From its bustling urban centers to far-flung farms and rangelands, Oklahoma depends on highly skilled professionals to respond to emergencies, investigate blazes, and educate the public on fire safety. First responders including firefighters, paramedics and EMTs receive their training from state fire academies, universities, community colleges, technical schools, and online programs to gain employment at one of the 726 fire stations across the state. Students can prepare to enter the emergency services and firefighting fields or return to school for an advanced degree to pursue leadership roles.
Annual wages for Oklahoma firefighters, supervisors, and inspectors are often pegged to experience, level of education, and type of department (rural, regional, tribal organization, or city). The following chart shows salaries for firefighters and related fire science professionals within the state of Oklahoma:
|Oklahoma Fire Service Careers
|Fire Inspectors and Investigators
|Forest Fire Prevention
Fire science studies can be found at numerous educational institutions, including colleges, universities, community colleges, online schools and fire academies. Some training programs might be available through high schools, technical schools and the like. Just as there are numerous pathways to get the training necessary, there are also many different educational paths to take, including the certificate, associate, bachelor’s or master’s degree. There are also PhD programs available for those who want to spend the rest of their lives conducting research and teaching about the effects of fire on society, or the way fire moves and consumes.
Most firefighters must have paramedic or EMT certification, so many colleges and universities suggest that students go through this training as soon as possible. EMTs can earn a certificate, but in some areas, paramedics might need an associate degree. Though there is intense on-the-job training for firefighters, those with postsecondary education in fire science could see more opportunities in this competitive field.
An associate in applied science degree can help prepare graduates to begin fire training; this degree is meant for those who plan to move directly into the workforce. Those who choose the general associate degree in fire science are preparing to tackle specialized career paths or a bachelor’s degree program. Once a student moves into the bachelor’s degree program, specialization is common, with concentrations that include fire technology, fire prevention, emergency services and the like.
Finding the right college to obtain the fire science degree is an important part of jump-starting a career in firefighting and related fields. While this is not an exhaustive list, these Ohio colleges and universities offer degrees in fire science:
For future firefighters, the best advice I could give is to do your due diligence and make sure this is the right career for you. Gather as much information about the fire service as you can. Research the positive and negative aspects of the job—it’s not all fun and games. Talk to as many fire service professionals as you can to gain some of their insight and make sure this is the path you want to take. After completing your research, if you still decide to enter the fire service start building your resume to include, EMS training, education, community work, etc. Ask yourself this question: what have I done to prepare myself for the fire service? If you only have a short list, then you have more work to do.
Plan your educational path by having all of the prerequisites for at least one level above the next level in your career. At every level in the fire service, there will be a time when you will be called upon to perform at the next level. Again, ask yourself what have I done to prepare myself for advancement or for a promotion?
Owasso Fire Department also runs the ambulance service. Our department is a little unique in the fire service in that we are not only all crossed trained in EMS, but 98% of the department is NREMT-Paramedic. We can put paramedics on any given incident.
Though there are many fire science programs in Oklahoma that are worth noting, in this spotlight series, we focus on two specific programs.
Program Name: Fire Protection and Safety Engineering Technology
Program Description: OSU boasts the only fire science program in the United States accredited by the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET). The FPST program was established in 1937 and is proud of being the country's oldest fire and safety related program. Offered by the College of Engineering, Agriculture and Technology, the program is designed to teach students about fire risk, chemical exposures, industrial hygiene, hazardous materials and more. The four-year program culminates in a bachelor’s degree, and students can also earn experience through student organizations and local opportunities.
Related studies include certificate programs for Fire Protection Technology, Fire Sprinkler Inspection Training, Emergency Medical Technician - Basic and Firefighter I. Associate degrees are available in emergency medical services and municipal fire protection. OSU even offers a PhD in Political Science with a Fire Administration Track, featuring classes such as community relations in environmental emergency management.
To learn more about the program at Oklahoma State University, visit the FPST site: http://fpst.okstate.edu/
Program Name: Fire and Emergency Services Program
Program Description: TCC offers a range of choices, from certificates to workforce development degrees. Programs include an associate degree in fire and emergency medical services, with options for the Firefighter/EMT track or the Healthcare Specialist/Paramedic track. The paramedic program includes opportunities for internships with physicians' practices or EMS organizations.
As for certificate options, a Certificate of Achievement is awarded to students who complete nine core courses in the fire and emergency services program. Training paths include a Firefighter/EMT certificate or a Healthcare Specialist/Paramedic certificate.
For more information on certificates, see the TCC website: http://www.tulsacc.edu/degrees-and-programs/catalog/catalog-2014-2015/degree-certificate-programs-2014-2015/fire-and-emerge
Named a model fire science program by the National Fire Academy in 2003, the nine-course fire and emergency services program is designed to prepare students to work in the field. Students who choose to go further into the fire science field can opt for more courses that complete the EMT/Paramedic designation. Taught by veteran fire science officers, these certificate programs can prepare students to explore opportunities such as employment in a local fire department, where they get on-the-job training and experience.
Numerous colleges and universities now offer fire science programs online. But given that fire science deals with real-world events, what good is an online program? The designers of online programs have taken that into account and created well-rounded courses that can be taken online, as well as the opportunity for students to earn course credit through experience. Sometimes called “experience credits,” these classes help make sure that students receive credit for the hands-on work they do in the field of fire science.
Students all across Oklahoma can take advantage of online fire science programs. For those who live in rural areas, online courses could give them more time and flexibility to handle their first responder services closer to home. Online courses can also be suited for those who have serious time constraints, such as those who work full-time at the firehouse or paramedic job, have family obligations and must juggle their time carefully. Students should find out if experience credits can be earned through their day-to-day work, allowing the growth of knowledge to happen through online education during their downtime.