HOW TO BECOME A FIREFIGHTER
Higher education hasn’t been traditionally necessary to become a firefighter, but with today’s highly competitive hiring, applicants need at least an associate degree in fire science to stand out. A fire science program is an introduction to directly become a firefighter. Students will study fire department structure, the chemistry and behavior of fire and emergency medical response. Medical knowledge has increasingly become important in curriculum, as fires nationwide have decreased. Firefighters now respond to more medical emergencies than fires.
Although higher degrees are offered in fire science, it is most common for applicants to obtain an associate degree when first starting out. Applicants should have an associate degree in fire science plus related fire science experience to be competitive in the hiring process. An associate degree will take about two years to complete. Applicants looking into an online program should be cautious and ask questions about how students will learn the hands-on coursework. If those lessons are supplemented by a local agency, then an online degree is a good option for those living in more rural areas.
It’s recommended that firefighters have a bachelor’s degree to be promoted, especially in a related field such as criminal justice, fire science or even public administration. It will typically take four years to complete. Master’s degrees are beneficial to those already working as firefighters and are pursing high ranking administrative and leadership positions. Although it is a two-year commitment, many opt to attend part-time or enroll in online schools while they’re still working full-time.
When deciding on a fire science program, be sure to ask about the curriculum and staff. The professors should have fire department experience, and the courses should teach fire behavior and emergency management. Classes will also have hands-on practice using equipment, and in some cases work to extinguish a controlled fire exercise.
FIREFIGHTER TRAINING COURSES
These are some common classes you would enroll in while studying fire science:
- Principles of Combustion
- Fire Prevention Technology
- Fire Protection Organizations
- Fire Apparatus and Equipment Systems
- Safety and Survival
- Building Construction
- Forest Fire Control
- Fire Tactics and Strategy
- Emergency Medical Basics
- Fire Codes and Laws
FIREFIGHTER TRAINING ACCREDITATION
The U.S. Fire Administration works with the college administrative staff to shape a fire science program. It’s part of their Fire and Emergency Services Higher Education initiative. The International Fire Service Accreditation Congress is also a nonprofit that accredits certification programs and higher education degrees. A school must undergo a faculty and course review and then pass an exam issued by the National Fire Protection Association. Attending an accredited school ensures you’re getting the best quality education and necessary courses to prepare you for a successful career.
FIRE SCIENCE JOBS
With an education in fire science you can pursue these jobs:
- Arson Investigator
- Fire Inspector
- Fire Marshall
- Firefighter (including Engineer, Fire Captain and Fire Chief)