Fire Science Degree Programs in Montana | Firefighter Training
Written by Kathleen Swed Last Updated: Feb 7, 2020
Montana features a small but mighty force of firefighters, one that Projections Central expects to grow at a rate of 8.8% between 2016 and 2026. This outpaces the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics' (BLS) national growth projection for the occupation of 5% between 2018 and 2028.
Though Montana's population is small, the state's geographic area makes it the fourth-largest state in the nation, with most of it designated as nonmetropolitan. As wildfires consume hundreds of homes in the state every year, firefighting proves a crucial profession for Montana residents.
On this page, readers can learn more about firefighter requirements in Montana, including which jurisdictions fall in the state's testing consortium. This page also expands on frequently asked questions, academic and training programs for firefighters, occupational data and salary statistics, and a selection of resources available to firefighters in Montana.
Though firefighter requirements in Montana vary depending on location, a selection of towns in the state partake in a testing process called the Montana Firefighters' Testing Consortium (MFFTC). MFFTC tests annually, and questions assess candidates' learning abilities, memory, reading comprehension, interests, situational judgment, and math skills. Towns requiring MFFTC testing include Big Sky, Billings, Bozeman, Butte, Central Valley, Great Falls, Havre, Helena, Miles City, and Missoula.
Other firefighter requirements vary by location. For example, Missoula and Helena require candidates to obtain EMT certification before applying, and Great Falls recommends obtaining an associate degree.
Not every jurisdiction in Montana requires MFFTC testing. For example, Kalispell seeks candidates with backgrounds in EMS and/or fire science, and it administers its own examination. Livingston requires firefighter I certification, with a preference for firefighter II and some college credit.
Other location-specific requirements for firefighters in Montana may include vision minimums, tobacco abstinence agreements, background checks, driver's licenses, medical examinations, interviews, and residential proximity to the fire station.
Becoming a Firefighter in Montana: Frequently Asked Questions
What is the specific training for Montana?
Specific training varies by department. Candidates pursuing positions in MFFTC departments should seek training that prepares them for the exam. Some departments require firefighter I certification, while others prefer an associate degree or other college credit in fire science.
Is EMT/paramedic/other training or certification required?
Many departments, including Missoula, Helena, and Livingston, require candidates to obtain EMT certification before they can qualify for firefighter employment.
What is the test like for firefighters in Montana?
The MFFTC test, required by a selection of towns in Montana, judges candidates' learning aptitude, memory, reading, math, interests, and situational judgment. Some fire departments administer their own written examinations.
What kind of shape should I be in to be a firefighter?
Fire departments expect firefighters to maintain good physical condition. MFFTC departments in Montana require candidates to complete the Candidate Physical Abilities Test (CPAT) for firefighters, and most departments require some indication of physical fitness.
What if I only want to fight wildfires in Montana?
The Montana Department of Natural Resources and Conservation offers fire and incident management training for state firefighters and local fire departments that respond to wildfires in their areas.
How long does it take to become a firefighter in Montana?
It depends. Some departments, like Great Falls and Livingston, prefer candidates who hold an associate degree, which can take two or more years to complete. Training programs that prepare firefighters for the consortium test vary in length.
Firefighter Courses and Programs in Montana
Training opportunities abound for both aspiring and experienced firefighters. Montana offers some academic training opportunities, such as associate degree programs, plus fire academies that train firefighters for firefighter I and II, fire officer, technical rescue, and HAZMAT certifications. Some departments require firefighter I and II certification, and training for these certifications can also prepare new firefighters for MFFTC testing.
Because firefighter requirements in Montana depend on each separate jurisdiction, prospective students should research local regulations before enrolling in an academic or training program to make sure the aim of the program aligns with their own individual career goals.
Designed to prepare students for firefighter I and II certification and EMT certification, Helena College's 71-credit associate degree takes four semesters to complete and requires coursework in emergency medical technician, introduction to fire service, wildland firefighting, hazardous materials, incident command, and fire ground operations -- plus general education requirements.
Designed to prepare entry-level firefighters for certification and elevate the training of experienced firefighters, MSU's firefighter I academy covers fundamental skills in ropes and knots, fire department communication, exterior fire attack, offensive fire attack, flat and pitched roof ventilation, fire behavior and vents, primary search second floor, live burn, salvage, and hazardous materials.
Ideal for career firefighters who already hold firefighter I certification and want to enhance their skills, MSU's firefighter II academy focuses on fireground operations, flammable liquid fire, interior attack, flammable gas fires, equipment maintenance and testing, wildfire, vehicle extraction, and fire department communications.
Fire Science Colleges in Montana
Firefighter Salaries and Job Growth in Montana
Among the least populous states in the country, just over 1 million people call Montana home, only 760 of whom worked as firefighters, according to May 2018 BLS data. The state falls in the lowest category in the country for firefighter employment. This regional trend extends to Montana's neighboring states of North Dakota, South Dakota, and Wyoming, which employed similarly low numbers. Idaho employed more, but not by much.
Montana distinguishes itself in the region, however, by offering higher salaries. Firefighters in Montana earned an annual mean wage of $49,230 as of May 2018, with the hourly rate coming in at $24. Neighboring states fell into the next-lowest category. Salaries evened out fairly well geographically, with East-Central nonmetropolitan firefighters pulling in an annual mean wage of $45,550. Firefighters in Southwest Montana saw similar numbers, while those in the Billings area earned slightly more, bringing home an annual mean wage of $48,750.
Firefighters depend on local, state, and professional resources to stay updated on important issues like wildfire conditions, legislative action related to fire and emergency services, and training requirements. Professional organizations often promote camaraderie and community engagement, an important facet of the firefighting profession, while advocating for firefighter interests with elected officials and promoting the occupation as a whole. State resources also offer training opportunities and information.
The list below offers details on a few resources for firefighters in Montana, with plenty of educational opportunities, professional representation, and information on state regulations.