Growing up to become a firefighter is a popular wish for lots of girls and boys. However, there are certain physical, emotional and educational requirements that must be met in order to fulfill this burning ambition.
Firefighters work to extinguish fires and respond to other emergency situations. Medical emergencies actually account for two thirds of calls received by firefighters. A high school diploma is required, and some postsecondary education and training may be necessary to become a firefighter. Aspiring firefighters should be physically fit, prepared to engage in dangerous situations, and comfortable working 24-hour shifts.
|Required Education||High school diploma or equivalent necessary for entrance into a firefighter training program|
|Other Requirements||Some postsecondary education necessary to achieve EMT certification if required|
|Projected Job Growth (2014-2024)||5%*|
|Median Salary (2015)||$46,870*|
Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
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Firefighting School Information
Firefighting schools require their applicants to have a high school education, as well as be 18 years of age. However, states may have different minimum and maximum age requirements. In some cases, firefighting schools require their applicants to have an associate degree in fire science or similar education before gaining acceptance into the program.
All applicants should be physically fit, calm under pressure and able to work well with others. In order to be hired by employers, firefighters must pass both physical fitness and civil service examinations. Other standard prerequisites for prospective students include having no criminal record, being drug-free and possessing a current driver's license.
Firefighting Education Programs
Firefighting schools provide fire fighters with hands-on training before they are placed at the scene of a fire. The length of a firefighting program varies depending on the institution; however, most firefighting schools can be completed in 6-16 weeks. Students may also choose to complete an apprenticeship program, which may last up to four years, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Training includes a combination of classroom instruction with physical and practical education. Students work 40-50 hours per week while in school and learn practical firefighting information such as:
- Fire attack and suppression techniques
- Fire prevention and safety
- Introduction to fire science
- Hazardous material management
- Some detector inspection
- Extinguishing and alarm systems
- Patient treatment at the scene
- Smoke diving
- Emergency responsiveness
In classes, students receive instruction on local building codes, search and rescue formations, arson, disaster preparation and fire safety. During their practical learning, students learn how to crawl though tight spaces, fight fires in tall buildings and respond to hazardous chemical exposure. Students are also trained in the use of firefighting equipment such as fire hoses, ladders, extinguishers and fire tools.
Graduates of firefighting schools generally need to meet the minimum training requirements of an emergency medical technician (EMT) before being eligible for work. Basic EMT training programs can be completed in as few as 2-3 weeks and include training on emergency responsiveness and basic medical care. Completing EMT training also requires having a current cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) certification. Major metropolitan areas may have additional requirements, such as completing advanced EMT training even through the paramedic level.
Career Outlook and Salary Information
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported in May 2015 that firefighters earned $46,870 as a median annual wage. In the coming 2014-2024 decade, the BLS predicts a 5% job growth for firefighters.
Though you may apply to become a firefighter with just a high school diploma or GED, some firefighting schools require some postsecondary education. School programs and apprenticeships consist of a mixture of classroom, physical and practical training. In addition, EMT and CPR certification are generally required to become a firefighter.