Firefighter Training Programs, Courses & Requirements

Firefighters provide critical services to cities and towns across the country. Learn about the training programs available to help you become a firefighter, including the courses needed and the physical and educational requirements that must be met. Schools offering Fire Science degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Training Is Needed to Be a Firefighter?

Firefighters must be prepared to handle life-threatening situations, so a good deal of training is required. Both volunteer and professional firefighters must undergo training courses, put on by their local fire house, state agencies, or groups like the National Fire Protection Association and the National Fire Academy. Training typically takes a few months with hands-on demonstrations as well as classroom training in emergency medical procedures, building codes, and fire prevention. Those hoping to become professional firefighters may pursue a degree in fire science, available at the associate's and bachelor's level, which will help as one moves up the career ladder to higher ranks. Firefighters are also expected to have basic emergency medical training, and will need to obtain the appropriate certifications for that as well.

Degrees Available Associate's or bachelor's degree
Field of Study Fire Science
Courses Offered Fire Behavior Combustion, Fire Prevention Systems, Principles of Emergency Services
Other Training Programs Fire Academy, National Fire Protection Association, National Fire Academy
General Firefighter Requirements EMT-Basic, state licensure, background checks, drug testing, health checkups, physical fitness exams

What Kinds of Degree Programs Exist for Firefighter Training?

For those who are serious about a long-term career as a firefighter, a degree in fire science is a step ahead. Two year associate's degree programs will provide much of the basic educational requirements and help with entry into state fire training programs. A bachelor's degree may ultimately be more useful when it comes to obtaining higher-ranked positions or transitioning to related careers, like fire investigator, later in life. When looking at fire science degree programs, check for those that are recognized by the USFA as Fire and Emergency Services Higher Education (FESHE) or accredited by the International Fire Service Accreditation Congress (IFSAC) to ensure quality.

What Courses Are Included in a Fire Science Degree Program

Degree programs often include courses on topics like the principles of fire safety, combustion, personnel management, and fire protection systems. Bachelor's programs will generally feature more courses dealing with legal issues and leadership than associate's programs, helping to prepare graduates for eventual roles higher up in the department. Both programs usually include general education courses as well as some electives in addition to major requirement classes.

What Kind of Training Is Offered Through the National Fire Academy?

The National Fire Academy (NFA) is a part of the federal government, under the US Fire Administration, which offers free training to firefighters at all stages in their careers. Some courses are offered online, while others take place at its campus in Maryland, in addition to sponsored and affiliated local programs around the country. Programs which take place on campus are primarily for experienced firefighters looking to move up, such as the Managing Officer and Executive Fire Officer programs. Local or state programs developed with or in accordance to NFA guidelines will often tackle basics like safety codes, regulations, how to use gear and equipment, and may even include live fire training. Some NFA courses last between two and ten days.

How Can I Earn the Needed Medical Certifications?

To work as a firefighter in most states, it is necessary to hold certifications as an Emergency Medical Technician (EMT). Obtaining EMT-Basic certification through the National Registry of EMTs requires that individuals pass both a cognitive exam, covering required medical knowledge like resuscitation techniques, respiration, and trauma, and a psychomotor exam, where the examinee must demonstrate the proper execution of techniques and show their capacity to appropriately judge what is best applied in a situation. EMT courses are available through a number of organizations, such as the Red Cross, and cover topics such as CPR, defibrillator use, and basic life support. After receiving this certification, state licensure must also be obtained.

What Other Requirements Are There for Firefighters?

Firefighters have high expectations to live up to, even outside of their training and work. They must undergo frequent drug screenings and health checkups, and have to be able to pass regular fitness tests. A criminal background check is often required before being accepted for training. Firefighters may also have to give presentations at schools or work booths at fairs and festivals, where they strive to educate the public on fire prevention and safety in homes and workplaces. Volunteering to work with the fire department in these endeavors can sometimes help you to network and make the contacts needed to start a career as a firefighter, and is highly recommended for anyone interested in pursuing work in this field.

To continue researching, browse degree options below for course curriculum, prerequisites and financial aid information. Or, learn more about the subject by reading the related articles below:

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