Understanding the Firefighter Career Path
The firefighter career path can be as unique as the firefighter. Every firefighter begins their career by working for a local fire department. Training can be completed directly with a fire department or through an approved career school like Health Career Institute.
Some firefighters begin their careers as volunteer firefighters before becoming professional firefighters, while others want to start as professional firefighters from the get-go. Choosing what is best for you depends on your own career goals and your interests.
When firefighters want to move up in their careers, they might need to undergo specialized training for particular types of firefighting. Firefighters that fight forest fires have additional training than firefighters that only deal with residential or office building type of fires. Smokejumpers, for example, are wildland firefighters that have been trained to jump out of planes to fight fires in remote areas.
Moving up within their local fire departments requires a combination of experience (years on the force) and training. Firefighters can become certified as fire officers or fire inspectors.
Promoted within local departments
The firefighter who aspires to promotion within the department will need to take some additional training courses to understand more of the science and technical aspects of firefighting, as well as what is required to lead a fire department of volunteer and staff firefighters.
An associate of science degree in Fire Science can prepare the firefighter to take on supervisory positions such as lieutenant, captain, battalion chief, assistant chief, and fire chief.
Fire department lieutenants, captains, and battalion chiefs supervise the day-to-day operations of the fire department and help to make sure that it runs smoothly so that the firefighters can be an effective team. The assistant chief and fire chief are the top positions within in most fire departments and have the most responsibility toward the department.
Some fire departments might have other positions that would be available as part of your career path. For example, there might be fire-paramedic or appointed deputy positions. Fire inspectors check buildings to make sure they are up to code. Preventing fires is an important job as well.
The firefighter career path can take many different turns. It will be up to you which way you choose to go once you begin your career as a firefighter.