Volunteer Fireman: Career Summary, Job Outlook, and Educational Requirements

Explore the career requirements for volunteer firemen. Get the facts about required training, job duties, and salary to determine if this is the right career for you. Schools offering Fire Science degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Is a Volunteer Fireman?

Volunteer firemen provide fire response and other emergency services to their communities. They may be called to assist during natural disasters, emergency medical situations, and hazardous material spills. They perform all of the normal duties of a firefighter, but on a volunteer basis. These duties include driving emergency vehicles, finding and rescuing victims, and providing education to the public concerning fire safety. Volunteer firemen may also be required to fill out reports about incidents, clean equipment, participate in physical fitness tests and conduct training drills. The table below outlines the general requirements for volunteer firemen.

Training Required Minimum 110-hour training course with the National Fire Protection Association; associate or bachelor's degree to improve chances of earning a paid position
Certification Certified Fire Protection Specialist, optional
Key ResponsibilitiesAssist with rescues and putting out fires, provide communities with emergency response services, maintain equipment
Job Outlook (2014-2024) 5% for all firefighters
Average Salary No set salary. In many cases volunteer firemen can get reimbursed by the department for time spent on shifts, training, and responding to calls.**

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics; **VolunteerFD.org

What Are My Duties as a Volunteer Fireman?

While volunteer firefighters' main responsibilities are to react rapidly to alarms, put out fires and assist with rescues, they also provide their communities with other emergency response services. You might be called to help during natural disasters, terrorist attacks, emergency medical situations and hazardous materials spills. The time commitment you make as a volunteer firefighter isn't limited to responding to calls; you also spend a significant amount of time training and maintaining equipment. You need to understand and adhere to federal safety regulations. Some volunteer fire departments require you to meet physical fitness standards and work a certain number of hours.

What Training Would Help Me?

To become a volunteer firefighter, you need to undergo some training both before you start and during your time of service. According to VolunteerFD.org, a partner organization of the NVFC, the minimum amount of training you receive is a 110-hour course run by the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA). The NVFC lists training programs offered by federal, state and local organizations that can teach you how to respond to particular types of emergencies, handle hazardous chemicals and take on leadership roles in your department. The NFPA provides training programs, seminars, webinars, online courses and certification opportunities, including the Certified Fire Protection Specialist credential. You could also take courses at community colleges and technical schools that can help prepare you for the diverse responsibilities you face as a volunteer firefighter.

What is the Outlook for Volunteer Fire Departments?

In 2014, there were 788,250 volunteer firefighters in the United States, according to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA). The large proportion of volunteer firefighters reflects, in part, the part-time nature of volunteer firefighting, which requires more individuals to provide round-the-clock coverage than a department staffed with full-time career firefighters. Since 1984, the number of volunteer firefighters has declined, a trend that the National Volunteer Fire Council (NVFC) attributed to fewer people having the time necessary for the increased training and service demands of volunteer firefighting (www.nvfc.org).

Where Would I Provide Services?

You're more likely to find all-volunteer or mostly-volunteer fire departments in small towns and rural areas because the need to maintain higher staffing levels pushes urban departments to offer paid positions. A relatively small number of all-career fire departments provide protection services to about two thirds of the U.S. population, while 85% of fire departments were all volunteer/mostly volunteer and protected the other third of the population, according to the NFPA in 2014. You might also be able to volunteer with county departments that were created through the consolidation of smaller departments.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

Some related careers that require at least a high school diploma or equivalent in addition to on-the-job training include fire inspectors, security guards, gaming surveillance officers, and correctional officers. Fire inspectors enforce fire codes by examining buildings to detect hazards. They are also responsible for determining the cause of a fire should one occur. Security guards and gaming surveillance officers protect property from illegal activities. Correctional officers oversee and manage individuals who are in jail awaiting trial or have been sentenced to jail time.

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