Fire Science Degree Programs in Iowa | Firefighter Training

Written by Kathleen Swed
Last Updated: Feb 7, 2020

In Iowa, demand for firefighters is rising on pace with the national average for all occupations: a projected increase of 5% between 2018 and 2028, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) and Projections Central. Ranked No. 31 in the country for population size, Iowa falls on the low end of the spectrum for firefighter employment, with the BLS reporting 1,630 employed firefighters in the state in May of 2018.

Firefighter requirements in Iowa depend largely on state-mandated minimum standards. The state requires only that firefighters complete training, rather than obtaining firefighter I or II certification, though individual fire departments often require further training or credentials. Read on for more information on how to become a firefighter in Iowa, including state requirements and local variables, details on academic fire science programs, occupational and salary data, and resources for firefighters in Iowa.

Firefighter Requirements in Iowa

The Iowa Department of Public Safety oversees statewide firefighter requirements, mandating that all structural firefighters in Iowa meet qualifications for firefighter I status as set forth by the National Fire Protection Association's (NFPA) book NFPA 1001, Standard for Fire Fighter Professional Qualifications. Firefighter I skills generally include the ability to don and doff equipment in a timed exercise, use equipment, tie knots, and communicate effectively through radio.

Firefighters in Iowa do not need to obtain certification, but they must complete the necessary training. In-service firefighters must also undergo 24 hours of continuing education each year.

Aside from statewide requirements, local departments and jurisdictions set the guidelines for their own firefighter candidates. Des Moines, for example, requires its firefighters to hold certification and be at least 21 years old. Cedar Rapids, however, does not require firefighters to hold certification, though they must hold EMT credentials. Cedar Rapids and Des Moines both require applicants to pass the National Testing Network's (NTN) Candidate Physical Abilities Test (CPAT), as does Iowa City.

Other local requirements for firefighters may include oral exams and/or interviews, hazardous materials certification, and background checks.

Becoming a Firefighter in Iowa: Frequently Asked Questions

  • What is the specific training for Iowa?

    Firefighters in Iowa must obtain training equal to firefighter I classification as defined by the NFPA's 2002 edition of NFPA 1001, Standard for Fire Fighter Professional Qualifications. Typically, firefighter I status includes knowledge of equipment, radio communication, and basic fire suppression strategies.

  • Is EMT/paramedic/other training or certification required?

    Some departments, like Cedar Rapids, require applicants to hold EMT certification, though others do not. Others may require firefighter I, firefighter II, and/or HAZMAT certification.

  • What is the test like for firefighters in Iowa?

    It depends on the department. Des Moines requires a written examination plus a civil service oral exam. Iowa City's written exam includes a cognitive section designed to test firefighters on technical comprehension, plus a personality test.

  • What kind of shape should I be in to be a firefighter?

    Firefighters must maintain good physical condition, and most departments require candidates to pass a fitness test before they can qualify. Departments often use the CPAT, which tests applicants in physically challenging situations.

  • What if I only want to fight wildfires in Iowa?

    Iowa's Department of Natural Resources (DNR) coordinates volunteer wildland and municipal firefighters in the state. The DNR provides training for wildland firefighters, both online and in person.

  • How long does it take to become a firefighter in Iowa?

    Some fire departments provide the necessary training for their recruits, which the law permits. Some firefighters may prepare through a certificate program, an associate degree, or a bachelor's degree, which can take 1-4 years or longer.

Firefighter Courses and Programs in Iowa

Prospective firefighters in Iowa can benefit from enrollment in an academic program as a pathway to meeting the state's qualifications. Many programs provide the necessary training and the opportunity to obtain firefighter I, firefighter II, and other potential certification levels. Whether entry level or in-service, firefighters can gain career advantages by pursuing a certificate, an associate degree, or a bachelor's.

Iowa sets out guidelines for firefighters in the state, but local requirements still vary, and prospective students should research their area of interest before committing to an academic program.

Iowa Western Community College

Program Name Associate of Arts in Fire Science Technology
Program Description With online and evening options built into the program, IWCC's 64-credit associate degree in fire science technology requires courses in introduction to fire protection technology, codes and inspection, strategy and tactics, hydraulics and pumping applications, and survey of construction. Students can complete the program in six semesters.

Western Iowa Tech Community College

Program Name Fire Science Diploma
Program Description Preparing students for entry-level positions in firefighting, WITCC's 32-credit fire science diploma includes course requirements in principles of emergency services, essentials of firefighter I, hazardous materials, fire protection systems, and emergency medical technician, plus an introduction to general education with courses like the college experience, composition, and math.

Iowa Central Community College

Program Name Associate of Applied Science in Fire Science
Program Description Designed to prepare students for entry-level positions or career advancement, Iowa Central's 61.5-credit associate degree offers the opportunity for firefighter I and II certification. Course requirements include fire behavior and combustion, principles of emergency services, building construction, legal aspects of the emergency services, and fire strategies and tactics -- plus general education requirements.

Fire Science Colleges in Iowa

Degree Level
School Type

Firefighter Salaries and Job Growth in Iowa

The BLS lists Iowa in the lowest category in the country when it comes to the number of firefighters, with only 1,630 firefighters employed across the state in May 2018. With just over 3 million people living in Iowa in 2019, its low firefighter employment makes sense when compared to other similarly sized places.

Firefighters in Iowa earn an annual mean wage of $43,970 and an hourly mean wage of $21 -- on par with its neighboring states of Wisconsin and South Dakota. However, Iowa's firefighter salaries fall below those of Missouri, Nebraska, and Illinois.

Nationally, the BLS projects a 5% increase in demand for firefighters between 2018 and 2028, with Projections Central expecting the industry in Iowa to grow by the same amount between 2016 and 2026.

National Average Salaries for Firefighters

0-12 Months

Entry Level

1-4 Years

Early Career

5-9 Years


10-19 Years



Source: PayScale

Firefighter Resources in Iowa

Iowa firefighters can take advantage of a variety of resources. Membership in professional organizations promotes camaraderie among firefighters, and such associations often provide services such as insurance benefits, legislative advocacy, and annual conferences. Firefighters can also seek opportunities for community engagement through these organizations.

Iowa determines the minimum standards for firefighters. As such, the Department of Public Safety offers a menu of training opportunities and resources for prospective and in-service firefighters.

The list below illustrates a few resources available to firefighters in Iowa.

Iowa Department of Natural Resources

Iowa's DNR offers a wealth of training opportunities for firefighters interested in wildland firefighting. These include online and in-person classes, plus intensive weekend training opportunities.

Iowa Firefighters Association

Offering membership to individuals and departments, the IFA provides training, news updates, grants, legislative advocacy, and an annual convention for its members.

Iowa Professional Firefighters

Serving a membership of career firefighters and emergency medical services professionals, the IPF offers legislative support, legal assistance, health insurance, collective bargaining resources, and a message board for promoting member camaraderie.

Iowa Department of Public Safety Fire Service Training Bureau

Iowa's FSTB oversees qualifications for firefighters in the state, and the website offers a wealth of resources on firefighter requirements in Iowa, plus training information and opportunities.

Iowa Fire Chiefs Association

With a mission to promote strong leadership within Iowa's emergency services professions, this association offers resources to fire chiefs, including leadership manuals, stipends, and an annual conference.