With 147 fire stations, firefighting is an important service in Alaska, protecting the state from devastating forest and urban fires. Firefighters also inspect homes and businesses for proper prevention, investigate fires and serve as emergency medical technicians (EMTs).
Alaska employs some 1,150 firefighters. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the field will experience seven percent growth from 2012 to 2022, with the strongest job prospects for individuals who have studied at postsecondary fire science programs and earned paramedic certification.
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Education in fire science involves a variety of physical and agility training as well as background knowledge in fire fighting and prevention. Fire science can be a difficult field to break into, but a certificate or associate degree is a starting point that can help graduates seek employment in this competitive career. Postsecondary education can provide an entry-level background in fire hazards and fire prevention to assist new fire recruits in training. Most firefighters have at least EMT basic certification, and courses to prepare for certification are available from many community colleges.
Alaska firefighters wishing to enhance their careers may choose to earn bachelor’s or master’s degrees, which often feature a specific focus like fire inspection, fire and arson investigation, and fire science or emergency services management. These degrees can help to set graduates up for administrative and supervisory roles as well as specialized positions. As for fire inspectors and investigators, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that employers may look for individuals with professional experience as well as a 2- or 4-year degree in fire science or a related field.
Though fire science programs are not numerous in Alaska, the state has quality programs that offer a variety of hands-on experiences.
Become a volunteer firefighter. You cannot beat the hands-on free training. It also allows you to start building your reputation. Obtain your formal education at an accredited university. Firefighting is a profession where you are expected to be able to communicate, read, write, and make critical decisions.
Obtain an associate degree at a minimum. That first degree is a start on your path of education. You must take advantage of the free training available at the National Fire Academy and The Emergency Management Institute. This is a rapidly changing field and you have to stay current with the changes and trends.
Juneau Alaska is an isolated community with no back up available. We are an all hazards department that covers hazardous materials, avalanche response, swift water, high angle rescue, paramedic level EMS service, a full Fire Marshals Office, an air rescue/medevac program, and airport crash rescue services.
Sometimes an associate degree is a pathway to a more advanced degree. UAA helps students achieve a variety of goals, from employment to further academics in fire science.
Program Name: Associate of Applied Science in Fire and Emergency Services Technology
Program Description: The Fire and Emergency Services Technology Career Pathway Program at the University of Alaska – Anchorage is designed for those working toward a career in fire and related services. The program is articulated with Western Oregon University, allowing students to transfer to WOU’s bachelor's of science program. UAA also offers an AAS in paramedical technology and individual courses for emergency trauma technicians.
The Fire and Emergency Services Technology program covers subjects such as building construction, fire prevention, safety and survival. The degree program's structure follows the model curriculum suggested by the National Fire Academy. Students can also explore elective classes like fire investigation, fire suppression, wildland firefighting, fire protection hydraulics, hazardous materials or legal concerns in the field.
A degree from a fire science program with high job-placement rankings can help get a career off to the right start.
Program Name: Associate of Applied Science in Emergency Service
Program Description: At UAF Community and Technical College, students receive hands-on experience and an educational background in fire science. They work with local fire and rescue organizations while learning firefighting principles, providing emergency medical services, controlling hazardous materials and promoting public safety. UAF is dedicated to making education accessible for a diverse population, encompassing first-generation college students, nontraditional students and those with a military background. The school touts a high job-placement rate for its fire science program and attributes its success to partnerships with area organizations.
The UAF associate degree program offers a selection of different concentrations such as municipal fire control, wildland fire control, hazardous materials control or emergency medical services. Students can continue their education with a Bachelor of Technology degree. UAF is proud to have one of the top 15 programs in the country in terms of number of degrees awarded.
Alaska's population density is about one resident per square mile, compared to the national average of 87, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Because of the remote geography and the long distances between communities, Alaska students may choose online and hybrid fire science programs. Examples are associate degree programs in fire science and bachelor's degree programs in fire administration offered by online colleges. The web-based subject matter delivery mode is suited to academic courses. Associate programs may explore concepts like fire loss analysis or incident recovery in addition to fundamental principles of fire science.
Alaskans enrolled in online fire science programs can attend most classes from anywhere with an Internet connection and learn the basics via reading materials and lectures that they view on their own time through applications like Skype and Blackboard. Communication with professors and peers is possible through chat programs and email, and most assignments can be submitted online. Students can seek practical experience with area fire departments, and some online fire science students visit campus during the degree program to undertake physical and practical training.