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Fire Fighter: How Do I Start a Career in Fire Fighting

Fire fighters are prepared at a moment's notice to respond to scenes of fire and other emergencies. Individuals who choose this career must be physically strong and must not mind working in hazardous conditions.

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Career Information for Fire Fighters

A fire fighter works together with a team of other firefighters to extinguish fires and respond to many types of emergency situations. They may work in a variety of settings, including urban buildings, suburban areas, airports, chemical plants, industrial sites, grasslands and forests. When fire fighters aren't out in the field battling a fire, they can be found maintaining equipment, participating in drills and generally staying physically fit.

Education Requirements to Become a Fire Fighter

Fire fighters are generally only required to have a high school education; however, employers increasingly are preferring candidates with some college education. Schools offer associate's or bachelor's degrees in fire science and fire protection engineering. Students in these programs may take such courses as hazardous materials, fire fighting strategies and fire protection.

Tests Required for Fire Fighter Candidates

Prospective fire fighters applying for positions working for local government, for which the majority of fire fighters work, will have to pass written and physical tests. Medical and drug screenings are usually also required for government positions, with random drug testing often continuing after employment.

Training of Fire Fighters

Following hire, new recruits must undergo a weeks-long training program at a fire academy. They learn practical skills, such as fire fighting techniques, use of rescue equipment and first aid training, through a combination of instruction in the classroom and in practice. While most fire departments require their fire fighters to be certified as emergency medical technicians, they may not always provide this training but nevertheless expect their recruits to earn this certification within a reasonable amount of time.

Some fire departments combine their training programs with practice in the field through apprenticeship programs that may last several years. Certain states also have mandatory training or certification programs for fire fighters.

Job Outlook and Salary Info

Fire fighters could expect employment growth of 9% from 2010-2020, which was slower than average, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Jobs should be competitive, with the advantage going to applicants who have paramedic training, some postsecondary education and high scores on their fire fighting tests. As of May 2012, fire fighters earned a mean salary of $47,850 annually.

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