Fire Science Degree Programs in Alaska | Firefighter Training
Written by Kathleen Swed Last Updated: Feb 5, 2020
For firefighters in Alaska, municipal firefighting and wildfire response are equally important options. With seasonal firefighting positions that ebb and flow depending on need, the Division of Forestry offers opportunities on a limited-time basis. Emergency wildfire responders perform a crucial job in Alaska, as they work to contain damaging fires, preserve forestland, and protect towns and cities from out-of-control blazes.
On a national level, the
Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) expects demand for firefighters to grow at about a 5% rate between 2018 and 2028, about the same as the average for all occupations.
Projections Central estimates Alaska's growth at around 2% from 2016-2026.
Firefighter requirements vary by location, and students should research the location where they wish to work before seeking out a training or degree program. Read on to learn more about firefighter requirements in Alaska, potential job growth, and salary potential.
Local governments, such as cities and counties, typically oversee the requirements for firefighters. In the case of Alaska, these jurisdictions include some state-run agencies such as the Division of Forestry, which employs firefighters to protect against wildfires.
To qualify for work as an emergency firefighter for the Division of Forestry, applicants must be 18 years old and complete firefighter training plus a fitness examination. Fitness tests are common for would-be firefighters in Alaska; many towns, including Kodiak and Fairbanks, also require them. Fitness tests include physical examinations and tests like the one Fairbanks requires, where applicants must complete a stair climb, hose drag, forcible entry, and other challenges.
Many jurisdictions require firefighters to hold a high school diploma or its equivalent; some cities, such as Juneau, prefer candidates with an associate or bachelor's degree. Emergency medical technician (EMT) certification is another common requirement maintained in cities such as Kodiak and Juneau. Juneau also requires state firefighting certification, and the Department of Forestry requires initial training. Some jurisdictions, such as Sitka, do not list minimum requirements for firefighters, though they do provide ongoing on-the-job training.
The Alaska Department of Public Safety's Fire Standards Council offers multiple certification programs for prospective firefighters, including in topics such as basic and apprentice firefighter, airport firefighter, hazardous materials, and marine dockside fire awareness.
Becoming a Firefighter in Alaska: Frequently Asked Questions
What is the specific training for Alaska?
The Alaska Department of Public Safety offers certifications such as airport firefighter, basic and apprentice firefighter, fire apparatus driver operator, hazardous materials, marine dockside fire awareness, and technical rescuer. Not every jurisdiction requires these certifications.
Is EMT/paramedic/other training or certification required?
In Alaska, some towns require that firefighters maintain current EMT certification, including Kodiak and Juneau. Other towns, like Sitka, have no minimum requirements, as they provide training through the department.
What is the test like for firefighters in Alaska?
Certified firefighters in Alaska must pass a skills evaluation. Depending on the level of certification, the test may include donning equipment within one minute, communicating alarms, and selecting proper tools. Some jurisdictions may require additional testing.
What kind of shape should I be in to be a firefighter?
Firefighters in Alaska must generally demonstrate physical fitness. Firefighters in Fairbanks, for example, complete a rigorous physical examination involving ladder raise and execution, equipment carry, stair climb, and hose drag.
What if I only want to fight wildfires in Alaska?
Alaska's Department of Forestry employs firefighters to fight wildfires. Applicants must be at least 18, complete initial firefighter training, and submit to a fitness test. Emergency firefighters are typically employed on a seasonal basis, when fire risk is highest.
How long does it take to become a firefighter in Alaska?
The length of training depends on the jurisdiction. Smaller towns like Sitka require no previous training. In Juneau, which prefers candidates with an associate or bachelor's degree, preparation could take as long as four years.
Firefighter Courses and Programs in Alaska
Alaska features a variety of programs for students who wish to become firefighters, most of which meet at least the entry-level requirements for many positions. Training programs tend to include EMT training in addition to fire science. Some students may pursue an associate or bachelor's degree, while others might opt to complete the certification-level training only.
Because training requirements vary by location, students should research the particular town or agency where they wish to work to make sure their program adheres to local regulations and prepares them for their chosen career.
IỊisaġvik College's emergency medical services and municipal fire control program prepares students for Alaska EMT II certification, a requirement for many firefighting positions, plus Alaska firefighter II certification. Through a partnership with the North Slope Borough Fire Department, the program includes courses such as fire prevention, hazardous materials and chemistry, and first responder.
The 60-credit associate degree in fire science: municipal fire control prepares students for EMT and firefighter certification through courses like principles of emergency services, fire behavior and combustion, firefighter I preparation, and rescue practices. Students can complete the program, including general education requirements, in two years.
The 60-credit associate degree in fire and emergency services adheres to the National Fire Academy's Fire and Emergency Service Higher Education core curriculum requirements and prepares students for EMT certification. In addition to general education requirements, students take courses in principles of emergency services, strategy and tactics of fire suppression, and legal aspects of emergency services. Learners can complete the program in about two years.
Fire Science Colleges in Alaska
Firefighter Salaries and Job Growth in Alaska
The BLS reports that Alaska employed 770 firefighters in May 2018, which puts the state in the lowest category for numbers -- which makes sense, given that Alaska ranks among the country's least populated states at only 735,720 people.
Alaska's annual mean wage for firefighters, however, falls into the country's second highest category at $51,110, or $24.57 per hour. According to the BLS, Alaska ranks among the top-paying states for firefighters in nonmetropolitan areas, where the annual mean wage rises to $53,980, with the hourly at $25.95. While salary details vary by location, hourly pay can depend on experience and level of certification.
With the help of professional organizations and state resources, firefighters in Alaska can protect themselves with the proper equipment, prepare for unexpected conditions on a wildfire assignment, and gain access to continuing education.
Miles of rural woodlands in Alaska present seasonal wildfire threats. With the proper resources, firefighters in Alaska can take on seasonal work as emergency responders or serve as part of a municipal fire department, using state resources to learn all they need to know about what to expect when they arrive.
Professional organizations like the Alaska Professional Firefighters Association provide professional resources, discounts, and advocacy for working firefighters.