Wildland Firefighter: Career Info and Requirements

Learn about the education and preparation needed to become a wildland firefighter. Get a quick view of the requirements as well as details about training, job duties and certification to find out if this is the career for you.

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Wildland firefighters work in natural environments, such as forests, preventing and fighting fires and performing rescue and aid services. A high school diploma is typically required as well as passing physical and written tests. Recruits generally attend training and may be required to obtain EMT certification.

Essential Information

Fires occurring in grasslands, forests and other natural environments are suppressed by wildland firefighters, who also perform fire prevention activities. Wildland firefighters generally complete high school before undergoing training. A postsecondary fire science degree can be beneficial, though it is not required in all instances. In addition to possessing specialized fire-fighting skills, most firefighters are certified as emergency medical technicians (EMTs).

Required Education Typically, high school diploma at minimum; associate's and bachelor's degrees in fire science are available
Other Requirements Most firefighters must be certified as EMTs; voluntary certification available through the National Wildfire Suppression Association
Projected Job Growth (2014-2024) 5% for all firefighters*
Mean Salary (2015) $49,330 for firefighters*

Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

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Career Information for Wildland Firefighters

Duties

Wildland firefighters perform fire prevention and suppression measures in natural environments, such as forests and other vacant public lands. Fire prevention duties include preparing firebreaks by trimming trees, removing brush and performing controlled burns to reduce the potential for large outbreaks.

In addition to extinguishing forest fires, wildland firefighters are responsible for rescuing victims, providing emergency medical treatment and patrolling burned areas to ensure fires don't restart. Other general duties include routine maintenance of tools and equipment and participation in public fire prevention education programs.

Employment

In May 2015, the middle half of firefighters earned $32,080-$63,230 annually, with an average salary of $49,330 , according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (www.bls.gov). Wildland firefighters work for local municipalities, state forestry services, federal agencies and other support services. Positions may be seasonal. Additionally,firefighters were projected to see job growth of 5% from 2014-2024, according to the BLS.

The U.S. Fire Administration (USFA) reported there were 67,774 wildfires in 2012, affecting 9,326,238 acres (www.usfa.dhs.gov). Of the 64 total firefighter fatalities in 2012, 8 occurred during wildland firefighting activities (www.nfpa.org).

Requirements to Become a Wildland Firefighter

Aspiring wildland firefighters commonly complete high school or pass the GED test. Completion of an associate's degree program or higher in fire science may prove beneficial during the application process. Wildland firefighters must be able to withstand strenuous physical activity and largely work outdoors. Applicants must pass both a physical and written test. Accepted recruits are generally trained at a local training center, with training programs provided by organizations such as the National Wildfire Coordinating Group and the USFA's National Fire Academy.

Most agencies require firefighters be certified as Emergency Medical Technicians. Additional certifications are voluntary but may demonstrate competence and enhance advancement opportunities. Individuals with a combination of educational and work experience can earn the NFPA's Certified Fire Protection Specialist designation after passing an examination. The National Wildfire Suppression Association offers firefighting contractor certification, which requires a minimum amount of training annually.

Wildland firefighters can get started in this field with just a high school diploma, but will also need to able to pass a physical test. The job growth outlook for firefighters is about average for the job market as a whole. Salaries vary, and the average is about $49,000 annually.

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