Want to be a Firefighter? Look at Fire Science
Have you always found ‘normal’ jobs to be monotonous? Do you long to help people? If you have nerves of steel and a heart of gold, a career as a firefighter may be for you. Firefighters endure difficult situations and make sizeable sacrifices on a daily basis; however, a career as a firefighter can be the most rewarding career you’ll find. With great pay and benefits, as well as an undeniable contribution to your community, pursuing this choice with vigor and determination will undoubtedly be one of the best decisions of your life. But remember: becoming a firefighter is a difficult task. What does it take?
Contrary to Popular Belief…
Many people believe becoming a firefighter does not require any education beyond high school. While this used to be true, fire departments are now seeking applicants with advanced education. If you are interested in becoming a firefighter, you may wish to pursue certificate training, an associate’s degree, or a bachelor’s degree. The legal regulations and specific requirements are different in every state, county, and city. To best prepare for a career in firefighting, visit a local fire department and ask about the qualifications they require. They will set you on the right path to becoming a firefighter. Also, there is assistance available to prepare for the testing procedures to expect during the application and employment process.
Things to Know
The minimum requirements in most states are that you must be at least 21 years of age and have a high school diploma. Individual fire departments may have additional requirements as well, but those are the bare minimum. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that the need for fire fighters will increase by 19% by 2018. As the demand increases, so will the number of applicants. Having advanced education will set you apart. If you wish to move into management and leadership positions, a degree in fire science is usually required.
When determining the appropriate level of education to acquire, consider that modern firefighters often do much more than fight fires. Firefighters also respond to hazardous chemical issues, conduct fire prevention seminars, compliance inspections and provide rescue services. Some fire departments are also called on for ambulatory emergencies.
Consider the following options and compare them with the requirements of your local fire department. The following fire science degree education options that are generally available are:
- Certificate Program in Fire Science – Most community colleges offer certificate programs that cover basic medical treatment and fire control procedures. Certificate programs are often completed in less than six months. Advanced programs are also available.
- Associate’s Degree in Fire Science – These two-year degrees cover everything in certificate programs with the addition of minimum requirements, such as mathematics, English, and science. Advanced training is provided for enforcing safety regulations, investigating the cause of fires and how to detect foul play, such as arson.
- Bachelor’s Degree in Fire Science – A bachelors program will also include all aforementioned fields of study that the associates and certificate programs cover. In addition, you will learn how to address hazardous and flammable chemical incidents, leadership skills, and how fires spread in different environments. At this level of education you become able to specialize in hazardous materials or fire science engineering.
While it is feasible to obtain a job as a firefighter with no education beyond high school, it is highly unlikely. Seeking higher education will greatly improve your chances of landing a rewarding career as a firefighter.
If the fire department in your community also responds to emergency medical services, you may also be required to become a certified EMT (Emergency Medical Technician). Even if it is not required, this type of training will certainly increase your value to the fire department and the lives you can save in emergency situations.
Once you have completed your training, you may start applying for positions at local fire departments. Most states have specific requirements for the application process. These may include written tests, physical ability tests, and several interviews. That is just the first phase, if you pass these tests, you may also be required to undergo a psychological workup, a polygraph test, a medical physical, drug testing, and a criminal background check. Fire departments are understandably very selective about whom they hire.
If you are hired, be prepared for at least a one year probationary period, after which you will become state certified. This certification requires specialized education, many times addressed by the above degrees. There is a written exam and practical skill exam at the end of the program that must be passed in order to receive certification.
Long story short: There is massive potential for some of the most rewarding experiences of your life if you choose to follow fire science. With the determination and drive to be a hero and give back to your community, firefighting is a perfect career to consider.