How can I become a Firefighter in 2022 | Cost, School, Career, Salary

Firefighters are seen as heroes in their community and are admired by children and adults alike. However, becoming a firefighter requires rigorous training and commitment.

More than 300,000 professional firefighters work in the United States. They save millions of lives as well as properties a year from damage.

So, in this post, we will take you on a journey teaching you all you need to know to become a top-notch firefighter.

Who is a Firefighter?

Firefighters are the trained professionals you call at the scene of a fire or emergency. For this reason, they rely on advanced tools and equipment to handle the situation.

A firefighter is a trained emergency response specialist who serves to protect public life as well as property.

What does a Firefighter do? | Job Description

Just like law enforcement officers, firefighters work first and foremost to protect lives, and then they turn their attention to protecting property. But, not against crime but against fire and emergency situations.

At the scene of a fire, firefighters have many duties. So, they use their equipment to ensure that water goes where it is needed. Also, firefighters rescue victims trapped in buildings or other structures and administer emergency medical treatment when needed.

They attempt to salvage the burning structure and any of its contents. When not responding to a fire or emergency call, firefighters clean and maintain equipment, perform fire drills, as well as complete paperwork relevant to emergency incidents.

Although fighting fires might be their main job description, firefighters often engage in different activities like

  • Educating the public
  • Handling medical emergencies
  • Rescuing and Treating the injured
  • Prepare written reports on emergency incidents
  • Also, test and recommend new equipment.

So, the overall duty of a firefighter include:

  • Attending the scene of fires and other emergencies including motor, industrial and marine accidents.
  • Rescuing and evacuating people in life-threatening situations.
  • Operating pumps, spraying water, foam, and chemicals from hoses, portable extinguishers, and other appliances to extinguish fires and to disperse or neutralize dangerous substances.
  • Cutting openings in buildings and crashed vehicles to free occupants.
  • Administering first aid.
  • Attending and participating in training activities, rescue classes, drills, demonstrations, and courses in emergency and fire-fighting techniques.
  • Ensuring all tools and equipment are in good working order through regular maintenance.
  • Participating in search and rescue and high-angle rescue operations.
  • Assisting other agencies in emergencies.

Where does a Firefighter work? | Available Careers

As a firefighter, you can work across various emergency response departments across the federal and state levels. You can also work in rural areas or smaller towns.

Volunteer firefighters also share the same duties as paid firefighters and can work in various areas too.

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So, generally, firefighters work in the following areas:

  • Local government, excluding education and hospitals
  • Administrative and support services
  • The state government, excluding education and hospitals
  • The federal government, excluding postal services

When responding to an emergency, these workers often wear protective gear, which can be very heavy and hot.

When not in the field, firefighters work at fire stations, where they sleep, eat, work on equipment, and remain on call. Whenever an alarm sounds, firefighters respond, regardless of the weather or time of day. 

How Much Does a Firefighter Make? | Career Outlook

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average annual wage for firefighters in April 2022 is $47,944.

Across various levels, here are the annual pays across various levels:

  • Local government, excluding education and hospitals | $50,310
  • Administrative and support services | $30,260
  • The state government, excluding education and hospitals | $50,660
  • The federal government, excluding postal services | $52,290

Other related careers in firefighting include:

  • Forestry Fire Prevention Specialist | $36,650
  • Building Inspector | $57,340
  • Arson Investigator | $56,730
  • Paramedic | $31,980

Moreso, the employment of firefighters is projected to grow 5 percent from 2018 to 2028, about as fast as the average for all occupations. According to BLS, there are over 332,400 professionals employed in this field in the US.

Although improved building materials and building codes have resulted in a long-term decrease in fire fatalities, firefighters will still be needed to respond to fires. Fires can spread very quickly, so controlling them quickly is very important. 

What are the requirements To Become a FireFighter?

There are varying requirements for firefighters for different jurisdictions, but generally, the basic requirement to become a firefighter are:

  • You must be at least 18 years old
  • You must have an Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) certification

What are the Educational Requirement For A Fire Fighters?

While education and training vary across different jurisdictions, it is important to get a fire science degree to create more career opportunities for you.

Fire Science majors at the bachelor’s level may also combine classroom study with field training and/or an internship. They also study many aspects of the fire service profession, such as fire behavior, fire extinguishment, rescue procedures, and environmental policy. Common courses, in addition to general education classes, include:

  • Fire Prevention
  • Emergency Management
  • Fire Investigation
  • The Fire Control
  • Fire Chemistry and Physics
  • Hazardous Materials Management
  • Disaster and Fire Defense Planning

Also, some colleges work with local fire departments to offer a short part-time fire service pre-recruitment course in their fire academy.

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Fire Science Certifications

Although a license is not necessary to be a firefighter, prospective firefighters will undergo tests and training.

So, the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) offers many voluntary certifications, including:

  • Certified Fire Protection Specialist
  • The Certified Fire Inspector
  • Certified Fire Inspector, II
  • The Certified Fire Plan Examiner
  • Certified Building Inspector
  • The Certified Building Plans Examiner

Also, if you want to further our career in fighting fire with a fire science degree, here are the best schools that offer a bachelors’ degree program:

What are the Skills That a Firefighter Should have?

As a firefighter, there are basic skills you must possess to do this job effectively, and they include that you must:

  • be physically fit
  • be mentally ready and tough
  • discipline yourself
  • be able to communicate effectively
  • have mechanical knowledge
  • be a team player and show leadership traits

How Long Does it Take to Become a Firefighter?

Depending on the training program, it takes a period of 3 to 4 months to become a firefighter. Or up to 5 years, if you want to get advanced pre-employment training and experience a longer application process.

However, to become a full firefighter paramedic who acquires a four-year fire-sciences degree takes generally up to 7 years.

What is the cost of becoming a Firefighter?

Generally, the tuition cost to acquire a fire science degree is $5,300. Additional costs include bunker gear purchase or rental which can range from $400 to $1,500; uniforms at $150 to $300 and books as well as class supplies which can cost anywhere from $100 to $200.

How Hard is the Firefighter Job?

Honestly, it depends on whether you are working as a part-time or full-time firefighter.

As a full-time firefighter, you usually work 42 hours a week, doing day and night shifts to cover the 24-hours service.

This job can really be demanding and stressful so you need to stay physically and mentally fit at all times. Sometimes, you also will work in very uncomfortable situations and under all kinds of weather. Hazardous conditions are the norm for a firefighter, who might encounter life-threatening fumes, smoke, or fire during any work shift. 

That’s why before you decide to become a firefighter you need to do a Gut-check first! Be sure that this is really what you want to do.

How to Become a FireFighter

Firstly, you must understand that becoming a firefighter is really no joke! So, you have to religiously follow the laid down steps outlined here.

Get the Minimum Requirements

It’s important for you to get at least a high school diploma or GED. Also, you must hold a valid driver’s license.

Of course, you must be physically fit and at least 18 years of age to apply, and an examination can be carried out to ensure that they have a clean record.

#1 Volunteer For Recruitments

Many firefighters you ask would tell that they started off their firefighter careers as volunteers. Some firefighter departments often have openings for the recruitment of volunteers, including community service.

 According to the National Fire Protection Association, about two-thirds of firefighters were volunteer firefighters in 2015.

As a volunteer firefighter, you can build vital professional contacts in the trade. The fastest way to become a firefighter is really to interact with the local firefighters. So, this can give you a good background when applying to be one.

#2 Acquire an EMT/CPR training

Getting an Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) license is a requirement for firefighters, who are often called out for emergency medical situations, in most areas. EMT is often a multi-level process, but requirements vary by state.

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Also, it is imperative you take a CPR class at the American Red Cross or other agencies that offer this training. Having a Red Cross card can boost your chances of handling some tough work at the fire stations as well as getting in the door as a new firefighter recruit.

#3 Take Tests And Apply For Work

For you to be hired as a firefighter, you must undergo the screening test which is usually a physical as well as a written test. The hiring process is usually lengthy as qualified candidates are interviewed and undergo further rigorous evaluation.

You must also pass a rigorous physical fitness test. For this reason, you should be able to perform a distance run in an allotted period of time, climb flights of stairs at a rapid pace and lift and carry up to 200 pounds.

#4 Enroll In The Fire Academy

Though a great part of training is done at the firehouse to which a firefighter is hired or assigned to work, enrolling in a fire academy offers the opportunity to focus on the classroom as well as hands-on work.

So, courses cover topics that might not be covered by firehouse training, such as hazardous materials control or anti-arson techniques.

#5 Get a Fire Science Degree

If you want to further your career in fire science, paramedics, or advance to leadership roles within firefighting agencies, then you should consider getting an associate and bachelor’s degree program at colleges as well as universities that offer them.

#6 Advance in your Profession

Of course, to rise in ranks in the fire department you must devote more time to your work and more training.

You can rise to even the role of an engineer or a fire chief from being a firefighter. So, it’s important to get more advanced certifications in this field.

Frequently Asked Questions

How much does a fire fighter make?

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average annual wage for firefighters was $47,944  in April 2022.

How long does it take to become a firefighter?

Depending on the training program, it takes about 4-6 months to become a firefighter.

Is firefighting job hard?

The job of a firefighter can be very demanding. Sometimes you will be required to work under very hard conditions. So, you must be very physically fit and mentally tough.

What's the best way to apply for a firefigting job?

The best wy to become a firefighter is to join as a volunteer firefighter.

What benefits do firefighters get?

Career firefighters benefit from medical and dental coverage for themselves as well as their family members. 

Conclusion

Firefighters are regarded as heroes in society as they protect life and property against fire hazards. However, to become a firefighter requires rigorous training and commitment.

References

Fire Science Online – How To Be A Firefighter

Learn How To Become – How To Become A Firefighter

Bureau of Labor Statistics – Occupational Handbook

Seek Career Advice – Firefighter

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