Fire Service Careers
by Robert Brown
Nature of the Work
Protect life and property from fires or other emergencies
Organized in companies under direction of commanding officers
Rescue trapped or injured occupants
Handle hose lines and nozzles
Operate fire engines, fire pumps, hand and power tools
Respond to transportation and industrial accidents
Respond to natural and man-made disasters
Tornado, earthquake, flood
Structural collapse, explosions
Entry, Education, and Training Requirements (typically)
High school graduate…college degrees may be required for advancement
Candidate Physical Ability Test
EMT or paramedic certification
Multi-lingual usually an advantage
Physical strength and endurance
24-hour shift work
Tolerance of extremes in temperature
Tolerance of diverse populations, cultures and perspectives
Advancement Possibilities and Employment Outlook
Usually promoted from within the department
Advance to higher ranks…D/E, Lt, Capt, Chief Officer, Chief (college degrees may be required)
About 353,000 career firefighters in U.S.
Projected growth as paid positions replace volunteer positions
Stiff competition for employment and advancement
Salaries (Illinois, NE region)
Paid sick days
Medical, dental, and vision insurance
Retirement plan (pension)
Where to Go for More Information
International Association of Fire Fighters
1750 New York Ave. NW
Washington, DC 20006-5395
National Fire Protection Association
PO Box 9101
1 Batterymarch Park
Quincy, MA 02169-7471
U.S. Fire Administration
16825 S. Seton Ave.
Emmitsburg, MD 21727
The Fire Service offers an array of diverse career opportunities for those who may not have an interest in, or a capacity for, emergency response work. We generally refer to these career fields as Support Services. Each plays a key role in enabling the fire department to deliver an effective emergency response effort for its citizens. These varied career opportunities include:
- Telecommunicators…Dispatch personnel who receive, process and direct calls for assistance to appropriate emergency response units.
- Information management specialists…Computer technicians who manage electronic data collection, storage, retrieval and use, including inventory, payroll and other personnel matters and the use of GIS, GPS, and AVL systems for emergency vehicle routing, location, and status.
- Hazardous materials control unit…Technicians who manage the storage and use of identified hazardous materials at commercial/industrial facilities within the department’s jurisdiction.
- Fire and arson investigators…Certified investigators who are trained to determine the origin and cause of fires, collect and preserve evidence, and testify in court cases.
- Fire inspectors…Certified Fire Inspectors who make annual site visits to all commercial/industrial properties in the jurisdiction to ensure compliance with applicable fire and life safety codes.
- Building inspectors and plans reviewers…Certified inspectors who review and approve blueprints and all other associated construction documents for proposed new construction.
- Fire protection specialists…Certified Fire Protection Engineers hold engineering degrees and work with architects and engineers to design fire protection systems for new and existing buildings within the jurisdiction.
- Human resource specialists…Responsible for the management of all personnel employment matters.
- Equipment technicians…Responsible for the maintenance and repair of associated equipment. Vehicle mechanics, especially certified diesel mechanics and EVT’s (Emergency Vehicle Technicians), are needed to maintain the fleet.
- Financial services specialists…Certified and/or licensed business managers responsible for the overall financial plan for the department, including operating and capital budgets.
- Public education specialists…Certified Fire and Life Safety Educators and Public Information Officers who are tasked with educating and informing the public.
- Health Management Specialists…Personal trainers, exercise physiologists, and dieticians who manage diet and exercise programs designed to maintain firefighters in peak physical condition.
- Administrative support personnel…Administrative assistants, secretaries, and clerks.