Do You Need To Attend College To Be a Firefighter?

The firefighting career field is very competitive; heres a quick breakdown of what you should and should not do as you prepare to join the fire service

Becoming a firefighter is no easy task. It requires hard work, long hours of training, dedication and a sincere desire to help others.

The firefighting career field is very competitive, too. Youll be up against hundreds, possibly thousands of applicants depending on the department. How will you stand out and where do you start? Download our how to become a firefighter infographic.

Heres a quick breakdown of what you should (and should not) do as you prepare to join the fire service. The firefighting career field is very competitive. (Photo/Joe Thomas of Greenbox Photography)

However, you will need to have a CFR-D certificate by the end of your probationary period and maintain it throughout your employment. If you do not possess a CFR-D certificate at time of appointment the FDNY provides a CFR-D training program during the Firefighter training course.

Ask a Firefighter – Do I Need a College Education?

Do you need a college degree to become a firefighter?

While entry-level firefighter positions dont typically require a college degree, some full-time positions prefer candidates to have some postsecondary education. Some colleges now offer associate and bachelors programs in fire science, firefighting and fire technology. Courses may cover topics such as:

Individuals can also choose courses that allow them to specialize in a particular fire department role in which they are interested. For example, those interested in becoming a pump operator can learn about hydraulics and water supply, while those interested in becoming an inspector can learn about reviewing construction documents and fire protection codes. Having a degree can help enhance your job prospects and allow you to advance to higher positions, such as a fire chief. Those earning masters or doctoral degrees in fire engineering technology or environmental science can earn higher salaries and increase their chances of working for a private company or the federal government.

What is a firefighter?

A firefighter is someone who extinguishes fires and helps with emergencies threatening life, property or the environment. In addition to extinguishing fires, firefighters provide medical aid to those at emergency scenes and rescue humans or animals from burning buildings. They also may speak to the public about their services and describe preventive measures one can take to avoid accidentally setting fires.

Different types of firefighters include:

How to become a firefighter

Here are some steps you can take to begin a career as a firefighter:

1. Meet basic requirements

Before pursuing a career as a firefighter, an individual should research the requirements for their local fire department. Some common requirements to become a firefighter include:

2. Start volunteering

Consider volunteering with a local fire department to gain experience on the job. Its also helpful to become involved with your community through other organizations, which can help foster connections with those in your community since firefighters often interact with the public during educational speaking engagements.

3. Get licensed

Since firefighters help provide medical care to victims, employers often require prospective firefighters to attain medical-related licenses. One license to consider pursuing is the CPR certification. After attending classes, you can receive a certification that is valid for as long as two years from the time of completion.

Most firefighter positions also require an Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) license, which is helpful to pursue as soon as possible since the process can take as long as a year. To become EMT certified, pursue related training and pass the National Registry EMT exam.

4. Pass the exams

Firefighter applicants often take two exams before entering a training program. The first is a written exam, consisting of around 100 multiple-choice questions on topics such as spatial awareness, mechanical reasoning, reading comprehension, logic, memory and observational skills. Applicants also typically take the Candidate Physical Ability Test (CPAT), which tests their physical fitness and strength. The CPAT involves a distance run to be completed in a set time, along with quickly climbing stairs and carrying upwards of 200 pounds.

5. Attend a fire academy

Once you pass the necessary exams, you can learn basic firefighting skills at a fire academy, where you learn in a classroom setting with hands-on work. Courses often cover topics such as anti-arson techniques and handling hazardous materials.

6. Prepare for an interview

Once you have completed your necessary training, you can start looking for jobs. One way you can prepare for interviews is to practice answering common firefighter interview questions. Be prepared to answer questions about why you want to be a firefighter and what you believe the most important quality is for a firefighter to have.

7. Continue learning

Even after starting a career as a firefighter, you constantly learn skills and techniques on the job. Some fire departments require new employees to attend their departments academy upon arrival, while others require a four-year apprenticeship program. Even after you have attained employment with a fire department, the department may offer weekly required training for the team to attend. In addition to department training, an EMT license requires regular training to maintain, too. Those interested in advanced positions in a fire department may consider earning additional certifications and returning to college to earn an advanced degree.

FAQ

What education do I need to be a firefighter?

18 Good Careers That Don’t Require College Degrees
  • Salesperson. Many sales jobs offer an average salary near six figures, often without requiring a degree. …
  • Software Developer. …
  • Digital Marketer. …
  • Real Estate Agent. …
  • Network Specialist. …
  • Power Plant Operator. …
  • Skilled Trades. …
  • Automotive Technician.

What is a good career that doesn’t require college?

18 Good Careers That Don’t Require College Degrees
  • Salesperson. Many sales jobs offer an average salary near six figures, often without requiring a degree. …
  • Software Developer. …
  • Digital Marketer. …
  • Real Estate Agent. …
  • Network Specialist. …
  • Power Plant Operator. …
  • Skilled Trades. …
  • Automotive Technician.

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