Career Development

Firefighter Job Description: Salary, Duties, & More

Firefighters are responsible for the safety of the public. They are trained to respond to emergencies involving fires, car accidents, explosions, natural disasters, and medical emergencies.

Firefighters are responsible for the safety of the public. They are trained to respond to emergencies involving fires, car accidents, explosions, natural disasters, and medical emergencies.

Firefighters are often first responders at the scene of an emergency. They must have good communication skills and be able to work well with other team members. They must also be physically fit and able to work under stressful conditions.

Firefighters can specialize in areas like structural firefighting or wildland firefighting. The majority of firefighters work for local governments. Some may choose to become volunteer firefighters or work for federal agencies like the Bureau of Land Management or U.S. Forest Service.

Firefighter Job Duties

Firefighters are responsible for a wide range of duties, including:

  • Enforcing fire safety rules and regulations
  • Inspecting structures for fire hazards and conducting routine building inspections to ensure compliance with fire codes and regulations
  • Responding to fires and other emergencies such as natural disasters or medical emergencies
  • Operating equipment such as ladders, hydraulic tools, and breathing apparatus to enter burning structures and search for victims
  • Performing life support measures such as CPR and administering oxygen until an ambulance arrives
  • Providing technical or onsite training for individuals or groups of individuals
  • Performing inspections of departments’ equipment and facilities to ensure compliance with safety regulations

Firefighter Salary & Outlook

The median annual wage for firefighters is $51,368. The highest earners make over $87,000 per year. Those earning higher wages tend to work in local government agencies.

The employment of firefighters is projected to grow faster than average over the next decade. This is due to increased emphasis on safety and fire prevention in industries such as construction and manufacturing, as well as the increasing population in areas where fires and other natural disasters are more prevalent.

Firefighter Job Requirements

To become a firefighter, you’ll need a combination of these qualifications:

Education: A high school diploma or GED is required, but many organizations prefer a college degree. This field of study can be anything from firefighter training to criminal justice, which will help them to better understand the law and fire safety.

Training: Candidates must complete a training program before becoming a firefighter. Training programs can last up to six months and include both classroom and hands-on training. Firefighters learn basic and advanced skills, such as how to operate firefighting equipment and how to rescue people from burning buildings. They also learn how to operate equipment like fire trucks and ladders, and how to use different firefighting tools.

Certifications & Licenses: Candidates must take and pass a physical exam to become a firefighter. They must also complete a background check and a drug test to ensure they are healthy enough for the job and don’t have any habits that could affect their performance. 

Firefighter Skills

Some of the skills that firefighters must have include:

Fitness: Firefighters must be in good physical condition. They must be able to perform strenuous activities, such as running up and down stairs, carrying heavy equipment, climbing ladders, and rescuing people.

Quick reflexes: Firefighters need quick reflexes in order to respond quickly when a fire breaks out. In some cases, this means entering burning buildings. In other cases, it means escaping from danger before a building collapses.

Interpersonal skills: Firefighters must work well with others in order to communicate effectively and solve problems together during an emergency. They also need to know how to deal with difficult situations and individuals in a way that is both firm and respectful. 

Knowledge of firefighting techniques: Firefighters must know how to use various firefighting tools and equipment, such as hose lines, extinguishers, and ladders. They also need knowledge of building construction so they can quickly locate fire exits and know how to break down doors when necessary. Some specialized firefighters need additional training in order to perform their jobs safely. For example, some may be trained in high-rise firefighting or rescue techniques, hazardous materials response, wildland firefighting, or underwater rescue operations.

Resilience: Firefighters are exposed to life-threatening situations that require them to maintain their composure in stressful situations.

Firefighter Work Environment

Firefighters experience some physical stress on the job. They can suffer cuts, burns, sprains, bruises, and other injuries from fighting fires, heavy lifting, and doing rescue work. Firefighters also need to be willing to fight fires even if it is nighttime or another dangerous situation.

Because firefighting is a high-risk occupation, firefighters must be in excellent physical condition to perform their duties. Firefighters often work long hours and rotating shifts; many sleep at the station for several days at a time. Because they may respond to emergencies 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, firefighters’ schedule can vary depending on the availability of the crews.

Firefighter Career Advancement

Firefighters with a few years of experience may be promoted to a lieutenant or captain position. In these roles, firefighters are responsible for overseeing a team. They must ensure their team members are trained and prepared for firefighting duties, and they must supervise and discipline their team as needed.

Firefighters may also choose to move to a new role within the same department. Some of the most common alternative paths for firefighters include fire inspector, EMT, and paramedic. These roles tend to require more education and experience than the rank of firefighter.

Firefighter Trends

Here are three trends influencing how firefighters work. Firefighters will need to stay up-to-date on these developments to keep their skills relevant and maintain a competitive advantage in the workplace.

Increasing Importance of Mental Health

As firefighters continue to play a vital role in our communities, it is important that they be equipped with the tools necessary to handle psychological stress and burnout.

Recent research suggests that firefighting has higher rates of PTSD than police officers or soldiers, largely due to the highly stressful nature of the job and lack of mental health resources available for those who need them.

Firefighters who can recognize and address these issues before they begin to affect their performance will be able to keep themselves and their communities safe as they respond to emergencies.

Increased Focus on STEM

In recent years, more fire departments have been hiring firefighters with a background in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) fields.

This is largely due to the fact that science-based backgrounds can help firefighters better understand technical information and prepare for new technologies that may become increasingly important as new products hit the market.

In addition, STEM-based firefighters can help their colleagues with problems they might encounter at work or home without requiring a lengthy call to a professional engineer.

First Responders’ Increasingly Vital Role

As public health threats become more complex, first responders will play an increasingly vital role in preventing disease and minimizing loss of life.

First responders, such as police officers and firefighters, are often the first on the scene to an emergency and can serve as crucial communicators during these types of events.

While they cannot solve every problem, their presence on the scene can help prevent panic and ensure that authorities arrive on time to minimize damage or loss of life. 

How to Become a Firefighter

1. Planning Your Career Path

Firefighters must be physically fit and able to perform under pressure; they must also have an understanding of various safety procedures and protocols. Some firefighters may find that it’s difficult to leave their families for long periods of time; those who want to make a career out of this profession should consider finding a fire department in their area that offers part-time or flexible hours.

This job also requires excellent people skills, as firefighters must work well with other members of their team and often communicate with civilians to get them out of harm’s way. Those who enjoy high-pressure situations and can handle pressure well may thrive in this role. 

2. Writing a Resume

The best resumes for firefighter positions stress their ability to perform under pressure and to work well with others. It’s important to include details about the specific equipment you are trained with, as well as any certifications or licenses you have. Include any specific firefighting skills that you have such as extrication, rappelling, etc.

In addition to including your relevant skills, list significant accomplishments from previous jobs. For example, if there was a time when you were able to help save a life or contain a fire before it got out of control be sure to include this information on your resume. If you have received any awards or accolades then note these as well.

In addition to this information, be sure to list any community involvement activities such as volunteering for fundraising events or teaching CPR classes.

3. Applying for Jobs

While it’s important to be active in the firefighting community, you shouldn’t stop there. There are a lot of career sites out there that you can utilize. Firerescue1.com is a great place to start. Also consider checking out your local county employment office, as they may have a list of firefighting jobs available in your area.

You should also take time to research what departments are hiring by either calling the department directly or by going to their website. In some cases, you can sign up for email alerts from the site which will notify you when a job has been posted. You can also visit online forums where firefighters from around the country gather to share information and ask questions.

4. Ace the Interview

The selection process for firefighters is highly competitive. To land a spot on a firefighting team, you’ll need to have strong skills and a plan for handling any challenges that may arise. Prepare with research on the fire department’s policies and procedures. You will also need to answer questions related to your decision-making ability. For example, what steps are necessary during an emergency situation. You should also have learned about disciplinary issues, which can come into play if you commit a minor infraction during the testing process. 

While you are preparing for the interview, don’t neglect your general fitness. You can handle this by doing some general conditioning exercises, such as running or aerobic exercises like biking or swimming. Some firefighters find that weight training is especially helpful in building upper body strength when used in combination with cardio exercises like swimming or biking.

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