Fire Chief: Job Description, Duties and Requirements

Fire chiefs usually have some college education. Learn about the prerequisites, job duties and other requirements to see if this is the right career for you.

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A firefighter who is head of their department is called a fire chief. They generally oversee and manage their firefighting team. This position necessitates years of satisfactory experience, additional fire training, and usually college coursework, as this job is received by promotion.

Essential Information

A fire chief holds a top supervisory position in a firehouse, in addition to performing fire and rescue duties. This position typically requires a college education, as well as experience in firefighting, medical response and public safety administration.

Required Education At least some college
Other Requirements Certification and experience
Projected Growth (2014-2024)* 5% for first-line supervisors of firefighting and prevention workers
Average Annual Salary (2015)* $74,970 for first-line supervisors of firefighting and prevention workers

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Job Description for a Fire Chief

A fire chief is a firefighter who has accumulated the education, training and experience needed to advance through the ranks. Working with other emergency response leaders, a fire chief helps coordinate fire control, rescue, hazardous material clean-up and medical treatment efforts. A fire chief uses his or her experience in fire protection and prevention to direct the response of firefighters to limit damage, danger and loss of life. He or she also enforces municipal fire codes and ensures public safety by inspecting fire alarm and protection systems in existing and new construction.

Employment Outlook and Salary Info for Fire Chiefs

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projected jobs for first-line supervisors of firefighting and prevention workers (including fire chiefs) to increase 5% during the 2014-2024 decade. In May 2015, the BLS noted that these supervisors brought home an average annual salary of $74,970.

Fire Chief Job Duties

Although a fire chief does perform firefighting, rescue and medical response services, he or she is primarily an administrator. The fire chief schedules and assigns duties to firefighters, trains and drills them in firefighting and rescue techniques, evaluates their performance and oversees their advancement. The chief also monitors the care and maintenance of the fire station and all equipment, submits requests for new acquisitions and works with fire department budgets. He or she makes sure firefighters follow established policies and procedures by keeping records and reports of all fire response actions.

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Requirements for Fire Chiefs

According to the BLS, firefighters must hold at least a high school diploma, and many enter the profession with at least some college education. Promotion usually requires extensive on-the-job training, continuing firefighter education, successful passage of examinations, proven job performance, adherence to physical fitness standards and leadership experience.

Certificate and Degree Programs

To increase the likelihood of promotion, firefighters can enroll in certificate, associate's degree or bachelor's degree programs in fire science or fire service management, many of which include officer training and public safety administration classes. In addition to fire academy coursework and training, students might take classes in fire protection, cause determination and investigation, hazardous materials, fire codes and inspection, fluid and thermodynamics, fire service management and firefighting strategy.

A variety of training and continuing education programs are available through the U.S. National Fire Academy. Many of the courses are designed for officer training and focus on advancement to a fire chief position.

Certifications and Licenses

The BLS and the International Association of Fire Fighters (IAFF) note that firefighter positions usually require a valid driver's license, CPR and AED certification, and EMT or paramedic certification. According to job postings on CareerBuilder.com and Monster.com, employers also prefer candidates with state certifications in areas including hazardous materials, fire investigation and fire inspection, as well as specialized operators' licenses for driving firefighting apparatus.

Someone who wishes to become a fire chief must first obtain experience as a firefighter, and also fulfill more training and educational requirements. Holding various firefighter certifications may also help with job promotion. While fire chiefs can do practical work, most just have supervisory duties inside the department.

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