Minimum Requirements

At the very least, this is what you need to apply.


Within the Federal Government, the U.S. Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management, National Park Service, Bureau of Indian Affairs, and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service all have various wildland fire positions.

There are also opportunities on the state and local level, with a private contractor, or you could go to jail and possibly get on a convict crew. Kidding! That’s not a great way to get into wildland fire.

For Federal wildland firefighting jobs, you will need:

  • US Citizenship

  • To be 18 years old at date of hire

  • High School Diploma or GED

  • Fairly clean criminal record (DUIs and felonies won’t immediately disqualify you, but each crew has different standards).

  • Valid driver’s license (even if you have a DUI)

  • Some agencies may require a drug test and/or a background check. The National Park Service (NPS) and the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) drug test and Forest Service (FS) may or may not. Even if marijuana is legal in your state, Federally it is illegal and a clean drug test may be a condition of hire. Random drug testing is still possible after getting hired.

  • To pass the Arduous Work Capacity Test. You have to hike carrying 45 pounds 3 miles in under 45 minutes (some high elevation duty stations will have an adjusted time. Usually no more than 46;30). Every firefighter has to pass this test every year in order to have a job.

Each agency has its own hiring processes and standards, but this is a general guide. Refer carefully to any job posting you apply for for specifics.

Most wildland firefighters start out as a GS-3 Forestry Technician (currently $11.04/hour, may be higher in some areas).

To qualify for a GS-03, you must meet at least one of the following h:

  • 6 months of general work experience, which can be any work experience

  • OR 1 year of education above the high school level, which included at least 6 semester hours in any combination of the following courses: range management; range conservation; agriculture; forestry; wildlife management; engineering; biology; mathematics; other natural or physical sciences

  • OR a combination of education and experience described above.

This experience needs to be described in detail in your resume otherwise you’ll be disqualified. Also make sure you have copies of your educational transcripts if you’re claiming education to qualify.

If you are right out of high school and don’t have anything that counts as six months of general work experience you may only qualify as a GS-2 Forestry Aid (currently $10.12/hour, may be higher in some areas).

An advanced degree can help you start out at a higher pay rate but isn’t necessary for entry-level positions.

(Verbatim from a federal fire job posting) To apply for a higher grade level (GS-4 and higher), you must possess specialized experience. This experience should be directly related to the duties of the position. For instance, to apply for a helitack position, an applicant would need helitack experience. Generally, you may use education to meet a specialized experience requirement.

For the qualification standard that covers most wildland firefighter positions the following applies:

  • GS-4 level position: Six months of specialized experience (equivalent to the GS-3 level) or 2 years of education beyond high school with coursework related to the occupation

  • GS-5 level position: One year of specialized experience (equivalent to the GS-4 level) or 4-year course of study beyond high school and a bachelor’s degree with coursework related to the occupation.

Basically, unless you have a degree that is relevant to fire or have wildland fire experience (possibly through structure fire or as a temporary firefighter hired for a short time by the Federal Government during busy fire seasons) you won’t get anything higher than a GS-3.

Now if all this is confusing, don’t stress! I’ll help you through the application process. But first, check out the next section. It talks about what to expect as a wildland firefighter and what you’re getting into.

Firefighters hold the line while their other crew members conduct a burnout on fire in Idaho in 2015.

Firefighters hold the line while their other crew members conduct a burnout on fire in Idaho in 2015.