A career as a fire fighters usually requires no more than a high school diploma. Most candidates must complete intensive training programs that include education as well as physical training. Those choosing a career in firefighting may be able to enter an apprentice program with a fire department that often leads to an offer of a firefighting position.
A high school education is sufficient to be hired as a fire fighter, but many fire fighters go on to earn degrees in fire science in order to advance in their careers. New hires must complete intensive training programs, usually at a state or local fire training academy. Some departments require their recruits to participate in apprenticeship programs that may include college courses. In addition to passing pre-employment written, physical and medical exams, fire fighters are usually required to earn certification as emergency medical technicians (EMTs).
|Required Education||High school education or the equivalent|
|Other Requirements||Fire training academy; on-the-job training; EMT certification is common|
|Projected Job Growth (2014-2024)*||5%|
|Median Salary (2015)*||$46,870|
Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS)
What Education is Necessary for a Career as a Fire Fighter?
A career as a fire fighter doesn't necessarily require formal education beyond a high school diploma or a GED; however, it may lead to increased employment opportunities and career advancement. Regardless of an individual's educational experience, a fire fighter's training primarily takes place on the job. Applicants are expected to pass written, physical and medical examinations prior to being considered for a job opening.
Once they are hired, new recruits participate in vigorous physical training exercises before they are permitted to enter the field. Nearly all fire fighters in the United States must be certified as emergency medical technicians (EMTs) before being allowed in the field. This training can take up to one year to complete and also results in EMT-Basic certification.
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Fire Fighter Educational Options
Certificate or Degree in Fire Science
Certificates, associate's degrees and bachelor's degrees in fire science are widely available at vocational colleges and 4-year universities. Many of these programs are administered by fire academies, which are associated with both a school and the local fire department.
Students in a fire science program study various fire investigation methods as well as techniques for controlling a fire with equipment, like axes, fire extinguishers, ladders and chainsaws. These programs also typically include instruction in fire prevention and teaching fire safety to the public. Additionally, fire science students are taught basic first aid, CPR and proper handling of hazardous materials.
Fire Fighter Apprenticeship
Accredited apprenticeships are offered by fire departments, and programs often require students to enroll in a fire science degree program at an affiliated school. These programs take about 4 years to complete and involve extensive practical training in the field.
Students in apprenticeships programs have the opportunity to gain paid experience in a fire department, operating equipment and responding to calls. Fire departments that offer apprenticeship programs typically hire candidates who have completed an apprenticeship for firefighting positions.
Many fire fighters are required to be certified as an EMT-Basic before working in the field. Associate's and bachelor degree programs are available in fire science providing additional education and possible advancement opportunities to fire fighters. The job growth of fire fighters is expected to be 5% according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, about the same as the job market as a whole.