to apply. The upper limit may, however, vary depending on the jurisdiction. Consult with your local firehouse to confirm that you are within the appropriate age range.

Educational Requirements

Besides having the ability to speak, write and listen in English, you need to earn your high school diploma. Those that dropped out can attain their GED. Additional certifications such as being an EMT or having a paramedic license may be required by certain departments.

Pass The Tests

Firefighting activities are physically taxing. They include being able to carry heavy gear, climbing ladders, making forcible entry, and lifting a person’s dead weight. To gauge your ability to meet these demands, you will need to pass a physical ability test.

There will also be a written test that includes multiple-choice questions. A psychological exam will also be conducted. It will gauge your mental and emotional ability to cope with the stresses of the job.

Clear The Background Check

This pertains to both criminal records and credit reports. Even if you are a felon, the crimes should not conflict with responsibilities as a firefighter. You also have to demonstrate fiscal responsibility through a reasonable credit score and controlled debt.


Many departments will recruit their full-time team members from amongst their volunteers. Not only does it keep you in good practice, but it also demonstrates your readiness to serve the community.

For felons, volunteering at the firehouse and other charitable work is evidence of wanting to contribute. It shows you value your community and want to preserve it.



Can you become a firefighter with a felony DUI?

While a DUI indicates poor judgment, it cannot be held against you forever. Demonstrating remorse for your actions and taking corrective steps helps. Attending rehab and working with charities whose efforts combat drunk driving can also work in your favor.

What disqualifies me from being a firefighter?

Anything that indicates an inability to fulfill the responsibilities of the job. A medical condition that affects physical performance can lead to disqualification. So can a history of crime that demonstrates a disregard for the law and morally harmful behavior.

Can having my criminal records expunged or sealed help me pass the background check?

Yes. This type of relief will allow your history to remain concealed. If you do manage to qualify for this relief, do not make mention of your criminal past.

Are firemen subjected to drug tests?

Many departments will carry out random drug tests on firefighters, twice a year. Anyone with addiction issues that reports it can get rehabilitation assistance without it affecting their job. Testing positive can lead to termination.

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

No, but it often helps. Already being certified as an EMT or paramedic means less time spent on medical training at the fire academy. They can focus on firefighting skills.


If you are questioning: can a felon be a firefighter, the answer is yes. However, it may be difficult to accomplish.

There are many hurdles even when you have a clean record. When you are a felon, there is the added pressure to prove that you have turned your life around.

It often comes down to how well you can persuade the interviewing panel that you deserve a second chance. If your records are sealed or expunged, it may eliminate the need to make mention of your convictions.

This is not the only career that can have tough barriers for felons. becoming a nurse or lawyer can be just as difficult. The question is whether you are ready to put in the effort.

You also have to be prepared for rejection. Even under normal circumstances, becoming a firefighter is not easy, so moderate your expectations.

Prepare well and give it your best shot. If all fails, consider other options. There are still many ways you can become a contributing member of society.

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

error: Content is protected !!