Fire Fighters: Employment & Career Information

If you're brave, in good shape and want to serve your community, you can use your skills to work as a firefighter. Read on to learn about the requirements and benefits of this profession.

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Career Description for a Firefighter

Firefighters rush to the scenes of fires to put them out and to rescue and treat survivors; thus, they often work long, irregular hours. Most firefighters are trained emergency medical technicians, and they frequently are the first to respond to traffic accidents and medical emergencies, in addition to fires. Firefighters typically spend their down time at the station studying fire science and participating in physical activities to maintain their health.

Education High school diploma and 150 hours of training; associate degree in fire science is favorable
Job Skills Bravery, strength, agility, stamina, ability to think quickly
Median Salary (2017)* $49,080
Job Outlook (2016-2026)* 7%

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Education Required

A high school diploma is the minimum requirement to begin training as a firefighter, and taking some college courses or earning an associate degree in fire science is increasingly common. Training for firefighters is handled by local fire departments and usually includes 150 hours of classroom and practical instruction. While training, firefighters study subjects including firefighting techniques, hazardous materials control, first aid and CPR.

Required Skills

Firefighters must be brave and able to work as part of a team. Firefighters also must have high levels of strength, stamina and agility due to the physical nature of their jobs. In addition, firefighters must be able to think quickly, even in dangerous situations.

Career and Economic Outlook

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), employment for firefighters is expected to increase by 7% from 2016 to 2026, which is close to the average rate for all jobs. Most of these jobs will be created in densely populated areas and big cities. In May 2017, the median annual salary for firefighters was $49,080, per BLS figures. Most firefighters can retire with a pension after 25 years of service.

Alternate Career Options

Careers that are similar to firefighting include:

Fire Inspector or Investigator

Most fire inspectors and investigators have a high school diploma, experience as a police officer or firefighter and classroom training to meet state requirements. Additionally, licensure or certification is often required by employers. These professionals help to prevent fires by examining buildings for hazards. They also come in after an explosion or fire to help find the cause and origin. For this field, the BLS reported an annual median salary of $59,260 in 2017 and predicted an average employment growth of 7% between 2016 and 2026.

Security Guard

Although guards may find employment with only a high school diploma, many employers look for those with degrees in criminal justice or police science. Armed guards must have state registration to carry firearms, which are used to deter vandalism, theft or other illegal activities. The BLS anticipates an average job growth of 6% for security guards during the 2016-2026 decade. In May 2017, the BLS reported a median annual wage of $26,960 for security guards.

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