Nebraska offers potential firefighters, inspectors, and EMT/paramedic professionals broad opportunities for expert career training and potential employment. Approximately 1,500 fire science professionals serve communities from the 365 fire stations across the state. There are service opportunities with state, regional and local fire departments, as well as volunteer and emergency responder organizations for qualified candidates. Students in the fire and emergency service fields can choose among certificate, associate degree and bachelor’s degree programs available at traditional colleges and online schools.
Wages for Nebraska firefighters can vary based on location, type of service, rank and experience. Here are annual salaries for three core fire service occupations at the entry (10th percentile), median (50th percentile) and advanced (90th percentile) levels:
|Nebraska Fire Service Careers
|Fire Inspectors and Investigators
|Fire Service Supervisors
Students entering a fire science program in Nebraska have three choices: certificate, associate degree and bachelor’s degree. The competitive job market of fire inspectors and investigators often requires that potentials gain at least the associate level with the bachelor’s degree building the strongest qualifications. For entry level firefighters, the minimum may be to complete the certificate program and pass the state or national exams (Firefighter I and II). The Department of Labor reports that postsecondary education can help expand career choices for firefighters. No matter the program of choice, the requirements are design to educate, train and protect fire science professionals in this dangerous but exciting field.
The certificate, associate and bachelor’s level programs all explore the theory and practice of fire science. On the certificate level, students are expected to understand and practice the basics of EMT or paramedic services, structural firefighting and hazardous materials. The associate degree is a two-year program covering fire science as well as general education, such as English, math, history, etc. It often covers the same material as the certificate while going into more depth on building construction, fire behavior, fire protection systems and fire education. The bachelor’s goes even further with fire science requirements, delving into fire chemistry, building codes and inspections, fire strategies and tactics plus fire dynamics. In addition, general education requirements may offer workforce skills such as interpersonal communication and quantitative reasoning.
The following colleges and universities offer fire science degrees on the certificate, associate degree and bachelor’s degree levels. The spotlights afford an even more specific look into a few of the programs:
|DEGREE LEVEL||STATE||SCHOOL NAME||PROGRAM NAME|
|Associate||Nebraska||Kaplan University-Lincoln Campus||Fire Science / Fire-fighting|
|Associate||Nebraska||Kaplan University-Omaha Campus||Fire Science / Fire-fighting|
|Associate||Nebraska||Metropolitan Community College Area||Fire Science / Fire-fighting|
|Associate||Nebraska||Mid-Plains Community College||Fire Science / Fire-fighting|
|Associate||Nebraska||Southeast Community College Area||Fire Science / Fire-fighting|
|Associate||Nebraska||University of Nebraska-Lincoln||Fire Prevention and Safety Technology / Technician|
|Award (<2 years)||Nebraska||Mid-Plains Community College||Fire Science / Fire-fighting|
|Bachelor's||Nebraska||Kaplan University-Lincoln Campus||Fire Science / Fire-fighting|
|Bachelor's||Nebraska||Kaplan University-Lincoln Campus||Fire Services Administration|
|Bachelor's||Nebraska||Kaplan University-Omaha Campus||Fire Science / Fire-fighting|
Realize that the men and women in this profession have much more practical experience than you, as an entry-level firefighter, have. Respect their level of expertise as they have seen and have responded to situations that require both physical and mental stamina that most people will never encounter. Be open-minded and avoid tunnel vision. Observe the whole picture before passing judgments or making conclusions. Learn from those around you.
As you progress in the fire service you will learn that much more is expected of fire officers than once was. You will be urged to pursue formal education as you attempt to advance in rank. Take advantage of every educational and training opportunity presented to you by your department or organization. Also, take full advantage of the G.I. Bill, if you are eligible. Learning tracks might include leadership courses, fire service management, emergency management, or emergency medical service. However, regardless of the degree, the formal education process develops a candidate into a more well rounded, viable employee.
The specific aspect that makes Papillion/La Vista unique is the recent proposal to be granted delegated authority from the State Fire Marshal's Office. This means that the responsibilities that the State once had in regard to inspections and investigations will be delegated to the Papillion/La Vista Fire Marshal. This will give us local control, allowing us to provide better overall customer service and have scheduling autonomy.
Program Name: Fire Service Management
Program Description: The UNO general studies bachelor's degree program offers a concentration in fire service management. Studies are designed to provide students with the necessary skills and knowledge to gain expertise in fire response, identification and management. The curriculum aligns with the U.S. Fire Administration’s National Fire Academy (NFA) and includes courses in fire chemistry, fire investigation, codes and inspections, hazardous material management and fire dynamics. This degree with a concentration in fire service management offers electives in aviation, criminology, public administration and emergency management. The UNO Fire Protection Technology Department also offers courses such as Fire Officer and Firefighter Health and Welfare.
The UNO program website contains more specific information: http://www.unomaha.edu/college-of-public-affairs-and-community-service/division-of-continuing-studies/academics/areas-of-concentration/fire-service-management.php
Program Name: Fire Protection Technology
Program Description: The students within Southeast Community College’s fire protection technology program receive education and training aimed at entering the professional world. The fire protection technology certificate and associate degree program offer the skills and knowledge to educate communities on fire safety and to help control fire threats in these communities. The associate degree covers EMT training, building construction, hazardous materials, fire behavior and preparation for the national certification tests (Firefighter I and II). SCC also has a certificate program targeting fire and emergency services management.
For more information, refer to the SCC webpage: https://www.southeast.edu/FireProtection/
With an expansive land area covering 76,824 square miles, Nebraska has a sparsely distributed population: about 24 residents per square mile compared to the U.S. average of 87. Fire science students in Nebraska may turn to online learning as a solution to a long commute to college. Online postsecondary education has risen to prominence over the last few decades and continues its growth. Colleges and universities use technology to make education more accessible.
Online fire science students can watch lectures online, chat with classmates or team members, submit assignments electronically and even video conference with professors. This may feel at odds with the physicality of most fire science professions, and many online fire science certificate and degree programs include some form of a physical internship, so the student can get out into the field. Fully online degree programs are also available with a focus on fire science or emergency service administration and management.