A fireman's job is not just what we are used to seeing on TV. It is a physically and mentally challenging occupation that requires constant attention, dedication, and training to make sure the fireman is on top of his/her game when called into an emergency situation.
Firemen brave extremely hazardous conditions and long, irregular shifts on a near-daily basis. They are on call at all hours and must respond immediately to extinguish or control fires and respond to other emergency situations. In addition to a high school diploma or equivalent, some firemen are required to obtain an EMT certification. All firemen undergo rigorous, ongoing training. Certification requirements vary by state and employer.
|Required Education||High school diploma or equivalent|
|Other Requirements||EMT certification and fire academy training plus successful completion of written and physical exams|
|Projected Job Growth (2014-2024)||5%*|
|Average Salary (2015)||$49,330 annually*|
Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) expects firefighter jobs to be highly competitive in the upcoming years and more difficult to obtain than other career opportunities, due to the appeal of the position. Employment is projected to grow only 5% from 2014-2024 (www.bls.gov). This growth, which should result in approximately 17,400 more firefighting positions, is likely to be spurred on by volunteer positions that become permanent paid positions. The BLS notes that the average annual wage for firemen was $49,330 in May 2015.
The fireman career can be a dangerous one. According to the U.S. Fire Administration, the per capita rate of fire deaths in the U.S. is one of the highest among industrialized nations, and, every year, around 100 firefighters die on the job (www.usfa.dhs.gov). Still, some of what draws individuals to firefighting careers includes the challenge and thrill of working in potential dangerous situations, the relatively low education requirements, pride in performing an essential public service and a pension that is typically secured after 25 years on the job.
According to the BLS, in 2014, roughly 91% of firemen worked at local government fire departments. Others worked either at the state or federal level, or with a private firefighting company. Applicants with high physical fitness and mechanical-aptitude exam scores should have the most promising job opportunities.
A fireman is charged with duties ranging from saving lives to keeping firefighting equipment clean. At a moment's notice, a fireman must be ready to perform job functions such as rescuing people or animals from burning or collapsed buildings, fighting fires and providing emergency medical assistance.
Firemen also work with police, providing general assistance at accident and crime scenes. Firemen who aid in controlling and extinguishing forest fires sometimes parachute into areas vehicles can't reach and assist in creating and maintaining fire lines. Other common duties include:
- Carrying hoses
- Climbing ladders
- Hooking hoses up to hydrants
- Breaking through walls
- Protecting those in danger due to a fire
- Ensuring integrity of the property ablaze
Firemen are also responsible for maintaining their jobs skills and equipment when not responding to emergencies. They must engage in practice drills and ongoing training in areas of fire prevention and control, as well as the preservation of life and property. These responsibilities and more are required during time at the station when firemen are not actively engaged in firefighting at a hazardous site.
Firemen are also expected to know and frequently train and rehearse for situations in which they save lives, property and the environment. Cleaning the fire truck, hoses and all other firefighting equipment is also part of a fireman's recurring responsibilities while awaiting emergency calls.
Firemen prepare for their careers through specific training programs. Most often, this training is accomplished through on-the-job training and drills, although they may also need EMT training and certification. A fireman's responsibilities extend beyond fighting fires; they are also responsible for controlling the risk to people and properties, saving lives, and carrying heavy equipment.