If you are interested in becoming a firefighter, one factor you really should not overlook is firefighter education. Firefighting has developed into a very competitive area of expertise, and most municipalities have started requiring firefighter applicants to have a college degree, or some college credits, as well as certification prior to being seriously considered for a position. Then again, even if it’s not necessarily a firm necessity in your city, having the right education and certification is likely to dramatically increase your chance to find a job as a firefighter.
There are a few different ways to acquire the training and education you should have to become a firefighter, and this guide will help you to understand your various options. Particularly, you might be interested in college degrees for firefighters, attending fire academy, taking web based classes for firefighting, or firefighter apprenticeships. All of these are viable methods of achieving the education requirements for firefighters, so we will evaluate these options in more detail.
Fire Academy Training – Your Local Fire Department
Depending on where you want to find a job as a firefighter, the fire department could have a local fire academy set up to train new recruits. This form of education is what a lot of people refer to as “fire school” or “fire academy.” Typically, entry-level workers in large fire departments will be trained for a number of weeks at the department’s fire school training center or fire academy. Firefighter training typically is comprised of classroom instruction and practical training.
Firefighter recruits study subjects such as fire prevention, fire fighting techniques, hazardous materials control, local building codes, and emergency medical procedures. Many jurisdictions require firefighters to hold certification as an emergency medicine technician (EMT) or paramedic. During fire school training, recruits also learn how to use tools of the trade like axes, chain saws, fire extinguishers, ladders, as well as other fire fighting and rescue apparatus. After successfully completing training, the recruits are assigned to a fire company, where they undertake a period of probation which will consist of more hands-on training.
If the fire department close to you does give you training and education through this sort of fire school, there could possibly be prerequisites you need to meet before being accepted into the program. You could ask at a local fire department to get the essentials of their specific application process and requirements.
In addition to the firefighter training provided in the local jurisdiction, many firefighter recruits and career firefighters also opt to sign up for firefighter training courses available through the U.S. Fire Administration and U.S National Fire Academy.
U.S. National Fire Academy – National Emergency Training Center
The National Emergency Training Center is a 107-acre campus situated in Emmitsburg, Maryland. The campus houses the U.S. Fire Administration (USFA), the National Fire Academy (NFA), and the Emergency Management Institute (EMI). The National Fire Academy and Emergency Management Institute are part of the Department of Homeland Security’s Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).
The National Fire Academy offers firefighter courses at its resident campus in Emmitsburg, and also off-campus, around the Country in collaboration with State and local fire departments and training providers. There are no tuition costs for National Fire Academy courses. All instruction and course materials are provided free of charge. Most of the travel costs and accommodations for students who represent career or volunteer fire departments, rescue squads, or State/local governments attending on-campus courses are now provided as part of funding within the student stipend reimbursement program.
Everyone having significant involvement in fire prevention and control, emergency medical services, fire-related emergency management activities, or allied occupations is eligible to apply for National Fire Academy courses. Students have to satisfy the particular selection criteria and prerequisite criteria for every course. These prerequisite courses may be available online through the Emergency Management Institute and the National Fire Academy.
The National Fire Academy itself is not an accredited university. However, successfully completed NFA courses may be counted as credits toward a college degree program. However, not all colleges or universities approve these credits.
College for Firefighters
Many vocational schools, community colleges, and universities provide certificates and degrees for the student who wants to become a firefighter. The most common college certificate or degree is a Fire Science degree. Students enrolled in a Fire Science program usually study fire investigation methods and also techniques for controlling a fire with equipment, like axes, fire extinguishers, ladders and chainsaws. These programs also typically include education in fire prevention and teaching fire safety to the general public. Fire science students are also taught basic first aid, CPR and proper handling of hazardous materials.
As part of these college programs for firefighters, students might also earn their certification as an EMT/Paramedic. This is one important reason why college for firefighters is becoming increasingly more in-demand; because in addition to basic requirements for becoming a firefighter, many jurisdictions now mandate EMT training and certification as the minimum education requirement for becoming a firefighter.
Key courses in a Fire Science Associates Degree will normally include:
Principles of Fire and Emergency Services
Safety and Survival
Building Construction for Fire Protection
Fire Behavior and Combustion
Fire Protection Systems
Principles of Emergency Services
Other appropriate firefighter courses offered by many colleges include:
Fire Investigation I
Fire Investigation II
Hydraulics and Water Supply
Introduction to Fire and Emergency Services Administration
Legal Aspects of the Emergency Services
Occupational Health and Safety
Strategy and Tactics
Hazardous Materials Chemistry
Along with these core Associate’s Degree courses, a Fire Science Bachelors Degree program will commonly also include additional courses such as:
Political and Legal Foundations of Fire Protection
Applications of Fire Research
Fire Prevention Organization and Management
Personnel Management for the Fire and Emergency Services
Fire and Emergency Services Administration
Community Risk Reduction for the Fire and Emergency Services
Of course, the actual curriculum varies depending on what college you attend for your firefighter education. Look at the firefighter class descriptions of colleges you’re thinking about to make sure you get the education you need.
Firefighter Training Apprenticeship Programs
Accredited apprenticeships are offered by a lot of fire departments for those interested in becoming a firefighter. These firefighter training programs frequently require students to enroll in a Fire Science degree program at an affiliated school. The student will obtain theoretical knowledge via classroom firefighter courses, while getting realistic, hands-on field training via the fire department. These programs ordinarily take 2- 4 years to complete.
Students in apprenticeship programs have a chance to gain paid experience in a fire department, operating equipment and responding to calls. Fire departments which offer apprenticeship programs generally tend to hire firefighter recruits who have undertaken an apprenticeship. So, if your jurisdiction provides this type of program, it could be the best way for you to get your firefighter education and strengthen your likelihood of being hired in this competitive field.