Fire protection careers include firefighters, fire inspectors, and fire prevention and protection engineers. Some fire investigators and prevention specialists work specifically on forest fires, while others deal with residential and commercial properties. Firefighters can also specialize in cleaning up hazardous materials.
Those who work in fire protection focus on keeping people and property safe from flames, smoke, explosions and other hazardous situations. Job titles include firefighter, fire inspector, fire investigator, forest fire inspector, forest fire prevention specialist and fire prevention and protection engineer. The three main career categories are outlined in the following article.
|Required Education||High school diploma for firefighters|
|Other Requirements||Additional training at fire academies|
|Projected Job Growth (2014-2024)*||5% for firefighters|
|Median Salary (2015)*||$46,870 annually for firefighters|
Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
Career Information for Firefighters
While putting out fires is their main responsibility, firefighters are often dispatched to accident scenes as well. They perform rescues and emergency medical procedures. Some firefighters specialize in cleaning up at accidents involving hazardous material, while others concentrate on fighting forest fires. Organizations employing firefighters include airports, governments of cities and towns, industrial sites and chemical facilities. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the demand for firefighters is expected to grow by 5% between 2014 and 2024 (www.bls.gov). The BLS also reported that the median salary for firefighters was $46,870 per year as of 2015.
To attain most firefighting jobs, candidates must have a high school diploma (or its equivalent) and pass written and physical tests. To prepare, individuals can take fire science classes through certificate or degree programs. Once hired, firefighters complete training at fire academies before going on the job. Often, they're also required to become certified emergency medical technicians or paramedics. Promotions to positions such as lieutenant, battalion chief or chief require years of experience and high performance levels on written tests. Those who become a battalion chief or higher usually hold a bachelor's degree.
Career Information for Fire Inspectors
Fire inspectors make sure public buildings and businesses comply with government fire codes. When there has been a fire, investigators conduct interviews and gather evidence to find its cause. Forest fire inspectors and prevention specialists watch for fires from high towers and alert firefighters when a fire does occur; they monitor the behavior of people traveling through forests to ensure fire safety. The BLS reported that between 2014 and 2024, jobs for inspectors, investigators and prevention specialists are expected to grow 5%. In 2015, the median wage for inspectors and investigators was $56,730, while forest fire inspectors and prevention specialists earned a median annual salary of $36,650 in 2015 and are expected to see a 13% rate of job growth from 2014 to 2024.
Experience as a firefighter is necessary to become a fire inspector or investigator. Some employers may require candidates to pursue certification, while others may accept formal academy training. Professional organizations such as the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) offer designations such as Certified Fire Inspector and Certified Fire Plan Examiner. Forest fire inspectors and prevention specialists often have bachelor's degrees and have gone through apprenticeships for up to 4 years.
Career Information for Fire Prevention and Protection Engineers
Fire prevention and protection engineers devise fire detection systems, conduct research and concoct fire prevention methodologies. They also consult with architecture and construction personnel to ensure structures comply with fire safety regulations. The BLS predicted a 6% increase in job opportunities for health and safety engineers, including fire prevention and protection engineers, from 2014 to 2024; the median annual salary for these professionals was $84,600 as of 2015.
The majority of fire prevention and protection engineers have bachelor's degrees; they usually major in engineering but sometimes focus on math or a natural science. Many states require engineers to become licensed, a process that entails passing exams and accumulating experience. Engineers may wish to pursue the Certified Fire Protection Specialist credential available through the NFPA.
A career as a firefighter requires a high school diploma and the ability to pass written and physical tests. It's possible to take fire science classes to prepare for these tests. Firefighters train at fire academies after being hired, and they may also be required to be a certified emergency medical technician or paramedic. Experience as a firefighter is required to be a fire investigator.