Graduation June 21, 2024 – Guest Speaker Ken West, President & CEO of HCA Florida JFK Hospital

From Firefighter to Fire Chief

Becoming a firefighter is a noble path, and a necessary one for the function and success of communities of all sizes.

Many people begin their firefighter experience as a volunteer, and some choose to remain with volunteer companies forever. Some love firefighting as a volunteer so much that they choose to seek a career in a paid department to devote their lives to what they are passionate about. For some, the desire to climb the ladder and advance in their careers presents itself, and they begin to explore options for promotions in a fire company, like becoming a fire chief.

Becoming a Firefighter

To become a firefighter with the option for growth in your career, you’ll want to obtain a degree in fire science. This associates degree program can be completed at HCI in just two years. It consists of 60 credits and physical training before candidates are prepared to take the state board exam.

Advancing Your Education and Experience in Firefighting

Once you’ve become employed at a fire department, if advancement is on your mind, the best thing to do is spend as much time as possible broadening your scope of education and experience. This might include:

  • Taking enrichment courses from local community colleges
  • Attending conventions and trade shows
  • Obtaining a professional mentor
  • Picking up additional shifts to earn more experience
  • Networking to learn about options for career advancement and make connections

Becoming Fire Chief

Becoming a fire chief may be a bit nuanced, but the foundation lies in the education mentioned above as well as years of experience and certain skills. Chiefs should have strong leadership and organizational skills, be trusted by their colleagues and peers, and demonstrate a record of good citizenship and professional work ethic. How fire chiefs are put into place varies with government type; in some cases they may be elected and in others, appointed.

In all cases, though, becoming a fire chief is a great honor and big commitment. It adds to the firefighter’s responsibilities an ownership of the company’s schedule, budget, and other needs. It requires continued leadership and reliability, and perhaps additional hours and personal investments.

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