Fire Fighter Degrees by Degree Program Level

Learn about programs designed to provide training for aspiring fire fighters. Read about the level of study, admission requirements and course topics. Find out what continuing education options are pursued by graduates in addition to fire fighter job outlook and salary details.

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Essential Information

There is no such thing as a firefighting degree. There are only firefighting certificates and fire science degrees. Those who wish to pursue a career as a firefighter are required to have a firefighter certificate; fire science degrees are more suited for fire investigators and inspectors. Firefighting certificates are available at two levels: firefighter certificate I and firefighter certificate II. A certificate in the first level qualifies graduates for entry-level firefighting positions. Certificate programs are usually available through local fire academies.

Students in these programs learn basic firefighting, rescue and safety skills. They also learn about the nature and behavior of fire, as well as how to operate various firefighting equipment, perform rescues in different types of environments and work as a team. In many programs, students must gain emergency medical technician (EMT) certification to graduate. These programs also often require students to gain experience as a volunteer firefighter in order to graduate (usually about a year's worth of experience).

Educational Prerequisites

As vocational programs, firefighter certificate programs usually do not have any prerequisites beyond a high school diploma or GED; however, most programs note that the strongest applicants will be physically fit and have aptitudes in science, mathematics, teamwork, leadership and courage.

Program Coursework

Coursework often uses hands-on training to teach students the various skills they need in order to be successful. Students often work in groups and in sites simulating fire or rescue. Students sometimes work with live fire as well. Here are some classes typical of a firefighter certificate program:

  • Hazardous materials
  • Chainsaw operation
  • Fire chemistry
  • Rope and water rescue
  • Structural firefighting

Salary Information and Career Outlook

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (www.bls.gov) predicts that employment for firefighters will grow 9% between 2010 and 2020, which is a slower rate than the national average. The BLS notes that competition for jobs will continue to be strong, and there are likely to be more applicants than there will be job openings. The 2012 BLS report stated that firefighters made median annual earnings of $45,250.

Continuing Education

While a firefighter certificate qualifies its holder for a career in firefighting, a post-secondary degree may increase the odds of promotion or the amount of pay raises. Firefighters sometimes opt to pursue associate's, bachelor's or master's degrees in fire science. These degrees offer an advanced study of the science of fire as well as organizational and managerial methods. Associate's degrees tend to focus more on fire science, while master's degrees focus more on managerial and business skills because graduates from these programs often end up taking leadership positions.

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