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Being a fireman requires little formal education. Learn about the on-the-job training, job duties and physical requirements to see if this is the right career for you.
Firemen protect the safety of the general public by responding to emergencies and putting out fires. Training is commonly offered through local fire department programs or colleges, where candidates go through rigorous written, physical and medical tests. Many fire departments require their firefighters to have a basic emergency medical technician (EMT) certification as well.
|Required Education||High school diploma|
|Other Requirements||Extensive on-the-job training|
|Projected Job Growth||7% from 2012-2022*|
|Median Salary (2014)||$45,970 annually*|
Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
Most firefighter training programs require applicants to be 18 years old and own a high school diploma; however, some programs prefer candidates who have earned an Associate of Science in Fire Science. Fire departments and other related employers seek applicants who are brave, calm under pressure, quick thinking and able to work well with others.
While minimum and maximum age requirements differ by state, all states require a valid drivers license, no prior criminal convictions and excellent hearing and vision. In order to be added to the hiring roster, prospective firefighters must pass a civil service and physical agility examination.
Training programs for future firefighters usually last from six weeks to four months and combine practical and classroom instruction. A trainee may work between 40 and 50 hours a week in the program and receive a firefighter certificate upon completion. Training to become a firefighter is intense and involves all of the practical training needed to:
Trainees learn how to use fire equipment, such as ladders, hoses, chain saws, fire extinguishers and axes. Education in some fire academy programs is applicable to associate degree programs related to fire science.
In the classroom, students study search and rescue procedures, local building codes and fire science. Advanced courses may cover arson, disaster preparedness and educating the public on fire safety. In field exercises, trainees are put through obstacle courses to test their agility. They are also trained on how to react to challenging situations, such as fires in subways, high-rises, cars or crawl spaces.
Most firemen are required to have the basic EMT certification because they may need to provide emergency medical care on the job. Some fire departments include basic EMT training in the program, whereas others give firemen up to 12 months to earn it on their own.
In major metropolitan areas, it is becoming common for firefighters to have paramedic training and certification as well. As a result, this training is built into some fire academy programs in metropolitan areas. EMT training focuses on providing emergency medical care to patients. Training becomes more advanced at the EMT-Intermediate and paramedic levels.
Firemen who apply for municipal firefighting positions need to pass a medical examination and physical stamina, strength and fitness tests, as well as a written exam. Firemen are also subject to random drug testing upon employment. Strong exam scores down the line may help with career advancement as well.
Many firemen start their career as volunteers through fire departments or emergency medical services. Either type of experience is beneficial to becoming a fireman. Once training is over, graduates complete a probationary period of 3-6 months, after which they may expect to perform the day-to-day duties of a firefighter. Some of their duties include responding to fires, driving a fire truck, breaking down doors and maintaining the fire station.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported that firefighting jobs were expected to grow 7% from 2012-2022, which was slower than average. Intense competition exists for available firefighting positions; those who have paramedic experience, postsecondary education and excellent scores on their firefighting tests should fare the best when applying for work. Firefighters earned an average yearly salary of $48,7500 in May 2014.