Does the idea of running into a burning building and helping people get out to safety excite you instead of terrifying you?
If the answer is yes, then you may have a future career as a firefighter.
Working as a firefighter is one of the most satisfying careers out there. In fact, it is consistently ranked as one of the happiest professions, with 80 percent of firefighters reporting satisfaction with their job.
So, how do you get into this awesome career? Read this job spotlight to learn all about becoming a firefighter.
Let’s start with the question that’s always on everyone’s mind: salary. As of 2016, the average salary of a firefighter is $46,870.
However, the state you live in can significantly affect your salary, as can the number of years you work in the profession. California, for example, pays firefighters significantly more than the rest of the country does.
If this doesn’t sound like very much money to you, don’t worry, as there are plenty of ways you can advance in your career.
Different specializations that can increase your salary include:
- Fire inspector
- Fire chief
- Fire captain
- Fire investigator
- Forest fire inspector
- Hazardous material worker
Through specialization and years of work, you could easily see yourself making $70,00 to $80,000 in this career field.
And, even though the base salary isn’t crazy high, keep in mind that firefighters also have an extremely lucrative pension program.
How to Become a Firefighter
Now that we’ve talked about salary information, let’s go over what it takes to become a firefighter.
For starters, you are going to need a high school diploma in order to work as a firefighter. And while it certainly isn’t necessary, having a bachelor’s degree can help you advance more quickly in the profession.
You will also need training in medical services. In order to become a firefighter, you must also attend a firefighter academy. This training usually lasts a few months and is either run by a fire department or the state in which you reside.
In the academy, you will receive classroom instruction as well as practical training. Training will involve learning about emergency medical procedures, building codes, and techniques to prevent fires.
You will also learn how to use standard equipment, such as ladders, chainsaws, and fire extinguishers.
After attending the academy, you will be required to pass a written as well as a physical exam. Then, once hired, you will be put on a probationary period.
For all firefighters, continuing education is also required.
Important Qualities and Skills
So, what type of people make great firefighters?
Let’s look at the important qualities that firefighters possess.
Working as a firefighter means rarely working alone. Therefore, it is very important to have excellent communication skills.
When approaching a burning build, you will need to be in constant communication about who is doing what and who is going where.
Someone who is a direct an open communicator makes a great firefighter.
As a firefighter, you are going to find yourself in emergency situations.
Having compassion for those you are helping is a key component of being a good firefighter.
When you’re in an emergency situation, there isn’t a lot of time to weigh the pros and cons of your actions. You need to act and act fast.
Therefore, it is very important that you have excellent decision-making skills if you are going to become a firefighter.
You should be able to think quickly on your fight and be comfortable with making decisions in a split second.
Physical Strength and Stamina
Last but not least, being an excellent firefighter means having excellent physical strength and stamina.
As a firefighter, you are going to be carrying heavy equipment, moving debris, and, in some circumstances, you’ll even be carrying victims.
Also, you’ll be expected to stay at the scene of a disaster for a very long period of time. Sometimes, you will even be required to stay until the situation is completely resolved.
If you are someone who doesn’t like spending long periods of time on your feet and you dislike strenuous physical activity, then you may want to think twice about becoming a firefighter.
Job Duties and Work Environment
As you already know, firefighters are in charge of putting out fires.
However, there’s a bit more to it than turning on a hose and spraying water at a burning building.
As a firefighter, you’re also expected to do the following:
- Remove victims from burning buildings
- Treat injured or sick victims
- Find victims in burning buildings, as well as in other emergency situations
- Clean equipment and perform proper maintenance on it
- Conduct safety drills and physical training
It’s also important to remember, that as a firefighter, there will be days in which you don’t respond to fires at all.
Usually, shifts last for 24 hours. During these times, you will be sleeping, eating, performing equipment maintenance, and doing various drills.
While the times you are responding to calls is certainly invigorating, keep in mind that there is also a lot of downtime, and that a lot of calls end up being non-emergency ones.
After completing a 24-hour shift, you will usually have between 48 and 72 hours off.
So, is firefighting an in-demand profession?
Absolutely. The Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts a 7 percent growth in firefighter jobs between 2016 and 2026, with there being about 17,400 positions expected to open throughout this ten year period.
However, even though there are healthy job prospects for this field, keep in mind that becoming a firefighter is a very competitive process.
Small health issues can easily disqualify you, and many people who apply to become a firefighter don’t make it through the initial screening process.
Having an extremely good fitness level and receiving high marks on your firefighter exam can help increase your chances of landing a job as a firefighter.
Firefighter: Wrap Up
We hope this job spotlight has given you a better idea of what a career as a firefighter entails.
If you have questions about entering this career field, be sure to drop us a comment below.
Or, if you’ve come to the conclusion that a career as a firefighter may not be for you, be sure to check out our Career Page for more ideas.