Firefighting might be the perfect combination of a job that pays the bills while offering the chance to help others. Firefighters do more than just respond to building or forest fires; the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that two out of three of the emergencies that firefighters respond to are medical emergencies, not fire-related. So firefighters might work to not only save lives by rescuing people from and fighting fires, but by showing up to medical emergencies knowing what to do alongside other law enforcement response teams.
Whether you want to specialize in fire prevention, fire investigation, or hazardous materials control, you're likely to need to a fire science education. Learn what it takes to become a firefighter and explore our visual guide below to getting your firefighter career ignited.
How to Become a Firefighter
The educational requirements likely depend on the fire department you're interested in.
- Earn a high school diploma or train as an EMT. Typically, the minimum requirement for becoming a firefighter is a high school diploma and certification as an emergency medical technician (EMT), the BLS reports.
- Get certified. Candidates may also need to pass written and physical exams and be interviewed by current firefighters.
- Build up your hands-on training. Some departments offer apprenticeship programs that give potential firefighters on-the-job training over a number of years. If you want to give yourself bonus points when application time comes around, consider the following ways to work your way into the department:
- Become a volunteer firefighter or fire cadet
- Work as an EMT/paramedic - learn more about the top schools for paramedic degrees
- Work a municipal job as a 911 dispatcher
- Help out a seasonal wildfire crew
- Get familiar with first aid and CPR training
- Consider earning a public administration degree
In you preparation to become a firefighter, consider seeking out classes in math, chemistry, biology and communications, among others. As you prep for furthering your education, you might need to complete other general education requirements.
Firefighter degree programs
Some fire departments require potential employees to hold an associate or bachelor's degree in fire science. Read about the top schools for fire science degrees for additional insight into how to start a firefighting career with the right education.
Courses that might be part of a fire science degree program include:
- Fire and Emergency Services
- Fire Protection Systems
- Fire Investigation and Analysis
- Safety and Survival
- Leadership and Management
Firefighter Salary and Career Outlook
As with any position, pay varies for firefighters, dependent on things like location, experience, education level and more. The same could be said for job growth for firefighters -- certain states might have a greater need for firefighters than others, and climate conditions could also increase the demand for the profession.
Here's an idea of the salary and career outlook you can expect in the coming years:
|Career||Annual Median Wage|
Check out the visual below for a useful guide on how to become a firefighter and more details about the career. Don't forget to read more on top fire science degree programs when you're done.
- Firefighters, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Bureau of Labor Statistics, accessed October 2018, https://www.bls.gov/ooh/protective-service/firefighters.htm
- Firefighters, Occupational Employment Statistics, Bureau of Labor Statistics, accessed October 2018, https://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes332011.htm
- National Fire Protection Association, accessed October 2018, https://www.nfpa.org/Public-Education/Campaigns/Fire-Prevention-Week/Fire-Facts
- Become a firefighter: 10 must-do things, FEMA and Prziborowski, Steve, Santa Clara County Fire Department, www.firerescure1.com
- U.S. Fire Administration, Federal Emergency Management Agency, https://www.usfa.fema.gov/