Physical requirements of various occupations
January 5, 2013 2:30 AM   Subscribe

I'm curious about the physical requirements of different occupations, especially very difficult ones.

At various times I've heard different requirements quoted for jobs like police officer, fireman, Navy SEAL, and so on. Things like "able to run X miles in Y minutes, able to climb a ladder X feet high while wearing Y pounds of equipment", etc. But it's difficult to find anything really authoritative online. Is there any comprehensive list available? Failing that, does anyone want to chime in with their personal experience or knowledge of a specific field?

I'm especially interested in difficult jobs and spec-ops military groups. Not so much in sports and recreation. The more up-to-date the information is, the better, although I'd love to see some historic standards as well (requirements for Roman Legionnaires or whatever).
posted by CustooFintel to Health & Fitness (6 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Is there any comprehensive list available?

No. Because there is no single regulatory entity, public or private, that sets the hiring standards for all of these different groups, there is no single list which shows the physical requirements. I think the closest you get is something like this, which shows the scoring for the various Physical Fitness Tests (PFT) employed by the various branches of the US military. They've got information on various spec ops outfits if you dig around a bit.

But things like police officers, fire fighters, etc.? That's all set by the agencies in question. It wouldn't surprise me if each state had a set list to graduate from its police academy, but federalism at work means that there's not going to be any incentive for the states to cooperate on that score.

And for non-government jobs, which can be incredibly strenuous (watch a few episodes of Dirty Jobs to get the idea), there's generally no fixed requirement. You can either do the job or you can't. How you get yourself in condition to be able to do the job is on you. Individual employers may create tests to demonstrate physical fitness, but that's the exception, not the rule.
posted by valkyryn at 3:26 AM on January 5, 2013 [4 favorites]

Stew Smith is a former Navy SEAL who produces fitness programs for people who are trying pass various U.S. military or government physical fitness tests, or just want to get into the same level of conditioning. He has a collection of articles and training programs that discuss physical fitness tests used for different jobs in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, FBI, DEA, etc.

Regarding police and firefighters, I'll pile on to what valkryn said. In my state, there is a state agency that sets minimum standards for police officers, certifies regional training academies, etc. Those standards includes a minimum physical fitness standard, but from what I understand, almost every police department creates their own test that exceeds the minimum. There is a separate state agency that plays the same role in setting minimum standards for firefighters, however I believe that the CPAT fitness test has been widely adopted.
posted by kovacs at 4:40 AM on January 5, 2013 [3 favorites]

When I was a kid, there was a copy of the Naval Officer's Guide in the public library. (I grew up near Great Lakes, which might explain why the Navy.) From what I recall from junior high, it had tables which would be of interest to you. (And about four pages of cartoons of when to salute, which is mostly what I remember.) Further afield, it also had advice on what clothing you needed on a ship. (I remember being surprised you had to buy a coat, rather than being issued one. But apparently you definitely want to spend the money.)
posted by hoyland at 7:11 AM on January 5, 2013

Check out this page that essentially scraped the very large Army Military Occupational Specialty (MOS) guide into a more readable (if more clicky) format. A surprising number of MOSs translate well to civilian occupations.
posted by Etrigan at 7:17 AM on January 5, 2013 [1 favorite]

As for firefighting, requirements differ from department to department.

Generally you see the CPAT, JRPAT, or Combat Challenge used for hiring processes, not so much for anything after that, although some depts use them for annual physical benchmarks. I'm 5'4" and 125 lbs and can complete all of them in the time allotted, so there are tactics for each.

In short, being in good physical shape, mobile and flexible in a variety of postitions, and using tools properly is all that is needed to become a firefighter. It's more of a mental exercise because the physicality becomes rote. Adapting to the weight and heat of the turnouts and the presence of an air pack on your back are the biggest challenges; I go from 125 to right around 200 lbs when fully packed out and ready to make entry.

If you have any specific questions, I'd be happy to answer them.
posted by sara is disenchanted at 9:07 AM on January 5, 2013

Best answer: In old-timey Iceland, you had to be able to lift a heavy stone from the ground to a ledge at waist level in order to qualify for a position on a fishing boat.
posted by jason's_planet at 9:26 AM on January 5, 2013 [1 favorite]

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