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Fire Fighter Career Information and Employment Outlook

Oct 20, 2021

Firefighters need to possess a high school diploma, but can also earn an associate's or bachelor's degree. They must also meet physical fitness standards, pass a medical exam and background check and earn EMT certification. Here you will learn more about the requirements needed to become a firefighter, as well as job duties and employment information.

Essential Information

Firefighters are generally the first to respond in emergency situations where property, life or the environment are in danger due to fires, floods, natural disasters, accidents or terrorism. A high school diploma is the minimum education needed to become a firefighter, but many people in this profession go on to receive some postsecondary education - or even a degree - in fire science or a related field. Since many emergency calls involve medical situations, nearly all fire departments require fire fighters to receive some form of emergency medical training. Departments may send employees for emergency medical technician (EMT) training to become EMT-Basic certified.

Required Education High school diploma at minimum; postsecondary education is becoming increasingly common
Other Requirements Fitness test, medical exam, on-the-job training
Certification EMT-Basic certification may be required
Projected Job Growth (2019-2029)* 6%
Median Salary (2020)* $52,500

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Fire Fighter Career Information

Career Preparation

Generally, a high school diploma or a fire science postsecondary non-degree award in addition to physical fitness testing, a medical exam and a background check are necessary when applying for a firefighter position. Firehouses often train candidates during a probationary period. Emergency medical services training may be required before starting work. Today, many firefighters have earned college degrees, such as an Associate of Applied Science in Fire Science or a Bachelor of Science in Fire Science.

Career Tasks

Firefighters perform various duties, some more strenuous than others. Their tasks may include operating the pump, connecting hose lines to hydrants and positioning ladders. Firefighters rescue survivors and victims, perform medical aid, salvage the contents of buildings and ventilate areas to remove smoke. Between calls, fire fighters sharpen their skills; clean, maintain and repair equipment; exercise; and perform practice drills.

Many firefighters work irregular hours and live at the fire station much of the time. Fire stations are generally equipped with kitchens, bedrooms and living rooms. Hours may vary but generally include a 50-hour work week. Firefighters may work 10-14 hour shifts for 3-4 days in a row; a shift pattern could include three days on shift, three nights on shift and three days off. Sometimes, firefighters work 24-hour shifts, followed by a couple of days off.

Specialty Careers

Smoke jumpers or forest fire fighters generally fight fires by being parachuted into remote areas. They fight fire from the ground through a variety of containment measures and by directing aircraft to hot spots and good places to eject water and foam from above. With continued schooling, firefighters may be promoted to fire inspectors or fire marshals. These positions involve responsibility for performing inspections, enforcing fire safety codes and laws, and collaborating with builders and city planners.

Employment Outlook

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), employment of paid firefighters is expected to grow faster than average for all occupations, through 2029. Continuous growth in the population will influence the number of emergency calls that require fire fighters. Also attributed to the job outlook was the growth in urban populations.

Salaries

In May 2020, the BLS reported that firefighters in the 90th percentile or higher earned $93,790 or more per year, whereas the bottom 10th percentile earned $26,940 or less per year. Some fire fighters are volunteers who made little or no money; BLS salary figures included only paid career fire fighters.

Firefighters respond to a number of emergency situations, ranging from fires to accidents. They work irregular shifts and may specialize in different areas. Though most fire fighters are volunteers, employment opportunities is still good for those who are qualified for the job.

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