Firefighters hold one of the most important, yet dangerous, jobs. Their positions require them to put out fires, respond to other emergencies, and keep the public informed of fire safety and hazards.
When an individual is interested in a career as a firefighter, they may start their training by becoming a volunteer. To become a volunteer, a person needs to be at least 18 years old, and have a high school diploma. Most states now require that anyone interested in a firefighting career obtain an emergency medical technician (EMT) certificate before doing any type of work at a firehouse. An EMT certificate can be earned beforehand or some fire stations will allow individuals to complete them while volunteering. During the three to six months that volunteers are with a fire department, they may perform duties such as driving a fire truck or maintaining the fire station so it is ready for emergency calls. Some fire stations offer apprenticeships for those looking to continue their careers.
All individuals interested in becoming a firefighter must have a valid driver's license, a clean background check, and excellent vision and hearing. They must also pass a civil service exam and a physical agility exam. It is important for individuals to also have the ability to work well with others, the ability to stay calm in emergencies, and quick thinking skills.
There are also special schools for those interested in the firefighting field. Here they will receive intense training on preventing fires, injuries due to fires, smoke detector inspection, hazardous materials, and use of all fire station equipment. These training programs normally last between four to six months. Classroom studies include arson, public awareness of fire safety, and preparing for disasters. There is also intense physical training and training in challenging situations, such as fires in vehicles, crawl spaces, subways, or high-rise buildings. Training regarding search-and-rescue steps and building codes typically must be completed as well.
Career advancement is possible by attending courses and receiving an Associate of Science in Fire Science. A Bachelor's Degree in Fire Science or Public Administration is often needed for promotion to Deputy Chief, Assistant Chief, or Battalion Chief. To become an Executive Fire Officer, one must get certification from the U.S. Fire Administration.