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Employment FAQ
Application and Written Exam

How and when do I apply?   

The Charleston Fire Department recruits for Firefighter approximately once per year.  This varies depending on hiring needs.  The only means of applying is online.  To apply, go to the and search for Firefighter Trainee.

How can I get the study guide?

Following the recruitment period, candidates will be invited to take the written exam  study guides will be available for download from the exam vendor.   We do not distribute hard copies.

Can the written exam be taken at another time?

No.   All applicants will be administered the written exam on a predetermined exam date.

What should I bring to the written exam?

Your written exam notice, either in hardcopy or saved on your phone.  Do not bring:  the study guide, pens, pencils, calculators, food, drinks, family, friends.  Backpacks are NOT allowedplease do not bring them with you as we will not have a place to store them during the exam.

What is the passing score?

The passing score is determined by the average score achieved by the applicants taking the test.

I don’t live in Charleston. Can I still apply?

Yes.  However, upon employment, all Firefighters have  to move into the State of South Carolina 

I was a firefighter somewhere else.  Do I have to take the written exam, and/or do I have to attend the fire academy?   

Your experience as a firefighter may help in the testing process, but the Charleston Fire Department does not accept transfers.  You will be required to test and if successful, you will have to go through the training as any other firefighter recruit.

What is the minimum age for applicants?

You must be at least 18 years of age on or before the date of application.

What is the maximum age for applicants?

The City of Charleston does not have a maximum age limit.

Do I have to be a high school graduate or have a GED?


I have a relative working for the City of Charleston, can I still apply?  

Do I have to be a citizen of the United States?

Yes.  However, if you are a non-citizen, you must have acceptable documentation that you are a legal resident of the United States.  The documentation must be presented when a job offer is made.

Will I need a copy of my birth certificate when I turn in my application?

No.  You will have to present two (2) forms of identification at the time of hire (usually a driver’s license & social security card).

Will I need a copy of my military discharge orders (Form DD214) when I turn in my application?

Yes.  You will have to upload a copy at the time of application to obtain your Veteran Preference Points.

What if I have a police record?

All firefighter trainees go through a background screening process before being hired.  Criminal history and convictions will be reviewed prior to a final job offer.  Sworn public safety positions require closer scrutiny by hiring authorities during the background screening process.  Disclosure of all criminal history is required for the background screening process.

Will I need identification at the written exam?

Yes. You will need to present photo identification, or you will not be allowed to take the exam.

When will I receive the results of my written exam?

Written exam results will be emailed four to six weeks after the exam. Your final notice will include your written exam score. Those who receive a passing score will be placed on an eligibility list for Firefighter Trainee by the City of Charleston Human Resources Department. The Charleston Fire Department will then use this list to invite candidates for oral board interviews.

If I have a valid EMT or Paramedic certification in another state, will I need to be certified through the State of  South Carolina? 

Yes. You must contact the Department of Health Services in the state you obtained your  certification to determine if your certification can be transferred.   Not all state EMT or Paramedic certifications are eligible to transfer.

Physical Ability Test (PAT)

How much does the gear weigh?

Firefighters must carry an array of specialized tools and equipment that can weigh over 70 lbs, plus a breathing apparatus that weighs 40 lbs.

At what point in the process do I need to schedule the physical ability test (PAT)?

PAT – Applicants must pass the written test to proceed to the Physical Ability Test (PAT). The PAT is required for those who do not possess a CPAT certificate with a date of passing within the past 24 months.  Applicants who pass the PAT will be eligible for an oral board interview. Proof of successful completion of the PAT is required to move forward in the process.

Will The City of Charleston Fire Department accept CPAT certification from another agency/municipality?

Yes. The City of Charleston Fire Department will ONLY accept CPAT certification from other “licensed” agencies or municipalities. You must show proof of successful completion from a licensed agency prior to your scheduled oral board interview.


Do I have to pass a medical (physical) exam prior to being hired?

Yes. Candidates must complete and pass a medical examination that includes a cardiovascular fitness component

Will I be drug tested prior to being hired?

Yes, and you will be subject to random drug testing throughout your career.

When will the City of Charleston be recruiting for firefighter trainees again?

The City of Charleston accepts applications for Firefighter Trainee on a continuous basis. However, the date of the next testing process is based on the needs of the city.

How many people is the City of Charleston going to hire?

We don’t know at this time. The number of people hired varies from year to year, depending upon the number of employees retiring, the amount of employee turnover, and the number of new stations opened and the budget.

Is it harder for a woman to get hired?

The Charleston Fire Department is an equal opportunity employer and does not discriminate against race or gender.  All candidates have to pass the same physical ability exam.   Women enjoy respect in the Department because they have demonstrated their abilities in order to be hired.   In training everyone is held to the same standard.   During the CFD Training Academy, one of the most important things instructors look for is that recruits are giving 100 percent.

Training Academy

How long is training at the Fire Academy?
The Recruit Academy lasts approximately 26 weeks.  Those who successfully complete the recruit program are placed in the field as probationary firefighters for approximately 6 months.   During that time period an on-going structured training program will be provided along with monthly evaluations.   Probationary firefighters return to the Training Academy for a final probationary exam.

The Job

What is the job of a firefighter really like?
Firefighting involves extremely hard, skilled physical work, and firefighters must be able to handle emergency, life-or-death situations.   Firefighters must also be willing learners.   There will be continuous in-service training throughout their careers keeps them up-to-date on the newest technologies and latest fire suppression methods. Training in the fire service encompasses many subjects, such as building construction, emergency medical procedures, hazardous materials, technical rescue, public education, community relations.   Firefighters must have strong social skills, and the ability to think and communicate clearly in very stressful situations.

How are promotions made in the department?
The first promotional opportunity is to Assistant Engineer.   You must have 1 year on the job.  This position consists of a written and practical exercise.

Do firefighters get to sleep during their shift?

Every station is designed to accommodate a crew for 24 hours. This includes a kitchen, dorm, restrooms, showers, exercise equipment, TV room.   Sleeping is permitted, as is cooking, working out, and studying, although you must be ready to respond to alarms and fulfill other duty requirements at all times.

Who is in charge?

The Charleston Fire Department is structured to mirror a military hierarchy.   The station is a microcosm of that, beginning with the firefighters, a fire engineer (driver) in charge of the apparatus, and a Captain in charge of the entire crew.   Each area of the city has a Battalion Chief in charge of operations and stations in his or her Battalion.


If I have any questions regarding testing/selection/hiring processes for Firefighter Recruit what can I do?
Send an e-mail to the City of Charleston Fire Department recruitment team here. This e-mail is checked on a regular basis.