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Fireman: Career Summary, Job Outlook, and Education Requirements

Explore the career requirements for firemen. Get the facts about education, training and licensure requirements to determine if this is the right career for you.

What Does a Fireman Do?

When there is fire, an auto accident, or smoke in a forest, firefighters are usually some of the first on the scene. They assess what is needed, putting out fires or freeing victims trapped in an auto in a pile-up on the highway. However, firefighters do more than saving people and property from damage due to fire and other disasters. Behind the scenes, they're also responsible for writing up incident reports and conducting frequent drills to keep their skills sharp.

There are also specializations in the field: wildland firefighters work specifically on forest fires, sometimes parachuting into hard-to-access wilderness, while firefighters in a hazardous materials unit respond to things like oil and chemical spills. The following article provides an overview about becoming a firefighter, including the education requirements, duties and job outlook.

Degree Required High school diploma
Training Required Fire academy training; EMT certification may be required by some departments
Key Responsibilities Operate fire vehicles; extinguish fires; respond to rescue and injury calls; fill out incident reports; maintain and clean firefighting equipment
Job Growth (2018-2028) 5%*
Average Salary (2018) $49,620*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS)

What is the Career Summary of a Firefighter?

Firefighters are often the first responders to fires, medical emergencies and traffic accidents located in all types of settings. Another important aspect of your job will be to rescue individuals in danger and administer first aid, which includes performing resuscitation, when necessary.

As a firefighter, you'll extinguish fires with the use of water delivered through high-pressure hoses or by fire extinguishers. Your firefighting equipment will also include axes and crowbars to gain entrance into structures and ladders to reach upper level floors. When a building cannot be saved from a fire, you may assist in recovering important items within the structure.

You'll work long shifts that may last for 24 hours or more. When not responding to an emergency, your time will be spent at your fire station cleaning and maintaining equipment, training and exercising.

What Is the Job Outlook?

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), employment of firefighters is expected to grow about 5% between 2018 and 2028 (www.bls.gov). Job prospects are expected to be most favorable for applicants who are in peak physical condition, have some firefighting education and have passed mechanical aptitude examinations, says the BLS.

In May 2018, the median annual salary of a firefighter was $49,620. If you were a federal government employee during this period, your mean annual salary was $52,290.

What Education Requirements Should I Complete?

Most fire departments require a high school diploma, although it has become more common for applicants to have taken fire engineering courses or to have earned an associate's or bachelor's degree in fire science. You'll find these degree programs cover topics such as hazardous materials, fire investigation, computer applications, fire protection systems and fire emergency survival. As an alternative to college, you may consider 4-year apprenticeship programs offered by several fire departments.

As a new recruit, you must complete training at a firefighting academy before you'll be permanently hired as a firefighter. At an academy, you'll learn building codes, firefighting procedures, first aid, cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR), fire prevention techniques and the proper use of firefighting tools and rescue equipment.

You must also become a certified emergency medical technician or, in some larger cities, a certified paramedic. This medical training may be included in your academy program or you may have to acquire it elsewhere. Other typical requirements include passing a physical examination, a drug test and a written examination. Also, you must be at least 18 years old.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

The firefighting profession opens itself to many related career fields, especially as a law enforcement official or an emergency medical technician (EMT). All of these jobs require at least a high school diploma to begin with and specialized training and certification afterward. The law enforcement professions include police officers, correctional officers, security/surveillance officials, or detectives. EMTs and paramedics work very closely with firefighters on a daily basis, though their focus is on treating patients and transporting them to the hospital.