Firemen, or firefighters, save lives when they rescue people from burning buildings, traffic and boating accidents, or dangerous chemical spills. They risk their own lives as they face collapsing floors and walls, drowning and asphyxia from smoke. That's why these professionals must be well-trained and have several key qualifications to even be considered for training. If you are courageous and have physical stamina and strength, you already possess some of the necessary qualities of a fireman.
A high school diploma is the minimum educational requirement for a fireman. Most applicants, however, have some non-degree postsecondary education in fire science, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. If you want to become a fireman, you can also attain an associate's degree from a technical school or community college in your city. An associate's degree can better prepare you for the classroom and practical training at the fire academy.
Eligibility and Training
You must be at least 18 in most states to apply for a fireman job. Prior to training, you will need to pass a civil service exam to be accepted into the fire academy. Once accepted, training can take anywhere from three to four weeks to three months, depending on your state's requirements. Your training includes both classroom and practical application of what you learn. You will study fire-fighting, fire prevention, first aid techniques and local building codes, and learn how to use axes, chain saws and ladders – and connect hoses to fire hydrants. Once you complete your initial training, you must train on the job with an experienced fireman. Some states have apprenticeship programs for new firemen, which can last up to four years.
Most states require firemen to be certified as an EMT, or emergency medical technician, Basic level. In some states, firemen must be certified as paramedics. At the EMT-Basic level, you must complete 100 hours of specialized training, according to the BLS, learning how to treat trauma victims and clear air passages. Paramedics must complete 1,300 hours of studies of more advanced life-saving techniques. As a trainee, you may start your EMT-Basic or paramedic training during an apprenticeship, or when training under a certified fireman. These requirements can vary by state. Additionally, you must pass a written and physical test to get certified.
A fireman must also have analytical and communication skills. As a fireman, you assess the fire or emergency situation, execute proper procedures and administer first aid to those who need it. Your analysis must be quick and accurate to save lives. You must also know how to communicate with victims – to keep them calm – other firemen and emergency medical crews.
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: Occupational Outlook Handbook: How to Become a Firefighter
- Fire Career Assistance: Firefighter Qualifications
- New York City Fire Department: Fireman Requirements
- Seattle Fire Department: Minimal Qualifications
- Houston Fire Department: Houston Fire Department Fire Trainee Employment FAQs
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: Occupational Outlook Handbook: How to Become an EMT or Paramedic
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