Fire Fighter: How Do I Start a Career in Fire Fighting

A fire fighter requires some formal education. Learn about the training, job duties and job growth projections to see if this is the right career for you.

Essential Information

Fire fighters are trained to control and extinguish fires as well as to respond to medical emergencies. A high school diploma or GED certificate is sometimes all that is required for hiring, but many departments prefer someone with some college courses or a degree in fire science or a related subject. After hiring, fire fighters train for many weeks at a fire fighting academy. Most departments also require that fire fighters earn emergency medical technician (EMT) certification.

Required Education High school diploma or the equivalent, but an associate's or bachelor's degree in fire science or a relevant field may be preferred
Other Requirements Training academy and EMT certification
Projected Job Growth (2012-2022)* 7%
Mean Salary (2013)* $48,270

Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS)

Career Information for Fire Fighters

A fire fighter works together with a team of other firefighters to extinguish fires and respond to many types of emergency situations. They may work in a variety of settings, including urban buildings, suburban areas, airports, chemical plants, industrial sites, grasslands and forests. When fire fighters aren't out in the field battling a fire, they can be found maintaining equipment, participating in drills and generally staying physically fit.

Education Requirements to Become a Fire Fighter

Fire fighters are generally only required to have a high school education; however, employers increasingly are preferring candidates with some college education. Schools offer associate's or bachelor's degrees in fire science and fire protection engineering. Students in these programs may take such courses as hazardous materials, fire fighting strategies and fire protection.

Tests Required for Fire Fighter Candidates

Prospective fire fighters applying for positions working for local government, for which the majority of fire fighters work, will have to pass written and physical tests. Medical and drug screenings are usually also required for government positions, with random drug testing often continuing after employment.

Training of Fire Fighters

Following hire, new recruits must undergo a weeks-long training program at a fire academy. They learn practical skills, such as fire fighting techniques, use of rescue equipment and first aid training, through a combination of instruction in the classroom and in practice. While most fire departments require their fire fighters to be certified as EMTs, they may not always provide this training but nevertheless expect their recruits to earn this certification within a reasonable amount of time.

Some fire departments combine their training programs with practice in the field through apprenticeship programs that may last several years. Certain states also have mandatory training or certification programs for fire fighters.

Job Outlook and Salary Info

Fire fighters could expect employment growth of 7% from 2012-2022, which was slower than average, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Jobs should be competitive, with the advantage going to applicants who have paramedic training, some postsecondary education and high scores on their fire fighting tests. As of May 2013, fire fighters earned a mean salary of $48,270 annually.

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