According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, women made up only 3 percent of all firefighters in the United States as of 2012, making it one of the most male-dominated professions in the country. Despite this, each year more women are completing training and certification programs to join fire departments. The Pro Board Fire Service Professional Qualifications System serves as one of the main sources of firefighting certification and offers NPQ certifications for firefighters.
The Pro Board does not confer certification itself, but provides accreditation to numerous state and national-level firefighting training organizations to offer the certifications. NPQ certifications are any designations that come from an agency accredited by the Pro Board. Accredited agencies are located in 32 states and five Canadian provinces. The types of organizations that receive accreditation from the Pro Board include community colleges, firefighter training institutes and academies, industry associations, state-level certification boards and state fire councils.
The types of NPQ certifications available to firefighters vary and include basic-level designations such as Firefighter I and II. The accredited agencies also offer advanced firefighting certifications such as Fire Officer, Fire Instructor and Fire Inspector. There are also specialized NPQ certifications, including aerial/pumper, airport firefighter, fire educator, ropes and trench rescue, structural collapse, water rescue and vehicle and machinery operator.
The exact requirements to earn a NPQ certification vary from provider to provider and depend on the type of certification. Typical requirements include submitting an application and paying an application and exam fee. Some programs require the applicant to be employed by a fire department before applying for certification or be sponsored or recommended by a fire chief or officer. For example, in Utah, only the fire chief or administrator can apply for certification on behalf of an individual firefighter. For basic certifications like Firefighter I and II, the only requirements are completing the corresponding courses, while advanced certifications require current Firefighter I or II certification and completion of courses. All certification courses also require firefighters to hold current CPR and AED certifications.
Most certification programs include an exam the applicant must take and pass to earn the designation. Typically, the exam takes place at each agency's location and includes a written portion as well as a hands-on practical exam to test the applicant's skills. Some agencies include exam prep in the form of classroom work and hands-on courses as part of the certification program. Applicants must apply for each exam so the agency can assure that each applicant has the proper training and meets the exam requirements.
Many programs require firefighters to renew their certifications, typically every three years. The recertification process includes taking a certain number of continuing education courses in between the renewal years. In Utah, firefighters must take 36 hours of continuing education hours a year for a total of 108 hours over the three-year certification period.
- Bureau of Labor Statistics: 2012 Annual Averages Household Data
- Pro Board Fire Service Professional Qualifications System: Accredited Agencies
- Pro Board Fire Service Professional Qualifications System: About
- Utah Fire and Rescue Academy: Certification
- New York State Office of Fire Prevention and Control: Certification
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