Career Profile: Fire Fighter

Overview:

Fire Fighters are public sector employees who provide emergency services to their local communities.

What  Fire Fighters Do:

Firefighters respond to emergency situations, which is why emergency medical services and firefighting have merged in most communities. Although they do fight fires, most of the calls they receive are actually not fire related. Firefighters stabilize situations such as car accidents, heart attacks, and even chemical spills. Most firefighters are also emergency medical technicians and sometimes even paramedics.

Schedule:

Firefighters typically work 24-hour shifts on a rotating schedule such as 1 day on, 2 days off.

Fire Fighter Salary:

The Average Annual Salary for a fire fighter in the United States is $46,547.

Education Requirements:

Firefighters are not required to have a college degree, although earning a college education helps them advance in their career. If firefighters work for a civil service department, an advanced college degree, such as an MPA, can give them an edge in the promotion process.

How to become a Firefighter:

It is not necessary to have a college degree to be hired as a firefighter. Most states have basic certification exams, Firefighter 1 and Firefighter 2, which are the basic certifications required to become a firefighter. Firefighter 1 questions cover topics such as firefighter safety and health, ropes and knots, portable fire extinguishers, rescue and extrication, forcible entry, ground ladders, water supply & fire hose, fire streams and fire control, fire detection, alarms, hazardous materials awareness and operations, and more. Firefighter 2 questions cover all of the above plus more advanced material. Someone wishing to become a firefighter should also receive their purchasing medical technician basic certification (allowing them to work on an ambulance) as well as start volunteering at a local department to gain valuable experience.

Snapshot Example:

A firefighter on shift reports for roll call and gets an agenda for the day. The firefighter then checks the equipment and ensures it is clean and fully operational. If the fire bell rings (Ex. there’s been a car accident), the firefighters are called to the scene. It is their job to provide emergency care for the crash victims, secure the crash scene to ensure that there are no hazardous materials, and to make sure that no further damage and danger takes place.

Everyday Duties

The life of a firefighter can be really different from a typical 9 to 5 job, so the day-to-day responsibilities are pretty different, too. Here are some of the daily realities of working in a fire house:

  1. Firefighters typically work around 56 hours a week
  2. They work 24 hours on, and 48 hours off
  3. Fitness is important, firefighters usually use time during shifts to workout
  4. Firefighters take turns cooking for each other on their shift
  5. The firehouse needs to to kept up by the firefighters, so there are always chores to do
  6. Firefighters work long shifts, but don’t have to stay awake for the whole time. Each house is different, but after a certain time, firefighters are allowed to go to sleep
  7. A call can interrupt any scheduled or unscheduled activity at the house
  8. Firefighters typically work 10 24-hour shifts per month, leaving time to work at a second job to supplement their income
  9. Firefighters work closely with each other, making coworkers more like a group of close friends
  10. Emergencies can happen at any time, so firefighters often have to work in unexpected conditions
  11. Calls can include calls may include structural fires, technical rescues, medical emergencies and hazardous material spills
  12. Most firefighters are also EMTs or Medics

Working at a Fire Department

What it Takes

Working in a Fire Department takes a lot of dedication. The job itself is hard, both physically, mentally, and even emotionally. The dedicated people who work in fire service are passionate, diligent, committed, and detail oriented. Even in between calls, they have to be vigilant, focused, and disciplined to keep up with the demands of the job.

Firefighter Benefits

Some of the benefits of being a firefighter come in the fact that it isn’t your typical desk job, but others are more traditional, like healthcare and education.

A firefighter gets benefits like vacation pay, health insurance, early retirement, and a pension plan. Educational stipends and tuition reimbursements are common for firefighters, too. In the Northeast, for example, firefighters typically receive a stipend per year based on their level of college education, which rolls into their retirement fund.

As government employees, firefighters are also eligible for government benefits. They are often unionized, though, meaning that these benefits are often just a starting point for negotiations.