When young children are asked about their future career, firefighting often ranks near the top, along with being a superhero. While firefighters may not have superpowers, they do have rigorous training which qualifies them to respond to variety of emergency situations. Different states have different firefighter training and certification requirements, but the minimum requirements are fairly standard.
Firefighters are required to perform many physically demanding tasks, so they must meet certain minimum physical requirements. All applicants for firefighting positions must undergo a medical examination which includes vision and hearing acuity tests. They may also be required to pass tests which demonstrate agility, stamina and physical strength before being permitted to take a civil service exam, which is a requirement for applicants in most areas.
A high school diploma or equivalent is required in most jurisdictions, and many now prefer at least an associate’s degree in fire science. This education must be completed before an applicant will be considered for an actual firefighter training program. In many jurisdictions, candidates who meet the minimum physical and educational requirements do not have to pay for their training because the city or state government covers the cost.
Firefighter Training Programs
In most cases, firefighters undergo training after being hired for a job. The training requirements may vary between cities and states. In Florida, a firefighter must undergo 398 hours of formal training to receive a Firefighter I certification which is the minimum certification for employment. Many jurisdictions require that firefighters also receive at least basic certification as an emergency medical technician.
Curriculum for Firefighter Training Programs
These programs include classroom, physical and practical training to prepare candidates for the written and physical tests required for certification. Most courses also include training in emergency medical technology and first aid. The course includes practical training in handling axes, battering rams, hoses and other firefighting tools. In addition to basic training, firefighters may choose to continue their training for certification as a Firefighter II.
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Continuing Education Programs
Many colleges now offer 2 and 4 year degrees in fire science and fire engineering, with most professional firefighters opting to continue their education. Additional firefighter training programs include training in forest fires, building construction, handling hazardous materials, paramedical training, first responder training and arson investigation. Continuing education is one key to advancement to the higher ranks within fire departments.
Preparing for a Career as a Firefighter
There is keen competition for firefighting jobs, so candidates should obtain as much education and training in the field as possible before applying. Candidates in excellent physical condition with degrees in fire science or engineering are in the best position for acceptance into firefighter training programs. Additional qualifications as a paramedic or EMT can enhance a candidate's credentials.
The responsibilities of today's firefighters involve more than putting out fires. They are called upon to respond to many types of emergencies which put them at risk of injury or death. Training and education give them the tools to protect themselves and the general public from harm.