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Become a Firefighter EMT: Step-by-Step Career Guide

Learn how to become a firefighter emergency medical technician (EMT). Research the education, training and licensure information, and experience required for starting a career as a firefighter EMT. View article »

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  • 0:01 Should I Become a…
  • 1:03 Obtain Appropriate Education
  • 2:21 Meet Hiring Requirements
  • 2:53 Complete Training Academy
  • 3:57 Pursue Continuing Education

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Video Transcript

Should I Become a Firefighter EMT?

Degree Level High school diploma or equivalent; postsecondary degree or certificate for EMT
Degree Field Fire science, firefighter-paramedic, firefighter-emergency medical services, or similar program
Licensure/Certification State license required for EMT and paramedics; EMTs must be certified by the National Registry of Emergency Medical Technicians; some fire departments EMT certification
Experience Completion of a fire department training academy; new hires receive extensive initial and on-the-job training
Key Skills Ability to diagnose medical emergencies, document medical care provided to patients, perform work in heavy protective gear, and to transport patients to hospital; ability to operate emergency medical equipment and standard firefighting equipment including chain saws, ladders, fire extinguishers, hoses, pumps and axes; 18+ years of age; pass a medical exam and drug screening; valid driver's license
Salary $46,870 (2015 median salary for firefighters)

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Firefighter EMTs are first responders to fires and medical emergencies that threaten people and/or property. The EMT part of this title refers to emergency medical technician, and most firefighters have a basic EMT certification. As of 2015, the median annual salary for firefighters was $46,870 according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Firefighter EMTs frequently face dangerous situations that have a high risk of personal injury or illness. While they're expected to extinguish fires and rescue individuals, they may need to provide emergency medical attention at the scene. In addition to these other responsibilities, other duties can include maintaining equipment, performing drills, and advising the public on safety issues. Firefighter EMT's need to be physically fit for this occupation. Their work schedule will vary but often includes working a 24-hour shift, during which they remain on call.

Obtain Appropriate Education

In most jurisdictions, aspiring firefighter EMTs typically need to have a high school diploma or GED and EMT basic certification. To get the EMT basic certification, individuals generally need to take courses after high school. Formal training is offered at community colleges, technical institutes, and facilities specializing in emergency medical services.

While requirements can vary by city and state, EMTs can be certified by the National Registry of Emergency Medical Technicians. In addition to completing approved training, individuals must pass a cognitive examination which includes taking a computer test and passing a psychomotor examination, which includes demonstrating competency in patient assessment, trauma management, immobilization techniques, and CPR practices.

Also, many prospective firefighter EMTs first work as regular EMTs before finding a position in a fire department. To help with becoming a more competitive candidate, aspiring firefighter EMTs may also pursue certificate or associate's degree programs in fire science or a related field. These types of programs may cover basic and advanced firefighting, emergency management, rescue procedures, and fire investigation.

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Meet Hiring Requirements

Along with the educational requirements to become a firefighter EMT, applicants must pass physical tests, written examinations, and personal interviews. They must also obtain a state license and certification as an EMT or paramedic.

In addition to being at least 18 years of age, having a valid driver's license, and passing a medical exam as well as a drug test, firefighter EMTs must also be strong enough to transport equipment, remove debris at fire scenes, and carry victims who cannot walk.

Complete Training Academy

New firefighter EMT hires will receive continuous on-the-job training, but they must also be able to successfully complete training at a fire academy. The training programs are typically operated by the fire department or the state and generally last for a few months. Entry-level firefighter EMT trainees will undergo a combination of classroom instruction and hands-on training in areas such as fire prevention techniques, emergency medical procedures, and building codes. Trainees must also be able to master a few key skills . These include the ability to operate standard firefighting equipment, including chain saws, ladders, fire extinguishers, hoses, pumps, and axes; the ability to operate emergency medical equipment; and the ability to perform work in heavy protective gear. Some firefighter EMTs may also attend the National Fire Academy, which offers federal training sessions in public fire safety, disaster preparation, anti-arson practices, and hazardous materials handling.

Pursue Continuing Education

Upon successful completion of a local fire academy, new firefighter EMT workers are assigned to fire stations where they will receive continuous on-the-job training. After gaining years of experience, individuals may want to pursue a bachelor's degree in fire science, public administration, or a related field to improve their opportunities for advancement. Firefighters may be promoted to an engineer, lieutenant, captain, battalion chief, assistant chief, deputy chief, and fire chief.

In summary, firefighter EMTs are first responders to fires and medical emergencies that threaten people and/or property, and they generally need to have an EMT basic certification and complete fire academy training to start their careers.

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