What Education Is Required to Become a Firefighter? - Requirements & Continuing Education

What does it take to fight fires for a living? Here you'll find the educational and training requirements along with salary info so you can explore this career option. Schools offering Fire Science degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

Career Information at a Glance

Firefighters help manage and put out fires that are endangering human life, property or the environment. They don't need a college degree, but they do undergo extensive training to learn how to save lives. The table below provides a brief overview of the field.

Education Required High school diploma
Training Required On-the-job training, EMT training
Key Skills Bravery, compassion, physical strength
Certification NREMT certification typically required
Job Growth (2016-2026) 7%*
Median Salary (2017) $49,080 per year *

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

What Do Firefighters Do?

Firefighters are always standing by to spring into action at a moment's notice. If there's a fire, they'll load the fire truck, rush to wherever the emergency is and use advanced tactics to put it out and try to save the lives of anyone injured. Firefighters are sometimes charged with helping trapped people get to safety or going into burning buildings to rescue victims.

Not all firefighters deal with buildings. Some firefighters - called wildland firefighters - dedicate themselves to fighting or controlling forest fires to keep them away from people and property. Among wildland firefighters, there's an even more specialized role called fire jumping. Fire jumpers parachute into dangerous areas that would otherwise be inaccessible.

What Training Do You Need to Become a Firefighter?

You won't need an advanced degree to become a firefighter, but you will need extensive training, a love of danger, great physical fitness and more than a little courage. After all, without hesitation, you'll be asked to risk your life and limb to save others.

The fire academy training needed to become a firefighter involves classroom coursework to learn building codes, emergency medical procedures and how fires work, plus practical training putting out actual fires. In addition, most states require firefighters to complete paramedic or EMT training. Wildland firefighters can participate in a 4-year apprenticeship where they study under more experienced firefighters.

Firefighters of all kinds can also advance their knowledge by attending courses offered by the National Fire Academy (NFA) or the state in which they work. Coursework includes disaster preparedness, hazardous materials control, anti-arson methods and more.

What Certification Do You Need to Fight Fires?

Typically, firefighters need to be certified emergency medical technicians or paramedics. To become certified, applicants must get a passing score on the exam given by the National Registry of Emergency Medical Technicians (NREMT) after completing their training program.

This certification must be renewed every two years by taking continuing education courses or passing a cognitive examination. Topics of instruction in continuing education courses can cover topics like post-resuscitation care, hemorrhage control and trauma triage.

How Much Do Firefighters Make?

Firefighters sometimes work odd hours, and overtime is often the norm. After all, you can't clock out in the middle of an emergency. This is even truer for wildland firefighters, who might be out fighting forest fires for days and weeks at a time. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported in May 2017 that the median salary for a firefighter was $49,080 per year.

What's the Job Outlook?

While new building practices have cut down on the number of fires in the United States, there will always be emergencies to respond to. In addition, firefighters who retire need to be replaced. For these reasons, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that employment for firefighters will increase at the same pace as the average for all other occupations between 2016 and 2026: 7%.

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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