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Learn about the education and preparation needed to become a fireman. Get a quick view of the requirements as well as details about training, job duties and certification to find out if this is the career for you.
Firemen, more commonly known as fire fighters, are emergency response professionals specializing in the protection of people and property from fires, smoke and related threats. They use various techniques to control or suppress fires, but they may also supply victims with initial medical treatment for ailments such as smoke inhalation, burns and shock. These professionals usually obtain their education through a fire academy program or apprenticeship; however, undergraduate and graduate degree options are available for those seeking advancement or who need to meet certification requirements. All fire fighters are also required to maintain intensive fitness standards.
|Required Education||Completion of a fire academy program or apprenticeship for entry-level; undergraduate or graduate degree in fire science or related field for advancement or specialized training|
|Other Requirements||Adherence to fitness standards; optional certification|
|Projected Job Growth||7% from 2012-2022*|
|Average Salary (2013)||$48,270 annually*|
Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
Employment as a fireman doesn't demand significant amounts of education. Fire academy applicants must possess a high school diploma or successfully complete the General Educational Development (GED) examination. Individuals seeking certification from the National Fire Academy must have at least an associate's degree. A bachelor's degree in a subject such as fire science can also lead to a career in fire fighting.
Fire fighters can accelerate their careers and earn higher salaries by achieving master's or doctoral degrees in environmental science, fire engineering technology and fire safety engineering. Specialized training in forestry, petroleum and manufacturing can lead to a career fighting forest and oil fires for a private company or the federal government.
Those seeking fireman certification must pass minimum regulations which vary by state. Typically, a minimal amount of training hours must be completed and a certification exam must be passed. For higher-level positions, these requirements increase. Experiential training can be acquired through a fire academy apprenticeship, which lasts four years. Preparation for fireman exams can be gained through courses offered by the state.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), available job openings for fire fighters will increase 7% from 2012-2022. A bulk of this growth in fireman employment will be the transfer of current volunteers to paid positions and the aging of the population. Job openings for fire fighters are more widely available in populated areas. States employing the most firemen include California, Texas and Florida in May 2013. The vast majority of fire fighters are employed by county and city governments (www.bls.gov).
Salaries for fire fighters vary based on factors such as experience and location. The average annual salary of fire fighters was $48,270 in May 2013, according to the BLS. However, fire fighters in the metro area including Oakland, California, earned a yearly average salary of $88,030. Entry-level firemen earned a median wage of $38,278 in September 2014, according to PayScale.com. Fire chiefs earned a median wage of $74,555 at that time, according to PayScale.com.