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Firefighters are brave, strong and save people from extremely dangerous situations. Firefighters are heroes to children and adults alike. They are trained to use first aid and CPR to save people. They know how to put out fires and how to stop big fires from taking over neighborhoods.

But what does it take to be a firefighter? It is, after all, a lot more than getting cats out of trees. Firefighters are health care workers who provide pre-hospital care, they are skilled technicians who control and extinguish fires, using equipment such as hoses and the jaws of life. They are teachers, leading safety sessions for school groups, guide and scout units, and families, letting their communities know how to protect themselves in case of a fire in their homes or schools. Other times they are students, learning about different aspects of fire prevention and techniques for putting them out. Sometimes, they inspect buildings and check business owners are complying with fire code rules, and sometimes they are security guards, keeping people away from accident scenes, chemical spills, or fires. Firefighters also spend a lot of time filing reports, assessing safety procedures, training and re-certifying, and upgrading their skills and talents in the event that their many skills and services may be needed.

There are a number of types of firefighters. All types work in teams. Some firefighters work as volunteers, in smaller, rural communities, but most municipalities have at least one fire station. There are also airport firefighters, who concentrate on the dangerous situations which can arise around airplanes and airports, industrial firefighters, who work at factories, putting out chemical fires forest firefighters, who protect the woods and vacant public spaces.

There area very few occupations which could compare to fighting forest fires. It is exciting, tense, dirty and rugged. Forest firefighters battle blazes from the ground, from airplanes and helicopters, and by parachute.

Anyone who gets involved in forest firefighting must be aware that though it shares a name with municipal firefighting, this type of fire control is very different. Firefighters who battle forest fires are battling nature itself - forest fires are quite often naturally occurring, and, depending on nature (wind, rain, humidity) can burn out quickly, or can rage on for weeks. A forest firefighter must be prepared to work long, unpredictable hours, as well as wait around for those fires to blaze up. They have less contact with the public than municipal firefighters, but will spend much of their time monitoring national parks and empty fields for fire hazards and possible flare-ups.

Forest firefighters will spend only part of the year actively working at preventing and controlling forest fires. The rest the year may be spent doing paperwork, making recommendations to governments and communities, and educating people about the danger, and ecological importance, of forest fires, which may result in positive outcomes for nature, as long as the fires are controlled.

A forest firefighter will travel with the same team, often working with other groups in the case of a large fire. They can expect to travel, flying to remote areas if need be, going to the fire wherever it blazes. A forest firefighter is a special kind of person - one who craves excitement, is comfortable working in the outdoors, as well as in extreme heat and smoke. They should be genuinely interested in saving forests and surrounding communities, so much so, that they are willing to put their own lives on line in the interest of protecting precious ecosystems and other human lives.
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Purdue University Global


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Building on Purdue's mission to provide greater access to affordable, world-class education, Purdue University Globaldelivers a fully personalized online experience tailored for working adults.

Programs Offered:
  • AS in Fire Science
  • BS in Fire Science
  • BS in Fire and Emergency Management



  Average Earnings  
Lowest 10% of Earners:
Median Salary:
Highest 10% of Earners:

  Interests and Skills  
Firefighters must be strong, fit, and confident in themselves, as well as their coworkers. They need to be agile, have first aid knowledge, and be able to work and concentrate under high levels of stress. A good firefighter is patient, caring, and gentle, as well as sensitive to others' needs. They should have good communication skills, be able to interact with children and the elderly, as well as have a clear speaking voice and the ability to present information to a large group. Computer skills, as well as mechanical know-how are excellent skills to bring to the position. Firefighters should also be interested in promoting fire safety and disaster prevention.

  Typical Tasks  
  • Respond to fire alarms and other calls for assistance, such as automobile and industrial accidents
  • Rescue victims from burning buildings, aircraft, or vehicles
  • Use hoses, axes, and ladders to control and extinguish fires
  • Administer first aid and other assistance
  • Maintain equipment
  • Give talks and demonstrations about fire safety to public
  • Educate the public in fire prevention
  • Checks businesses for fire code compliance
  • Inspects fire alarms, smoke alarms, fire hydrants and evacuation procedures for buildings
  • There is no such thing as a typical day for a firefighter. Because fires are not planned, a firefighter may go to work and not put on that helmet for a week, but the following week that helmet might never come off! Usually, though, there are very few emergencies to attend to, and most firefighters spend their day doing community outreach programs, conducting tours of the station, training, assessing public buildings and businesses for fire code regulations, and writing follow-up reports. A typical day would see firefighters interacting with professionals, the general public, building owners, community groups, and school groups. Firefighters work shifts, eating and sleeping at the fire hall when necessary. They work holiday and weekend shifts, as well.
  • Forest Fighters
  • Supervise and coordinate the work of other firefighters
  • Control fire by cutting down trees, clearing brush, and digging trenches
  • Use ax, saw, shovels to contain fires
  • Parachute from aircraft
  • Use compass and map to find supplies and equipment dropped by parachute
  • Assess fire from the ground, communicating plans and ideas to airplanes and helicopters using radio
  • Work alongside other members of firefighting crew, looking out for coworkers
  • Patrol burned area after fire to watch for hot spots
  • Make recommendations to governments
  • A forest firefighter's day is anything but typical. Certain times of the year are very dry, and during this period the forest firefighter's day will most likely be spent fighting a fire somewhere in the woods. Off season will bring office work. A forest firefighter is required to be very fit, so any time off from fighting a fire (which could burn for days or weeks) could be spent re-training, or at the gym, maintaining a strong heart and muscles. A forest firefighter, when actively on duty, will spend hours outside, in unpleasant surroundings.

  Workplaces, Employers and Industries  
  • Firefighters work in all sorts of places. When actually on call, fighting a fire, their workplace is very stressful, due to the consequences of making mistakes, difficult, frustrating circumstances, and often firefighters are working in other peoples' homes, searching for family members in an unfamiliar, and burning, terrain. Firefighters are at risk of severe burns, smoke inhalation, and bone fractures.
  • When not fighting fires, firefighters travel throughout the community, to schools, clubs, churches, hospitals, and businesses doing inspections, teaching fire safety, and telling people about their job. Camaraderie is important, because firefighters have to rely on their coworkers in times of danger.

  Long Term Career Potential  
A firefighter has a number of career options. With additional training and experience, firefighters may progress to senior positions, such as fire chief, or they may choose to move into forest firefighting, industrial firefighting, or airport firefighting. As well, firefighters can become paramedics or police officers, bringing their expertise to these areas, as well. A firefighter can also work within the department planning and implementing community outreach initiatives. A firefighter can also look towards training new firefighters, testing interested applicants, as well as writing and publishing material on fire safety for children and adults.

  Educational Paths  
The path to becoming a firefighter typically requires completion of secondary school as well as completion of a college program in fire protection technology or a related field. Firefighting and emergency medical care training courses are available and may be required depending on the fire department. It is advantageous for aspiring firefighters to have experience as volunteer firefighters. Physical fitness, agility and strength is required and vision requirements must be met.

Many fire departments have accredited apprenticeship programs that last up to 5 years. These programs combine technical instruction with on-the-job training under the supervision of experienced firefighters. Technical instruction covers subjects such as firefighting techniques and equipment, chemical hazards associated with various combustible building materials, emergency medical procedures, and fire prevention and safety. Fire departments frequently conduct training programs, and some firefighters attend training sessions sponsored by the U.S. National Fire Academy. Some of these topics include anti-arson techniques, disaster preparedness, hazardous materials control, and public fire safety and education.

Some States also have extensive firefighter training and certification programs. In addition, a number of colleges and universities offer courses leading to 2- or 4-year degrees in fire engineering or fire science. Many fire departments offer firefighters incentives such as tuition reimbursement or higher pay for completing advanced training. Check with your local fire department for specific educational direction.

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014-15 Edition,
Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Employment Statistics, 2002,

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Purdue University Global


World-Class Education Tailored for Working Adults

Building on Purdue's mission to provide greater access to affordable, world-class education, Purdue University Globaldelivers a fully personalized online experience tailored for working adults.

Programs Offered:
  • AS in Fire Science
  • BS in Fire Science
  • BS in Fire and Emergency Management

Liberty University

100% Online & No Standardized Testing

Programs Offered:
  • Bachelor of Science in Fire Administration

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