I speak to many people interested in becoming a firefighter, and one of the common questions is, "Do I need a degree?" Each state has its legal definition of a firefighter. In Minnesota, a firefighter is defined in State Statute 299N.03.
A "full-time firefighter" means a person who is employed and charged with the prevention or suppression of fires within the boundaries of the state on a full-time basis and who is directly engaged in the hazards of firefighting or is in charge of designated fire companies, as defined in section 299N.01, subdivision 2, that are directly engaged in the hazards of firefighting. Full-time firefighter does not include a volunteer, part-time, or paid-on-call firefighter.
A "volunteer firefighter" means a person who is charged with the prevention or suppression of fires within the boundaries of the state on a volunteer, part-time, or paid-on-call basis. Volunteer firefighter does not include a full-time firefighter.
If you are moving toward a full-time position, having a degree requirement within the posting is not uncommon. Local technical colleges offer degrees that can help you move in the right direction, such as a two-year fire science degree and paramedic degree. Unless the posting is a civil service process, we see more job postings requiring firefighter level 1, level 2, hazmat, and Emergency Medical Technician certifications. You can get those on your own from a local college if you choose.
Since most firefighters in the country serve after working full-time jobs, many communities employ "on-call" firefighters. These local heroes respond to all types of emergencies during their after-work time. They are held to a certain level of participation based on the number of dispatched calls. If your community has this type of service model, all the training and education are free of cost to the candidate.
Once you pass the interview process and you are assigned to training, your job is to pass the certifications so you can respond to calls and become an active firefighter. The local fire department you become a part of typically pays for your training, personal protective equipment, and time. Because they are paying so much, they would expect that you would provide them with a level of commitment to serve for several years. Please don't get involved in this journey unless you have time to commit to it. Ensuring a new hire is trained and equipped to do the job takes a lot of time and effort. A fire is a fire, regardless of your pay grade or job status.
Like many other communities across the United States, there is an abundance of people who have the certifications needed to apply for a full-time job. Getting ahead of the rest is the key. Never wait for someone else to improve your professional development. If you do, you will be disappointed when you don't get the dream job you have been waiting for. Keep learning and gaining as much education and experience as you can. Becoming a firefighter is a serious job because people's lives and property are at stake.
So, do you need a degree to become a firefighter? The answer is no. Most communities will help you improve your education, build trust in your reputation, and provide you with life experiences you will not get in any other job class. If you're serious about becoming a firefighter, search your community website and find out who to contact to ask questions. Or contact us at MNFIREHIRE.com.
Good luck on your journey!