Minimum Qualifications

Each fire department has different hiring criteria. However, all require at least 18 years old, high school graduation or GED, valid driver’s license, and normal (correctable) vision and hearing. Many departments have additional minimum criteria including training and education. You should search individual fire department’s websites to determine the hiring criteria for those departments for which you are interested in working.

Qualifying for Positions

Those fire departments you have selected and whose minimum qualifications you meet will automatically see your profile and score. Fire departments will only see your most recent passing score.

Participating fire departments require you to take and pass the written test at a minimum. There is no substitute for this test, and written scores taken outside of this system will not be accepted.

There is no need to take any action after you complete the tests, unless a specific department wants you to turn in a written application prior to the deadline (but this is not required by most departments). Fire departments will contact you when they have an interest in talking to you. When they contact you, they will ask you to enter their formal recruiting process. This process could include an application, interviews, background check, physical, physiological and drug examinations and other traditional steps in the hiring of a firefighter.

Test scores for the National Firefighter Selection Inventory are valid for twelve months from the test date. For those who pass the exam, a numerical score is reported (0% - 100%, 70% is passing for most departments). 72 hours after taking the test, you and participating fire departments have access to your scores on this website. Some departments certify eligibility lists for longer than 12 months. If one of these departments certifies their eligibility list during the 12 months you are active on this website's master list, you could be an active candidate on their list for longer than 12 months.

It is not possible to determine your rank on the master list because fire departments use the list in different ways. Some departments use the lists as they are generated and stored on this website. Many departments will print a list only when they are going to certify an eligibility list. This printed list is static and will not change during the duration of the department's eligibility list. Since this list is not online, we have no control over how slow or fast the individual fire department’s eligibility list is being exhausted. For example, you could be ranked as 43rd on the master list and 3rd on one department's list and 15 on another department's list. In addition, after one year on the master list, candidates are automatically dropped from the list. This moves you up on the eligibility list. Also, newly tested candidates will be added to the master list.

There may be additional tests in the hiring process administered by the interested fire departments. These additional tests include, but are not limited to, oral interviews, background investigations, drug tests, psychological and physical examinations.

About the Written Exam

The reading and writing test consist of several areas: detail, spelling, word usage, clarity, and grammar. The reading comprehension portion of the test consists of reading a passage and then answering a series of questions on the passage. There is also a behavioral component to the exam.

This examination is designed so that test takers without any specific training can score as well as those with extensive training or experience in the fire service. The test is commonly referred to as reading and writing tests, or cognitive abilities tests. While there is no requirement to have knowledge of the fire service to pass this cognitive ability exam, it is helpful for a candidate to understand the concepts and philosophies of the fire service in other parts of the hiring process (i.e., interview, etc.).

The exam is called the National Firefighter Selection Inventory. The test is computer-administered. At the test site, practice items will be provided to allow you time to acclimate yourself to the computer-based test environment.

You will be given two-and-one-half (21/2) hours to complete the actual test.

Study Guides

Study guides are available from IOS Recruitment. Click here for the study guide for Firefighter. Additional preparation materials can be found on the IOS Recruitment website.

To protect the integrity of the Reading and Writing Tests and the substantial investment in the tests, Empco does not permit the review of individual test questions. Requests may be made in writing for a verification of the accuracy of the scoring of an individual test.


While scores are valid for one year, candidates may take an examination up to two (2) times in a 12 month period. To retake an examination, simply login to your Candidate Home Page, Review and Manage Test Schedule using your email address and password, and select a new test date and pay a new fee. It should be noted that you will not take the same test when re-testing, but a similarly reliable and valid test. In the event you re-test, all scores will appear in your record. Your ranking on the master list will be determined by the last score you received on this test.

Please note, if you have already taken the exam twice, the system will still allow you to register and pay for an exam. However, you will be prevented from testing when you arrive at the test site. Do not register to retest if you have already taken the exam the allowed number of times. You will not be given a refund.

Day of Test

To be admitted to the test center, you will need to present your driver’s license and the email confirmation you received upon completion of your registration. You will also need to know your social security number.

Candidates are required to be on time for all tests. Candidates who are not present at the scheduled start of the test will be denied entry. No refunds or credits will be issued for candidates who arrive late to an exam for any reason. They will need to sign up and pay for another time. Be sure to allow yourself plenty of time to get to the test site and find the testing room to avoid this situation

About the Physical Ability Exams

Many departments, but not all, require a physical abilities exam. If a department requires you to have a physical abilities exam at time of application, your profile will not become available to them until your scores have been entered.

When you sign-in, you can see what the physical ability test requirements are for each department.

The Candidate Physical Abilities Test (CPAT)

The Candidate Physical Abilities Test (CPAT) exam is required by some departments, generally full-time departments. Some paid-on-call and volunteer departments also require CPAT exam.

At this time, Empco test sites do not offer the CPAT exam. If you have taken and passed the CPAT exam in the past 12 months, you must send a copy of your driver’s license and official results to Empco in order for it to appear in your profile. Copies of these documents can be sent by one of the following:

USPS: Empco- Attn: FTS
1740 W. Big Beaver Rd.
Suite 200
Troy, MI 48084

The Basic Physical Abilities Test (BPAT)

The Basic Physical Abilities Test (BPAT) exam is required by some departments, generally paid-on-call and volunteer. Some full-time departments also require the BPAT exam.

To download a preparation guide for the BPAT Click Here. Unlike the CPAT, the results of the BPAT exam will be sent directly to Empco and will not need to be sent in by you.

The results of either physical ability examination will be valid for one year from the date of the test.

Before you take the BPAT exam, you must complete two forms:

  • Physicians Release Form (Click here to download) - This form must be completed by a physician. It indicates that you are physically capable of participating in this type of exam.
  • Consent to Release of Information and Release of Liability Form (Click Here to Download) – This form states that you understand the risks associated with this type of exam.

To be allowed into the test site, you must:

  • Bring the email you received confirming your test date/time
  • Bring your valid driver’s license
  • Know your social security number that you used to register yourself on this website
  • Bring the completed Physicians Release Form
  • Bring the completed Consent to Release of Information and Release of Liability
  • Comply with the test’s instructions regarding proper clothing, etc. to wear

Making Changes

Cancelling/Re-Scheduling Exams

You must cancel/reschedule at least 24 hours prior to your test time to receive a credit. Log in using your email address and password. In the box Scheduled Tests, click on Review and Manage Test Schedule. In the Action column next to the test you are scheduled to take, click Cancel. This removes you from the test roster and gives you a credit for the fee you paid. When you are ready to take the test at a different time, simply return to this page and schedule the new test. Your fee credit will be applied to the new test. There are no refunds.

Updating an Email Address

If you entered the wrong email address or have changed email addresses, you must put in a request for Empco to change your email address (which is also your username). Send an email to The email should include your name, phone number, old/incorrect email, and the new/correct email address.

Correcting a Social Security Number

Your complete social security must be entered correctly in the system in order to link your test score to your profile. If you enter your social security number into the system incorrectly, you will have difficulty signing into the test at the test site. The test site can help you take a test, but in order for that test score to be linked to your profile, you will need to correct your social security number with Empco. To do so, call the office at 866-367-2600. You will need to be prepared to fax, or email, a copy of your driver’s license and social security card.

Special Considerations

To request an ADA accommodation for the written exam, please contact Empco at 866-367-2600. Requests must be made two weeks prior to scheduled test date to ensure accommodations can be made. Proof of ADA necessity is required.

The participating fire departments will grant a very limited number of scholarships to cover the fee for this test. Requests for a scholarship must be directed to The request must include: your name, the test you are looking to take (Fire), the state you will be testing in and a brief paragraph stating compelling reasons for your request. Requests must be received at least two weeks prior to the test date you want to sign up for.

Submitting a request for a scholarship does not guarantee a scholarship will be awarded to the applicant. Determinations will be made based on availability of funds and the number of requests received. Failure to follow instructions for requesting a scholarship and requests that do not follow basic spelling and grammar rules will result in an automatic denial of the scholarship request.

If you have any questions concerning the pre-employment test program, please contact Empco at 866-367-2600.