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Can a Felon Become a Firefighter?

Can a Felon Become a Firefighter

A blemish on your background can be very ominous when applying for a job. This is all the more applicable when applying for a government job.

Most employers refrain from hiring felons due to their records. Sustaining in regular life gets difficult for a felon after coming out of prison. When it comes to applying for their dream job, it gets even more difficult.

A felon can never take on jobs with ease like the general public. They have to face many difficulties while following their chosen career.

Nowadays, all companies and firms perform in-depth background checks before hiring employees. For a felon, several job opportunities get eliminated. This is because they have their names in the criminal database. A lot of people worry that a past felony could have an impact on their career choices.

So, those who dream of getting a job as a firefighter often ask questions like:

1 Can a criminal record can stop them from becoming a firefighter?

2 Can a felon become a firefighter?

You should know that not every mistake is fatal to your goal of becoming a firefighter. Let’s looks into more details on this topic.

Nature And Scope Of Work

Firefighters serve the public by responding to fires and accidents. They are also responsible for incidents where there are risks to life and property. The job of a firefighter does not end with fighting fire only. Their job involves rescue missions, emergency medical care, and other related emergency services.

They respond to a wide variety of calls. Firefighters also assist with car crashes, flooding, chemical spills, bird & animal rescue, and rescue from floods. They also help in investigating the cause of the fire. Firefighters even work with other medical and law enforcement to protect the community.

can felon become a firefighter

Firefighters are well-respected because of their work and service to the public. People have a great amount of respect and trust for firefighters. This is why when a fire department hires new candidates, they set high standards. They look for ethically and morally correct candidates. The department wants to make sure they are capable and willing to uphold the standards they set.

In the United States, the competition for firefighting job openings is very high. This job attracts many applicants. Firefighters have an image to live up to. It is quite a lucrative career. The job also comes with many benefits. Unlike most other careers, a firefighter retires only after 25 years of service. This gives individuals more time to spend with the family post-retirement.

The fire department receives hundreds of applications for a single opening. In the United States alone, there were an estimated 1,115,000 career and volunteer firefighters in 2018.

Do Fire Departments Hire People With Criminal Records?

Getting a firefighters job is hard enough for the general public. This is however nothing compared to the hardships faced by a felon while applying for the same job. The hardships increase when it is a government job or something more intense such as a firefighter.

Firefighters often work for local, state, or federal government agencies. They also provide outsourced support and double up as an ambulance in certain scenarios. They also work for other private and public companies. These sectors include:

  • Scientific research and development
  • Mining
  • Manufacturing organizations

A firefighter must also respond and act quickly in dangerous situations. This is why every firefighter must have responsible and alert. This is also the reason why most firefighting departments do not want to hire a felon. Once a person gets a criminal record to their name, things change. You are no longer considered an ordinary citizen.

When it comes to firefighting, firefighters have the potential to save lives. This is why employing a felon as a firefighter may seem problematic to some. This doesn’t mean it is the end of your dream of being a firefighter.

Does Your Criminal Record Stop You From Achieving Your Goal?

Well, no. Having a criminal record will not necessarily bar you from becoming a firefighter. If however, you have a criminal record and pending convictions, you will have to declare this during the application process.

No federal or state law prohibits felons from becoming a firefighter. It will however be up to each jurisdiction to set up hiring rules and guidelines.

Is There Any Felony That Can Prevent You From Becoming A Firefighter?

Yes, many felonies will prevent you from becoming a firefighter. There is something you must know before we start talking about these convictions. A felony has 4 categories.

1 1st Degree Felonies: These include:

  • Rape
  • Kidnap
  • Murder
  • Arson

2 2nd Degree Felonies: These include:

  • Felony Assault
  • Possession of controlled substance
  • Manslaughter

can felon become firefighter

3 3rd Degree Felonies: These include:

  • Elder Abuse
  • Fraud
  • Assault and battery
  • U.I.

4 4th Degree Felonies: These include:

  • Involuntary manslaughter
  • Larceny
  • Resisting Arrest
  • Burglary

No federal or state law prohibits felons from becoming a firefighter. The individual jurisdictions however can set up restrictions based on some convictions.

In some jurisdictions, candidates with a DWI / DUI felony cannot apply. If it has however been less than ten years since the committed offense then this applies. Since a DUI displays a sign of poor life choices, it is difficult to get the job but not impossible.

The applicant must take responsibility for their actions. They need to show remorse to prove to the employer. They also have to convince the employer of their character development. This will help prove their competence and dedication to the job.

DWI / DUI (Driving while impaired/ Driving under the influence)

In some jurisdictions, there are rules about any felon who committed a Class C felony. This includes domestic abuse or family assault in the last three years. In such scenarios, they are not allowed to register for firefighter training.

Felons with severe felonies such as 1st degree/class A are not acetated. These include crimes like kidnapping, rape, sexual offenders, and murder.

Is There Any Misdemeanor That Can Prevent You From Becoming A Firefighter?

Misdemeanors are less serious than felonies. These are less likely to keep you from becoming a firefighter. Certain misdemeanors however may affect your career. Let’s see the types of misdemeanors.

1 Class 1 or Class A Misdemeanor – These include:

  • Resisting arrest
  • Assault with injury
  • DUI with no injuries

2 Class 2 or Class B Misdemeanor – These include:

  • Trespassing
  • Prostitution
  • Assault (without injuries)
  • Theft (from $50 to $500)

can felon become the firefighters

3 Class 3 or Class C Misdemeanor – These include:

  • Reckless damage
  • Bad check
  • Criminal mischief
  • Theft (less than $50)

4 Class 4 or Class D Misdemeanor – These include:

  • Tattooing without a license
  • Failing to return lost property

Crimes involving violence such as assault, domestic abuse, and battery are likely to get you disqualified. Some jurisdictions have specific guidelines. These states say that Class A misdemeanors are permanent disqualifiers. Class B misdemeanors disqualify a felon for 5 years and Class C for 2 years.

How To Get Closer To Your Goal Of Becoming A Firefighter?

Let’s discuss a few things you should remember if you want to make it as a firefighter.

1 Criminal Record

Declare your criminal record during the application process. Do not try to hide anything. Even if you somehow managed to get away at first, the background check will give everything away. Discovery of a criminal record at a later stage could mean immediate dismissal.

2 Moving Forward

A criminal record shows the mistakes made in your past. It is up to you to ensure it doesn’t hold back your future. Some crimes are forgivable, and you can still pursue your career as a firefighter.

It is up to you to show the department that you own your mistakes and have worked to move past them. You must prove that you have learned from them and will not make the same mistakes again.

can felon become the firefighter

3 Turning Over A New Leaf

Remember to make yourself look and sound like you are not the person you were once. Take full responsibility for your crimes. Don’t try to pass the blame onto another. Admitting your mistakes will show your sincerity. It will also make the interviewer respect you.


Nowadays, more felons are fulfilling their dream of becoming a firefighter. Some fire departments are now open to hiring felons. This includes the New York Fire Department. This is based on state law to stop employment discrimination against felons.

It is beneficial if the state parole board offers ex-felons a Certificate of Good Conduct. The New York Fire Department will consider this with your application.

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