Need more information?

Here are the most common questions we’ve been asked


When do applications open?

Applications are now open. 

Find out more about the application process here. 

How old do you have to be?

You must be 18 by the time you start training. There is no upper age limit.

Are there any height limits?

There are no minimum or maximum height restrictions. Candidates will be expected to pass strength and fitness tests as part of the recruitment process and these are at a level achievable for both men and women of all different sizes and builds.

Can I become a firefighter as a working parent?

Yes. Many of our firefighters, both male and female, are parents. They find that the shift patterns work well to juggle work and childcare.

What qualifications do I need?

You will have to pass the National Selection Tests. This means we do not require you to have passed specific GCSEs (or equivalent).

What if I have a criminal conviction?

You must disclose any convictions or pending convictions on your application form, having criminal convictions does not necessarily mean that ECFRS won’t employ you.

Do I have to be fit to apply?

There is a requirement for you to maintain an appropriate level of fitness which meet our operational requirements. It is your responsibility to ensure that you comply with this requirement at all times during your employment. Your fitness will be assessed throughout your employment.

For support and advice on fitness follow our fitness team on Instagram and download our training fitness programme.

Do I have to be a British Citizen?

All applicants are required to produce original documentary evidence of identity, eligibility to work in the UK and driving licence. If you have eligibility to work in the UK this must be permanent. Please bring original documentary evidence of identity and eligibility to work in the UK, a full range of valid documents will be confirmed during the recruitment process.

Click here for more information about right to work in the UK.

What if I fail one of the early stages of recruitment, can I reapply?

If you are unsuccessful at stages one, two or three, you will be able to reapply after twelve months from your initial application.

If you are unsuccessful at stage four, we will discuss the options available to you including enabling a further attempt at the fitness and physical assessments within a twelve month period.

Can I have a beard?

Some facial hair is allowed, but this is limited to a goatee beard or moustache. This is so that our face mask, which connects to our breathing apparatus equipment, fits properly.



Can I wear makeup and jewellery while I’m on duty?

We expect our employees to present themselves and dress in a professional manner whilst at work. A uniform that reflects the professional image of the Service is provided and allows firefighters to be appropriately dressed for the range of activities in which they are involved.

For safety reasons, jewellery including rings, earrings and facial piercings may not be worn while on duty. Hair (including facial hair) must not impair the seal of the breathing apparatus face mask nor must it impair vision or hearing. While on duty the use of makeup or hair preparations, such as hair spray, is allowed.

Do I have to live in a certain area?

No, there is no postcode restrictions for this role, but you must be able to easily travel to any part of Essex as required.

What if I can’t make an assessment date?

These dates are provided to you at the start of the recruitment process. If you are unable to make any assessment or training dates, unfortunately we will not be able to continue your recruitment process.

What does a firefighter do, apart from putting out fires?

The incidents that we are called to aren’t just fires. Firefighters work alongside other emergency services and deal with many types of emergencies; road, rail or air crashes, floods, chemical spills or rescuing people and animals trapped in other circumstances.

There’s also daily and weekly checks to do on equipment while you’re at the station. Ultimately, you’ll spend most of your time preventing fires through community interactions, such as school, business and home visits.

What are the working hours?

You’ll work a 42 hour week which includes shifts to cover a 24 hour service. A typical shift pattern is 2 day shifts, 2 night shifts and 4 days off-duty.

What are the benefits?

We offer a competitive benefit system, including a competitive pension, tax-free benefits, family friendly and flexible working, generous annual leave, career development, health and wellbeing assistance, lifestyle and social benefits.

Will I ever get home late?

There’s a chance you’ll be called to an incident close to the end of your shift. We work hard to arrange relief so you can leave as close to your shift end time as possible.

What will my salary be?

As a trainee you will receive a basic annual salary of £23,833. This will increase once you meet the development stage (around four months later) and again when you have become a competent wholetime firefighter (around 18 – 24 months).

Basic annual


Basic hourly rate


Overtime rate


Wholetime Firefighter
Trainee 23,833 10.88 16.32
Development 24,826 11.34 17.01
Competent 31,767 14.51 21.77

How much annual leave will I get?

Annual leave is calculated on the following basis:

Grade Scale A Scale B Long Service Leave
Firefighter up to Watch Manager (Not flexi) 25 days 5 days 3 days
Watch Manager flexi up to Group Manager 28 days 5 days 3 days
Area Manager 35 days 2 days 3 days

Will I have to pay for my uniform?

Uniform is free of charge including Personal Protective Equipment (PPE).

What are the locations of Essex’s fire stations?

Our wholetime fire stations are in Grays, Orsett, Loughton, Colchester, Clacton, Southend, Leigh, Rayleigh Weir, Chelmsford, Brentwood, Basildon and Harlow.

What is the pension?

As your appointment is to a substantive contract, you will automatically become a member of the Firefighter’s Pension Scheme 2015 from the first day of work.

The FPS 2015 is a contributory pension scheme.  Trainees will pay in 11% of their annual salary,  and Essex County Fire and Rescue Service pays contributions to the scheme of 14.3% pensionable pay.

Can I pick the station I work at?

Unfortunately not. Candidates will be placed at stations where there are vacancies, though you can always state a preference and we will take this into consideration. 

Is the fire service a career?

Yes, there are opportunities and a clear path for development and promotion.  Through our learning and development programmes, all employees have access to a suite of training courses to enhance, develop current skills and grow your knowledge. We always encourage employees to achieve the highest level they can and we actively support promotion.


What if I wear contact lenses or glasses?

Firefighters require a certain level of eyesight to enable them to carry out their role and must meet a required standard of vision when applying to join the fire service. Eyesight doesn’t have to be perfect to be a firefighter, but applicants are required to undertake an eye sight assessment in order to become a firefighter.

All contact lenses are discouraged on operational duty as they may compound eye contamination with chemicals or particulate. Hard lenses cannot be worn with breathing apparatus masks.

Corrected visual acuity should be 6/9 binocularly, and a minimum of 6/12 in the worse eye. The minimum uncorrected vision for recruits should be 6/18 in the better eye and 6/24 in the worse eye. Vision must be binocular.

Individuals must be able to read N12 at 30cm unaided with both eyes open (applicants aged 25 and over). Individuals must be able to read N6 at 30cm unaided with both eyes open (applicants under 25 years of age). Normal binocular field of vision is required. There should be no history of night blindness or any ocular disease that is likely to progress and result in the future failure of the visual standard.

You’ll be unable to become a firefighter if you have monochromats  (only able to see in black, white, shades of grey). All other colour defects are assessed individually by risk assessment at the recruit medical stage and may not be a barrier to recruitment.

You must meet the required vision standards.


What if I struggle to hear things sometimes?

Firefighters need to have a minimum hearing level to be considered fit for the role. You will attend an Occupational Health screening before commencing employment, and each case is looked at individually.

If I have a disability can I still apply?

You will be asked if you have a disability at the start of the recruitment process and to give details of any type of adjustments you may need throughout the process and to fulfil the role of a wholetime firefighter.

What if I have asthma?

You will have an Occupational Health assessment by our Occupational Health Department who will assess your condition at the medical stage and a decision will then be made as to your suitability for the role. Having asthma will not necessarily prevent you from becoming a firefighter, but you will be exposed to smoke and other toxicants which are irritating to the lungs and respiratory system.

What if I have dyslexia?

Dyslexia is classed as a disability and you will be asked if you have a disability as part of the recruitment process. We will work with you to put in place any reasonable adjustments that are required.

Do I have to be fit and strong?

Although you will need to be physically fit, and pass an assessment test to prove this, the strength you’ll need is more about technique. We always work in teams of different shapes and sizes, which work well together.

Working on your fitness is probably one of the most effective things to can do to prepare. Take a look at our fitness pages by clicking here to get an idea of the level you need to be at. Don’t worry if you’re not quite there yet – we believe with a bit of training almost everyone is capable of meeting the level we require. Make sure you’re following our Fitness Team on Instagram too.

What does wholetime mean?

Wholetime firefighters work regular shift patterns – two days, followed by two nights and then four days off. Here’s an example:

Monday: 9am – 6pm
Tuesday: 9am – 6pm
Wednesday: 6pm – 9am
Thursday: 6pm – 9am
Friday: Finish at 9am, off for the rest of the day
Saturday: Day off
Sunday: Day off
Monday: Day off

Our wholetime stations are in Grays, Orsett, Loughton, Colchester, Clacton, Southend, Leigh, Rayleigh Weir, Chelmsford, Brentwood, Basildon and Harlow.

What does on-call mean?

On-call firefighters have everyday lives and jobs and respond to a pager when they are needed. They are paid for being on-call and need to spend their days or nights within five minutes of an on-call station. Some of our wholetime firefighters provide on-call cover at their local station when they are on their rest days.

Do some locations offer fringe allowance?

Fringe allowance is paid to employees dependent on the location of their place of work and its proximity to London. There are two payment bands, inner fringe and outer fringe. Inner fringe £832 p/a and Outer fringe £579 p/a.

This list includes on-call stations:

Outer fringe – £597pa Inner fringe – £857pa
Basildon Loughton
Brentwood Ongar
Corringham Waltham Abbey
Harlow Epping
Old Harlow

Are all new firefighters now doing an apprenticeship as part of the training?

Yes, you’ll undertake the apprenticeship programme alongside your training to become a competent firefighter. The programme supports, develops and assesses firefighters to national standards in the first 24 to 30 months of their career.

Offering timely progression, functional skills training and additional learning support, the apprenticeship provides trainee firefighters with a Level 3 qualification in Operational Firefighting, as well as the opportunity to apply for Institute of Fire Engineers (IFE) Technician status.

The standards have been put together by a number of services in association with National Operational Guidance, the Institute of Fire Engineers and other organisations, including rep bodies, so you can be confident you’re continuing to develop your education and career in a really structured and industry-recognised way.

Do I need a driving licence?

Yes, you will need a full driving licence to be eligible to apply for the role. One of the main reasons for this is because candidates could be posted anywhere in the county of Essex, including alternative locations at short notice, so we need to ensure you can easily get to where you’re needed.

Will I need to do any maths or English tests? Can I practice these first?

If you can evidence (photo or scan) a GCSE A-C in Maths and English (or Key Skills level 2) there is no need to do this stage.

If not, you will need to take a literacy and numeracy assessment. A link will be sent for you to complete online.

When you start the assessment it will give you a chance to try a practice test first. If you want to do a separate practice test first you can access them via these links:

Literacy practice test:

Numerical practice test:

I am ex-army - is firefighting a good career for me?

We have many ex-Army colleagues who have found firefighting a great fit for them. We also work closely with CTP (career transition partnership) from the military to support veterans.

Can I request feedback on my application?

Due to the high volume of applicants, and the nature of the assessment, neither we, nor Arctic Shores, can provide further individual feedback other than the candidate report you already have access to, at this stage.

What is positive action and why is the fire service doing this as part of their recruitment?

Positive action is a legal way of targeting people from underrepresented groups to increase the number of applications for employment.

Positive action enables us to take action to attract people to apply for our roles from groups that are currently under represented in our Service. This is lawful activity permitted under the Equality Act 2010.

The fire service is currently underrepresented by people from Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) backgrounds, people that identify as Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender plus (LGBTQ+), women and people under the age of 25.

Throughout our recruitment campaign, we will be seeking to attract applicants from these underrepresented groups. To be clear, it is not about giving anyone unfair advantages, lowering standards or ticking boxes, positive action is used to break down perceived barriers, provide a level playing field and enable people to compete on equal terms knowing that the process is fair and open to all.

We are committed to having a diverse workforce that reflects the communities we serves.

Need help?

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