Update: 9/19/2016: *** We are not currently testing but we encourage interested applicants to complete a “Recruitment Information Form” below. ***

The Howard County Department of Fire and Rescue Services offers exceptional and diverse career opportunities for men and women seeking professional development and satisfaction. With excellent salaries and benefits, a variety of job assignments, unlimited opportunities for advancement and the chance to make a profound difference in the community. We have completed the 2016 application process. Please check back periodically for future opportunities.

Minimum Qualifications

  • Must possess a valid Motor Vehicle Class C Operator's driver's license issued by the State of residence;
  • Possess a High School Diploma or GED;
  • Must provide documentation of eligibility to legally work in the United States
  • Must be eighteen (18) years of age.

As a condition of employment, persons selected for this training class and all future training classes shall not use tobacco products in any form throughout the term of their employment whether on or off duty. Any use of tobacco products during the term of employment shall constitute grounds for disciplinary action and/or termination.

If you are interested in obtaining further information regarding the fire service and the recruitment process, please fill out the following form:

Fill out the recruitment information form here.

Wondering if you have what it takes to become a firefighter or paramedic?

Recruitment Facts

What Requirements Do I Need to Apply?

The required minimum qualifications for Firefighter Trainee are:

  • Must have a high school diploma, GED or an appropriate high school equivalency.
  • Possession of a valid driver's license equivalent to a non-provisional, non-commercial, class C driver's license with less than four points. The license does not have to be a Maryland license.
  • Legal proof of citizenship or eligibility to work in the United States. 
  • Applicants must have no felony or serious misdemeanor convictions or pled guilty to or received probation before judgment for such offenses 
  • Must pass a physical examination, comprehensive background examination and a drug test.
  • As a condition of employment, selected applicants will not be permitted to use any form of tobacco products while employed as a member of the department. 

Applicants are not required to possess any certificates, laterals or certifications to apply for entry-level firefighter trainee positions. 

Daily Activities Inside a Fire Station

In addition to responding to fire and medical emergencies, life inside a firehouse is packed with activity. HCDFRS career personnel work on one of three shifts (A,B,C). Each shifts works for 24 hours at the fire station and then has 48 hours off. During the 24 hours on duty, personnel run calls, train, shower, eat and sleep at the fire station. Firefighters have a wide range of responsibilities, not only to hone the skills required of firefighting and medical emergencies, but also for the upkeep of the firehouse, equipment, and all the apparatus. All firefighters are on rotating schedules. Everyday activities firefighters engage in include:

  • Raising and lowering the flag outside the firehouse
  • Discussions of safety drills and creating safety messages to share with personnel
  • Cleaning the dorms
  • Sweeping and mopping the floors
  • Cooking the meals
  • Participate in mandatory fitness and conditioning program
  • Daily training drills
  • Attend workshops or classes designed to inform firefighters on the latest advancements in medical technology, fire science, emergency treatment and prevention
  • Maintenance of all apparatus (checking fuel levels, examining for damage or wear, etc)
  • Maintenance of all equipment (uniforms, tanks, etc.)
  • Inventory of supplies
  • Discussion of recent or past firefighting, emergency medical responses and working out strategies to cope with unexpected occurrences during emergencies

Every activity is important and given attention. A fire truck cannot respond to an emergency if it is low on fuel. A facemask can cause a fatality if it has a crack in it. A firefighter’s entire day is spent, in one way or another, preparing for emergencies. In our department SAFETY is the top priority!

Teamwork is another key component of HCDFRS. Modern fire stations have separate sleeping and bathroom/shower facilities for men and women. Older stations have been retrofitted with separate bathroom/shower facilities, but common sleeping areas remain. The Department makes every effort to provide the best available solution to privacy issues at each station. And by the way, everyone takes turns cooking, so you might want to start thinking about some of your favorite family recipes.

Like members of the armed services, firefighters and EMTs follow a command structure based on rank, with firefighters and EMTs at the lower end of the scale. A paramilitary structure requires you to take orders from those of higher rank. When on duty, firefighters cannot leave the station to take care of personal business nor can they make or receive cell phone calls while en route to or working on an incident. Firefighters are expected to come work on time every day they are scheduled to work including during snowstorms, hurricanes or other severe weather.  Lateness is not tolerated. You are held accountable for your behavior – off and on the job, inside and outside Howard County. 

Recruitment FAQs

How long is the academy?  

The academy is 26 weeks long.

Do I have to fill out an application before taking the written test?  

Registration is done online only at when firefighter/emt trainee openings are available for posting.

What does the written exam consist of?  

The written examination consists of multiple-choice questions. You will be given two hours and twenty minutes to complete the exam. There are four sections to the test, including Video Based Human Relations, Animated Mechanical Aptitude, Reading, and Math. 

Do I have to sign up to take the physical test?  

You will be invited to sign up for the Candidate Physical Ability Test (CPAT) only if you pass the written entrance exam.

How long will the hiring process take?  

The hiring process involves various steps and could take up to six months. Your cooperation in completing the necessary paperwork at each stage of the process will help make the process quicker.

When is the next test date?  

Written and physical exams are offered once a year if HCDFRS is in a hiring mode. If you fail the written test, you may retest after twelve months. If you fail the physical ability test, you may retake the test the next time it's offered.

Where does testing take place?  

All testing is held at the James N. Robey Public Safety Training Center, 2200 Scott Wheeler Drive, Marriottsville, MD 21104.

What is the proper attire for written testing?  

Suit and tie are not required.

Is the academy a live-in academy?  

No, the academy is non-residential. The academy is held Monday-Friday, typically from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. Based on training needs, some weekends and evening hours are required.

Am I paid while attending the academy?  

Yes, you will be paid at the rate stated on your hire date.

 What is the maximum age to become a firefighter/EMT?  

There is no age limit. As long as you're able to pass all phases of the process, you're eligible.

Will my military experience help?  

Each applicant is evaluated individually throughout the application process. It is a very competitive process, and as such, every aspect of your life is considered when making a selection for hire.

Can I go to school while I'm employed with Howard County Fire and Rescue?  

Yes. The Howard County Fire and Rescue offers tuition reimbursement at any accredited college of your choice. Degrees must be related to the Public Safety Sector.

After graduating from the academy, can I request an assignment?  

You are assigned based on operational needs.

Salary & Benefits

A Howard County Department of Fire and Rescue Services (HCDFRS) firefighter trainee has many rewards, financially and personally. HCDFRS offers an exceptional compensation package which includes the following: 

Excellent starting salary: Entry-level firefighter trainee positions earn $49,745 annually. Trainees also receive full pay during Academy training. 

Excellent benefits: Under the County's flexible benefits plan called CountyFlex, employees may elect to enroll in medical insurance plans, dental insurance plans, optional life insurance, dependent life insurance, and health care and dependent care flexible spending accounts.

Excellent career opportunities: HCDFRS is not just about fighting fire! There are opportunities in Emergency Medical Services, Fire Inspection, Search and Rescue, Swift Water Rescue, Hazardous Materials and much more! Our firefighter trainees are also trained as emergency medical technicians (EMTs) - 80% of the calls we respond to are for medical emergencies.  

Excellent working environment: HCDFRS is committed to diversity in the workplace. We’re a diverse group that welcomes all races, ethnic groups and backgrounds. As part of our recruitment efforts, we are also focused on supporting our military veterans.

Excellent people: HCDFRS has a people friendly family that helps the community, helps each other and helps people in general. We know that we’re an integral part of your community, your neighborhood and your county. We’re not just saving people, but helping them as well.  

Excellent reputation:
 We're known around the region as one of the best fire and rescue departments in the state! Those who join our department will have an opportunity to learn innovative medical techniques, learn best practices in CPR and make a true difference in the lives of the citizens we serve.

 Additional benefits include annual salary review and longevity increments:

  • Generous vacation and sick leave 
  • Uniforms and personal protective equipment 
  • An educational assistance program 
  • Health, dental and life insurance coverage 
  • Representation by a certified labor organization, the Howard County Professional Firefighters Association, Local 2000 
  • Excellent retirement and deferred compensation plans 
  • Opportunities for career advancement

Contact a Recruiter

For additional information and recruitment questions, please contact our recruiter:

(410) 313-HIRE (4473) 

Please do not call the Recruitment office for routine application checks; refer to your NEOGOV account for this information.