So You Wanna Be a ...


(aka: Fireman, Smoke Jumper)

Few professions are as universally revered and respected as the firefighter. Noble civil servants and humble heroes, they run toward the danger while everyone else is running away. But there's more to the job than courage and selflessness: firefighters study and train extensively because it's not just about putting out fires -- it's about being ready to make split-second decisions about how to best respond in any emergency situation they're called into. Over 300,000 active firefighters have heard and answered the call -- are you made from the right stuff?

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What do Firefighters do?

  • Respond to alarms and extinguish fires. Safely navigating firetrucks to the scene of an emergency requires dexterity and focus. Once on-scene, firefighters attach hoses to hydrants, set up ladders to reach upper floors, operate pumps, and direct the flow of water to put out raging fires.
  • Rescue individuals in emergency situations and treat injuries on-scene. Locating victims and helping them navigate to safety under chaotic circumstances requires extraordinary calm-under-pressure. Depending on the situation, some firefighters may be tasked with the exclusive responsibility of treating victims rather than working to extinguish the fire itself or entering a structure to search for persons in danger.
  • Conduct training drills for emergency preparedness. An ability to respond in novel and unforeseen scenarios is critical. Training sessions can take place in mock houses and office buildings in order to allow for an efficient response in urban environments.
  • Remain on-call. Fires break out at all times of day and night, requiring an emergency response team ready to act at a moment's notice. In populated cities, fire stations are manned with firefighters around the clock.

How much do Firefighters make?

While noble and requiring extraordinary courage, firefighting isn't something folks get into for the money (probably a good thing.) Compensation can, however, reach attractive levels as seniority increases: the median annual firefighter salary in 2012 was $45,200, with the top 10% pulling down over $79,000.

How do I become a Firefighter?

Education Requirements. A high school diploma is typically the only scholastic requirement, though some post-secondary education may be required in order to receive advanced certifications or career advancement. Written and physical tests must also be passed, with most jurisdictions also requiring drug screening and a medical exam. Most State fire departments also run academies where entry-level firefighters receive supplemental training after they've been hired.

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