Fire Science Degree Programs in Pennsylvania | Firefighter Training

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Written by Kathleen Swed
Last Updated: Feb 10, 2020

Pennsylvania features dedicated fire wardens working to protect the forests from wildland fires in every district, plus urban areas like Philadelphia and Pittsburgh and nonmetropolitan areas stretching across the center of the state. For that reason, Pennsylvania firefighters benefit from a wealth of employment choices. As an added bonus, firefighter salaries in the state rank among the highest in the country.


This page discusses firefighter requirements in Pennsylvania, including some local variations; it also answers frequently asked questions, highlights academic firefighter courses in Pennsylvania, details occupational and salary data, and lists resources for new and in-service firefighters in the state. Read on to learn more about how to become a firefighter in Pennsylvania.



Firefighter Requirements in Pennsylvania


Firefighter requirements in Pennsylvania vary by local hiring jurisdiction, such as cities and counties. For example, Philadelphia, Lancaster, and Allentown require applicants to hold a high school or GED diploma, whereas Pittsburgh does not specify an educational minimum.


Certification requirements differ from place to place, as well. In Reading, candidates must hold national or Pennsylvania emergency medical technician (EMT) certification at the time of application, while Pittsburgh and Philadelphia train recruits through their own firefighter academies. Most towns, including Lancaster and Allentown, require candidates to hold a valid driver's license.


Testing for firefighter candidates also varies by location. Pittsburgh, Lancaster, and Philadelphia require a civil service examination, which generally focuses on reading comprehension and math. Many departments also require examinations for physical fitness and agility. Some departments hire on an ongoing basis, while Philadelphia opens the recruitment process every two years.


In Pennsylvania, application fees are common for firefighters. Reading, Lancaster, and Allentown all charge them, though Philadelphia and Pittsburgh do not. Other common firefighter requirements in Pennsylvania include background checks, drug screenings, interviews, and residency limitations. Most fire departments in Pennsylvania require an age minimum of 18.


Becoming a Firefighter in Pennsylvania: Frequently Asked Questions

  • What is the specific training for Pennsylvania?

    Training varies by department, but firefighter I certification in Pennsylvania includes mastering skills in knot-tying, hose operation, water supply, vehicle fire control, and equipment inspection and maintenance.

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

    In Reading, firefighter applicants must hold national or Pennsylvania EMT certification. However, many Pennsylvania fire departments, including Pittsburgh and Philadelphia, either do not require it or include EMS preparation in their firefighter academies.

  • What is the test like for firefighters in Pennsylvania?

    Pittsburgh, Lancaster, and Philadelphia require written tests, which tend to cover basic civil service questions on subjects like reading comprehension and math.

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

    Firefighters must maintain good physical condition, and applicants generally have to demonstrate physical fitness as a part of the examination process.

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

    The Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources employs forest fire wardens. Interested parties may apply through their local district. Requirements include minimum training in wildfire suppression and disaster response, plus a work capacity test.

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

    It depends. Many departments in Pennsylvania do not require college credit. In Reading, applicants must hold EMT certification to qualify, which can take three months or longer to obtain. Philadelphia's fire academy takes 24 weeks.

Firefighter Courses and Programs in Pennsylvania


Aspiring firefighters in Pennsylvania may pursue qualifying education by enrolling in an academic program. Pennsylvania community colleges offer several options for those looking to complete associate degrees in fire science or a related area of emergency services. No degree can guarantee a particular job or title, but degree-holders may find accelerated pathways to career advancement and wider job opportunities as they enter the field.


Because firefighter requirements in Pennsylvania vary by location, prospective students must research local regulations before selecting a degree program. The list below offers information on a few fire science programs in Pennsylvania.

Bucks County Community College

Program Name Associate of Arts in Fire Science
Program Description Offered through the department of business and innovation, Bucks's associate degree requires 61-63 credits in introduction to fire science, fire behavior and combustion, fire prevention and code enforcement, hazardous materials, fire and life safety education, and fire service occupational safety and health -- plus general education requirements. Students can complete the program in four semesters of full-time study.

Northampton Community College

Program Name Associate in Applied Science in Emergency Services Technology
Program Description Designed to prepare firefighters and emergency services personnel for work in the field, NCC's 64-credit associate degree offers focus areas in fire technology, EMS technology, and security technology. Required coursework on the fire technology track includes essentials of firefighting and emergency response, law for emergency services, first responder stress awareness and management, and EMT-basic.

Butler County Community College

Program Name Associate of Applied Science in Fire Science
Program Description Designed to prepare students for careers as certified firefighters, BC3's 62.5-credit associate degree includes required courses in firefighter I, hazardous materials for first responders, information processing systems, EMT, building construction for the fire service, firefighter II, rope rescue, fire prevention, and fundamentals of technical rescue -- plus general education requirements.

Fire Science Colleges in Pennsylvania

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Degree Level
School Type
Environment

Firefighter Salaries and Job Growth in Pennsylvania


According to the BLS, Pennsylvania employed 4,650 firefighters as of May 2018, giving the state a location quotient of .36 -- the lowest in the nation, with just .80 firefighters employed for every 1,000 jobs. It's a surprising statistic for the fifth-most populous state in the nation; only Delaware came close to that number, with a location quotient of .38.


The BLS projects a nationwide growth of 5% in firefighting jobs between 2018 and 2028, but Projections Central expects slightly slower growth in Pennsylvania, with a 3.7% increase in demand between 2016 and 2026.


Still, Pennsylvania kept pace with its neighboring states in terms of firefighter compensation. Pennsylvania firefighters earned in the highest category of salaries when compared to the rest of the country, with an annual mean wage of $56,090 as of May 2018 and an hourly wage of $27.


National Average Salaries for Firefighters

0-12 Months

Entry Level

$40,657
1-4 Years

Early Career

$41,666
5-9 Years

Mid-Career

$48,760
10-19 Years

Experienced

$56,191

Source: PayScale

Firefighter Resources in Pennsylvania


In Pennsylvania, firefighters enjoy access to a wealth of resources that connect them with training opportunities, jobs, networking, and community involvement. Firefighters looking to build on their skills or prepare for entry-level jobs may consider fire training programs or the state-sponsored forest wardens.


Professional organizations and unions also provide camaraderie, which proves necessary for successful teamwork and crucial to the public-service aspect of the profession. Unions support firefighters by ensuring their access to insurance, helping to fund education and training, and advocating for firefighter interests with elected officials.


Harrisburg Area Community College Fire Training Programs

Aspiring firefighters seeking non-degree or continuing education options might consider courses through HACC, which offers driver/operator, entry-level, and hazardous materials training -- plus certification testing and degree programs.

Pennsylvania Forest Fire Wardens

The Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources hires fire wardens to fight wildfires, train wildfire suppression crews, and take on additional patrol-related duties. The department offers resources for firefighters seeking work as wildland firefighters, plus training related to wildland fire suppression.

PAFirefighters.com

PAFirefighters.com connects firefighters throughout the state, offering a department contact directory and listings for local events through which fire departments and firefighters can engage with their communities.

Firemen's Association of Pennsylvania

Serving a membership of volunteer and career firefighters and departments, the FASP serves its members through training, awards and scholarships, insurance plans, a women's auxiliary, and research on recruitment tactics around firefighting in Pennsylvania.

Pennsylvania Career Fire Chiefs Association

With a membership comprising professional leaders in the fire service, the Pennsylvania Career Fire Chiefs Association advocates for improvements to the fire service field and supports fire leaders through regular meetings, department review processes, and legislative action.