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CHOOSING A CAREER / SEP. 23, 2014

How to Become a Firefighter in the US

Firefighters in the US are considered heroes in the eyes of many people because they go beyond and above to ensure the safety of citizens. Their job in not only honorable, but is highly desirable, with one of the best remuneration rates. However, one ought to think seriously about the risks and impact the job can have on their emotional and physical well-being before pursuing the career.

Role and Responsibilities of a Firefighter

The traditional roles of firefighters have evolved to include a variety of functions and duties. Your job description as a firefighter will include the following;

  • Extinguish and control fires
  • Prevent or minimize loss of property and lives
  • Prevent fire
  • Respond to disaster
  • Handle emergencies
  • Manage environmental issues

 

Salary

Salary

 

$28,324 - $75,107

Bonus

 

$0.00 - $5,158

Median Pay Per Hour

 

$21.75

Source: PayScale

20 percent discount
20 percent discount

 

Qualifications

General requirements: The federal and state laws require that one must be an American citizen, at least 18 years of age at the time of sitting the exam, and at least 21 years ago to sign a work contract. Applicants must have a clean criminal record, submit references from honorable members of the municipality, and have a driver’s license valid in the state in which they seek to take the exam. Employers also conduct drug screening, medical and psychological tests on applicants to determine if they are capable of conducting the roles of a firefighter.

Academic: The USA Fire Department requires that applicants have at least a high school diploma. Most municipalities need at least a college certificate on pre-hospital care courses such as emergency medical technician or paramedic. Although a bachelor’s degree is not mandatory to qualify as a firefighter, an associate or bachelor’s degree makes you a more desirable candidate, especially if you plan to move to another career in the future. Relevant study topics include fire protection engineering, fire science or safety management, among others.

Applicants must also have a good grasp of the English language. The ability to speak and understand a popular foreign language in the U.S. such as Spanish or French can increase your chances of employment.

Before admission to the apprenticeship program, applicants must pass a written, physical and psychological exam. Those who pass the exams enter into an apprenticeship or probationary program where they are trained on basic skills such as first aid, CPR, safety measures and how to handle flammable material, among others. The program involves constant monitoring and evaluation to determine a candidate’s abilities. One officially becomes a firefighter upon successful completion of the training program and related assignments.

Knowledge and Skills

A firefighter requires the following skills;

  • First aid and disaster management
  • Ability to communicate details clearly and accurately
  • Active listening skills
  • Polished coordination
  • Ability to make good decisions within a short time

In addition to these skills, dependability, stress tolerance and resilience are paramount for survival in the career.

Career Prospects

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects a seven percent employment growth for firefighters between 2012 and 2022. As a firefighter, one can easily switch their specialty to safety management, fire engineering or other careers that require knowledge on risk management. Consider enrolling for some expertise training such as public administration or analysis of hazardous material to improve your chances of promotion. Officers who serve in the capacity of administration or supervision earn a higher remuneration.

Firefighting is a rigorous and a demanding career. Eating healthy, staying physically fit and having enough rest will help you stay focused and at the peak of your performance. Serving your nation is, however, a fulfilling responsibility and the fiscal rewards are attractive. Remuneration can go up because of fringe benefits such as night shifts, overtime and travel. Other benefits include compensation if one is injured in the line of duty, insurance and medical plans.

Image Source: iStock

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