Fire Safety Professions: Overview of Educational Requirements

Training in fire safety typically covers ways to fight and prevent fires. Find out about the requirements of these programs, and learn about career options, job growth and salary info for fire safety graduates.

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Fire captains direct their crews when they respond to a fire. Firefighters use methods they're trained in to extinguish or limit the spread of fires, and fire inspectors inspect buildings and sites to make sure that they meet fire safety regulations. All of these fire safety professionals play a vital role in preventing fires and minimizing loss of life and property when a fire occurs.

Essential Information

Professionals working in fire safety jobs work together to protect buildings and people from fire and to prevent future fires. The minimum education for working in fire safety is typically a high school diploma, but all fire safety jobs require training in order to enter the career field. Postsecondary education can benefit some professionals in this field as well.

Career Titles Firefighter Fire Captain Fire Inspector
Required Education On-the-job training Postsecondary training On-the-job training
Other Requirements Fire Academy training, EMT certification n/a State registration, experience in the field
Projected Job Growth (2014-2024)* 5% 5% (first-line supervisors of fire fighting and prevention workers) 6%
Median Salary (2015)* $46,870 $72,230 (first-line supervisors of fire fighting and prevention workers) $56,730

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

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Educational Requirements

Individuals looking to begin a career in fire safety generally need at least a high school diploma. Regardless of educational background, new hires receive on-the-job training in which they perform drills and exercises using fire safety equipment, such as axes and fire hoses. Training generally covers areas in fire prevention, hazardous chemicals and firefighting techniques. Most fire safety professions, particularly fire fighters, are also required to complete emergency medical training, which typically requires completing 3-12 weeks of training in emergency medical services and response. To become certified, candidates must pass an exam, as well as own a valid cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) certification.

Postsecondary Education

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that educational requirements differ based on the position being sought (www.bls.gov). For example, while fire inspectors and investigators may only need a high school diploma and on-the -job training, fire fighters may benefit from completing some postsecondary coursework in fire science. The BLS also notes that earning an associate's degree in fire science, fire technology or a related field may help candidates secure a job. Coursework may cover topics in water supplies, building construction and wildfire protection.

Advanced Education

As fire safety professionals gain experience within the field, they may become promoted to fire captain, battalion chief or other position. Additionally, the BLS notes that some firefighters may attend the U.S. National Fire Academy, which offers several training options for fire safety professionals. Classes may cover areas in:

  • Public fire education
  • Wildfires
  • Arson and anti-arson training
  • Home fires and safety
  • Disaster preparation
  • Building construction
  • Public speaking
  • Advanced fire prevention techniques

Career Advancement

Fire safety professionals may advance their careers by completing a bachelor's degree in fire protection or a closely related field. These 4-year programs offer courses ranging from occupational safety to fire suppression. Students may also have the opportunity to work with building construction professionals and learn more about fire prevention devices and techniques.

Career Options

Many workers in fire safety start out working as firefighters before gaining enough experience or earning more education to move into different roles. Some of these professions are outlined below.

Firefighter

Firefighters respond to emergency calls, fight fires and provide fire education to the public. They may work in urban areas or in the wilderness, fighting forest fires. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) (www.bls.gov), the job growth rate for firefighters was expected to be five percent between 2014 and 2024. In May 2015, the BLS reported that firefighters earned a median annual salary of $46,870.

Fire Captain

Fire captains, or fire chiefs, are typically the head of a fire station. They oversee personnel placement during emergencies, assist in dealing with emergencies and evaluate personnel and equipment performance. The BLS predicts that job opportunities will increase by five percent between 2014 and 2024. Fire captains and other first-line supervisors of fire fighting and prevention workers made a median salary of $72,230 in May 2015.

Fire Inspector

Fire inspectors look at buildings and other structures to determine if they meet local and federal fire codes. They may test fire suppression systems such as fire alarms and review evacuation plans. According to the BLS, job positions for fire inspectors will increase by six percent between 2014 and 2024. These professionals earned a median salary of $56,730 as of May 2015.

A career as a fire safety professional involves on-the-job training. Although postsecondary education is not necessarily required, it may help increase job prospects or opportunities for advancement.

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