Fire fighting is a dangerous job but one which attracts many applications each year.
Risking their lives to ensure the safety of the general public, the fire brigade’s primary duties are not limited to putting out fires, although that is a large element of their work. They also have to react to a variety of emergency situations, including rescuing civilians from danger, providing medical assistance or undertaking salvaging work in unsafe buildings.
To apply to be a fire fighter, you’ll need to be at least 18 years of age. You’ll also need to be in pretty good shape, as the fire fighter application process requires the passing of not only medical examinations but also physical tests. In addition, most state fire brigades require a candidate to have at least a high school education; however, increasingly a postsecondary education is necessary for a successful application, as noted by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Recruitment and Training
Candidates to positions within a fire brigade are subject to thorough background and security checks along with interviews. These are necessary to pick the best candidates available, since the fire fighting profession is a very competitive field. Candidates who pass these train with their fire brigade, often as part of a “recruitment academy,” learning essential skills relevant to the job, including materials control, the use of specialist equipment, fire prevention and first aid.
This process usually lasts a few months, depending upon the state the brigade is located in. For example, in Arizona, an “academy” lasts for 12 weeks, according to the Gilbert Town Fire Department.
The typical yearly salary of a fire fighter can vary considerably, based on their place of employment, but most fire fighters earn somewhere in the region of $31,000 and $57,000 a year, according to figures provided by the PayScale website. Fire fighters with more advanced educational backgrounds, such as associate degrees in fire science, typically earn around $5,000 more than fire fighters with only high school diplomas (again, according to PayScale).
At a basic level, a fire fighter will be expected to become certified as an emergency medical technician (EMT), the training for which is often provided as part of a recruitment academy. Some fire brigades will expect the fire fighter to train further in this area and achieve paramedic certification, depending upon the circumstances of the area in which a particular fire brigade is based.
The U.S. National Fire Academy also runs short programs staffed by veteran fire fighters in areas such as forest fire prevention and anti-arson techniques, leading to an accredited certificate or other qualification.
During their career, fire fighters can seek promotion within the fire brigade. To do so, a fire fighter typically studies further in areas such as equipment handling and medical expertise, as well as learning more “behind-the-scenes” knowledge (for example, budgeting procedures). Subject to passing the relevant examinations and interviews, fire fighters can ascend in rank to engineer, captain and beyond, right up to fire chief. Note that for officer positions, many brigades require fire fighters to hold a bachelor’s degree in fire science or a similar area.