With an increase of 6,000 new firefighter jobs in the last ten years, Florida has the country’s second highest projected growth in employment opportunities for the firefighting industry, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The state has more than 470 fire stations and also has one of the highest concentrations of firefighters in the nation—23,750 firefighters are employed in Florida. Other career options for those in the field include fire inspectors and investigators, and emergency medical technicians (EMTs), as well as leadership roles for those with the required education and work experience.
Salary varies by location, academic background and certification, but overall, Florida offers the potential for high demand and above-average remuneration opportunities, particularly for firefighters. Professionals in administration or fire investigation and inspection can earn even more than firefighters. Below are the annual wages for three core fire science careers in Florida:
Florida Fire Service Careers
|Fire Inspectors and Investigators||$37,610||$57,740||$88,190|
|Fire Service Supervisors||$25,030||$41,220||$63,150|
In order to become a firefighter in the state of Florida, applicants must meet some requirements, including good vision, a clean driving record, no felonies or misdemeanors, and a high school diploma or GED. If these basic criteria are met, hopefuls can then apply for certification at the Central Florida Fire Institute (CFFI) at Valencia College, or another affiliate of the former Central Florida Fire Academy. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that firefighters can improve their employment possibilities through postsecondary education and EMT certification, especially at the paramedic level.
For a more advanced career beyond firefighter, there are 37 accredited schools in Florida that offer an associate or bachelor’s degree in fire science. For those looking for a high-level position such as investigator, inspector or a managerial role, having a college degree is recommended.
In addition to the CFFI at Valencia College, there are 37 Florida schools that offer an associate degree or higher in fire science.
Never become complacent in your job and protect yourself from the things that you can control, i.e. always keep your SCBA on until the atmosphere you are working in has been determined safe.
Education has become increasingly important to city and county administrators, so I would recommend anyone wishing to advance their careers obtain, at the minimum, an associate degree and preferably a bachelor’s or master’s degree in fire science.
In general, the fire service across the nation has advanced in many ways, but I believe that the State of Florida has been a leader in the areas of certification training and organizing mutual aid. In the aftermath of Hurricane Andrew, Dade County was inundated with outside departments sending manpower and equipment that was not requested. Since then, the State of Florida has developed a means of requesting and mobilizing resources in an organized manner. This plan has been the template for many other states.
The University of Florida offers an online bachelor's degree program for students interested in fire and emergency services.
Program Name: Fire and Emergency Services
Program Description: After completing an associate degree from a Florida community college or other regionally accredited school, students can apply to UF’s online fire and emergency services program to earn their bachelor’s degree. Because this is an online program, students can pursue their studies anywhere they want, as long as they're connected to the Internet. Individuals who already went through the work of earning their associate degree in a firefighting field can earn their bachelor’s online, which is convenient for those with unpredictable work shifts.
The curriculum requires 60 credits in addition to the 60 previous credits for the associate degree. Courses range from management to information technology, ethical practices and national disaster phenomena.
For more information and a complete course list, visit the school’s page: https://catalog.ufl.edu/ugrad/current/construction/majors/fire-and-emergency-services.aspx
The CFFI at Valencia College continues the legacy of the former Central Florida Fire Institute.
Program Name: Fire Science Technology/Fire Services
Program Description: Valencia College recently formed the CFFI in partnership with the member agencies of the former Central Florida Fire Academy. Their programs provide a gateway into various firefighting career paths. Students can earn an Associate of Science degree in Fire Science Technology, which gives current firefighters the opportunity to pursue additional careers in public safety or other educational fields. Alternatively, students can pursue individual certificates in fire services, including Firefighter, Fire Officer (I & II), Fire Safety Inspector (I & II), Fire Investigator, Fire Instructor and Fire Apparatus Operator. Advanced specialization and continuing education options include courses like advanced rope practices and rigging, public safety leadership development or training for fire safety inspector recertification.
For more information, see: http://valenciacollege.edu/central-florida-fire-institute/
The Florida firefighting system is set up in such a way that students should have their certification before pursuing a degree in fire science, even associate degrees. While other states can be limited in their online education opportunities due to the requirement of a physical exam, Florida firefighters exploring a higher education in their field have more options because they have already passed that exam. Distance learning opportunities are available from Florida and national online colleges, encompassing certificate, associate and bachelor's degree programs. Those seeking a managerial career may choose a program like UF’s online bachelor’s in fire and emergency services, which tackles professional challenges such as technology, accountability, human resources and finances. Also available online are graduate programs focused on administrative roles in fire science and emergency services management.