Although the role can be perilous, many people want to become firefighters. These courageous men and women are tasked with controlling fires and responding to a variety of emergency situations, including medical calls. Because their duties are apt to change several times at the scene of an urgent event, firefighters must possess expert decision-making skills, in addition to physical stamina, strength and the ability to stay at a disaster for long periods of time. When firefighters are not in the field, they remain on-call at a fire station, inspecting equipment, exercising and participating in practice drills. Their shifts normally last a minimum of 24 hours.

In Los Angeles, firefighters earn an average annual salary greater than $47,000, with top public service workers bringing home yearly wages in excess of $70,000, according to current data. By 2022, the government projects that more than 20,000 firefighters will have already landed new posts nationwide. Because masses of heroes-in-the-making are attracted to the vocation’s challenge and minimal education requirements, competition for available posts will be tight in the coming years.

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Applicants aspiring to join the Los Angeles Fire Department must be at least 18 years old with a high school diploma or equivalent. A state or federal-issued photo identification card is also mandatory in order to take the imperative civil service test for employment. Candidates are also required to pass a physical ability test, conducted by either the Oxnard College Regional Fire Academy or the California Fire Fighter Joint Apprenticeship Committee CPAT Testing Center. The pass-or-fail exam costs around $150, and includes such trials as stair climbing, hose dragging, equipment handling, forcible entry, search and rescue.

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Moreover, applicants are expected to show accredited proof that they are certified to perform cardiopulmonary resuscitation and work as an emergency medical technician before they are even considered. Once hired, they will receive further on-the-job training.

Due to exposure to hazardous materials and dangerous circumstances on a constant basis, firefighters endure one of the highest rates of injuries and illnesses of all occupations. This is the reason these life-savers must be in top form – both physically and mentally.

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Sharon Raiford Bush is an award-winning journalist who covers topics of social interest in greater Los Angeles. Some news articles she has authored have been archived by the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, DC. Sharon also contributes to Examiner.com.