Fire Science Degree Programs in Nebraska | Firefighter Training
Written by Kathleen Swed Last Updated: Feb 10, 2020
The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects a 5% growth in demand for firefighters across the country from 2018-2028, a number that matches the national average across all occupations. In Nebraska, Projections Central expects a similar increase from 2016-2026, with the percentage of change at 5.6%.
Among the 388 fire departments that report yearly statistics to FEMA, 59.1% reported specialized services in wildfire and wildland urban interfaces, with only vehicle extraction and basic life support ranking higher. With climate change bringing about increasingly volatile conditions, both wildland and municipal firefighters provide increasingly essential services.
On this page, readers can learn more about how to become a firefighter in Nebraska, including firefighter requirements in Nebraska, information on academic programs in fire science, occupational statistics including salary data, and resources for firefighters working across the state.
Firefighter requirements in Nebraska depend on the regulations set by individual jurisdictions such as towns or counties. For example, Lincoln and Kearney both require firefighters to be at least 19 years old, while Hastings maintains a minimum age requirement of 18, and Omaha has no minimum.
Certification minimums also vary by location. Lincoln requires applicants to hold national certification as paramedics. In Ralston, firefighters may obtain emergency medical technician (EMT) certification in their first year of work and firefighter I certification by the end of the second year. Bellevue trains all firefighters for EMT, firefighter I, and hazmat awareness certification.
Many fire departments require candidates to complete a written exam. Lincoln's testing process takes 5-7 months, during which aspiring firefighters may take a preparation course before they take the multiple-choice test. Hastings requires candidates to pass the National Testing Network's (NTN) FireTEAM written exam, which tests prospective firefighters in reading, math, and mechanical aptitude.
To determine physical fitness, Lincoln requires candidates to pass the NTN's Candidate Physical Abilities Test (CPAT), while Hastings requires the Fire and Police Selection, Inc.'s Physical Abilities Test, which includes challenges similar to the CPAT and adds attic crawl, roof walk with saw, and victim removal. In Omaha, applicants must demonstrate the ability to run 1.5 miles in under 15 minutes.
Becoming a Firefighter in Nebraska: Frequently Asked Questions
What is the specific training for Nebraska?
The Nebraska State Fire Marshal offers a course in firefighting basics that covers safety, incident command systems, ladders, forcible entry, and other fundamentals. Firefighter I builds on candidates knowledge in these areas, while firefighter II adds training in subjects like point-of-origin determination and equipment testing.
Is EMT/paramedic/other training or certification required?
Lincoln requires applicants to hold national paramedic certification, while Ralston allows recruits to complete the training within the first year. Kearney does not require paramedic or EMT training.
What is the test like for firefighters in Nebraska?
Many departments require a written examination. Hastings requires the NTN's FireTEAM test, which covers reading, math, and mechanical aptitude. Lincoln requires a written exam and two oral exams, including an emergency medical services knowledge assessment.
What kind of shape should I be in to be a firefighter?
Most departments require candidates to demonstrate good physical fitness to qualify for firefighting positions. Tests typically include challenges like those on the CPAT, which requires hose dragging, ladder raising and extension, and carrying equipment.
What if I only want to fight wildfires in Nebraska?
Aspiring wildland firefighters can obtain training in Nebraska through the Nebraska Forest Service, which hires seasonal employees to fight wildfires through its Forest and Fire Bureau or through the Nebraska State Fire Marshal.
How long does it take to become a firefighter in Nebraska?
Lincoln's testing alone takes 5-7 months, and candidates must also be certified as paramedics before beginning the process. The recruit training takes an additional 18 weeks. In Ralston's volunteer department, recruits may obtain training after hiring.
Firefighter Courses and Programs in Nebraska
Aspiring firefighters often opt to obtain the training they need by completing an academic program leading to a certificate, associate degree, or a bachelor's degree in fire science or a related subject. Though a degree cannot guarantee specific employment or job titles, graduates may position themselves for a variety of job opportunities, ultimately qualifying for greater career advancement.
The list below offers details on a few of the fire science and emergency management programs available to aspiring firefighters in Nebraska. Because requirements differ by location, prospective students should research local requirements before committing to a program.
Designed for pairing with another concentration such as criminology and criminal justice, natural disasters, or public administration and management, UNO's five-course fire service concentration offers students the opportunity to complete all required courses online. The curriculum includes codes and inspections, fire strategy and tactics, analytical approaches to public fire protection, and fire and emergency services administration.
MPCC's 69-credit associate degree program prepares students for firefighter I and II certifications plus hazmat operations. Required courses include firefighter I and II, confined space, grain bin rescue, rope rescue, tactics and strategies, ventilation, and farm vehicle extrication -- plus general education requirements.
Offering a combination of online and in-person courses, MCC's 99-credit associate degree requires 72 credits in major courses plus 27 general education credits in English, social science, math, and life skills. Topics include principles of emergency service, fire combustion and behavior, incident command systems, fire investigation, legal aspects of emergency service, and fire protection systems.
Fire Science Colleges in Nebraska
Firefighter Salaries and Job Growth in Nebraska
According to the BLS, Nebraska employed 1,140 firefighters as of May 2018, a statistic that places the state in the lowest category in the country for firefighters. Though low when compared with the nation, Nebraska's numbers align with regional trends, as neighboring states of Iowa, Wyoming, and South Dakota all land in the same category.
In fact, Nebraska firefighters doubled the numbers in less-populous Wyoming and South Dakota, though Iowa employed about 500 more. The majority of Nebraska's firefighters worked in the Omaha-Council Bluffs area, with 700 employed there and the rest divided across the state's nonmetropolitan areas.
During the same time frame, Nebraska firefighters earned an annual mean wage of $47,880 and an hourly wage of $23.02, outpacing bordering the states of Iowa, Wyoming, South Dakota, and Kansas. These figures place Nebraska alongside Missouri as an outlier in the region, though firefighter salaries in both states fell well short of Colorado.
Firefighters in Nebraska can take advantage of a wealth of resources offered by state offices and professional organizations. Training opportunities abound in Nebraska, with the Wildland Fire Academy and the State Fire Marshal offering lists of courses for firefighters of all levels and career paths.
Professional organizations serve crucial roles in the firefighting profession. They maintain liaisons with state offices and legislative bodies to advocate for firefighter interests and ensure safe conditions. Unions also offer many additional benefits for firefighters. The list below illustrates some of the pertinent details, including information on state resources.