Fire Science Degree Programs in Rhode Island | Firefighter Training

Written by Kathleen Swed
Last Updated: Feb 10, 2020

The smallest state in the nation by area and the third-smallest by population, Rhode Island still offers good opportunities for aspiring firefighters, with solid salary potential that compares strongly alongside other New England states.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects an overall spike in demand for firefighters between 2018 and 2028, on pace with trends for other occupations. However, Projections Central reports more conservative expectations for Rhode Island, which should experience a 2.3% growth rate for firefighter occupations. Still, aspiring firefighters in Rhode Island can benefit from training opportunities to help them reach their career goals.

Read on to learn more about how to become a firefighter in Rhode Island, including some location-specific firefighter requirements, FAQs, information on academic programs, salary data, and resources for new and experienced firefighters.

Firefighter Requirements in Rhode Island

Firefighter requirements in Rhode Island vary depending on the needs of each individual department. For example, Providence, Newport, and Cumberland all require a minimum age of 18, and Cumberland specifies an age cap of 45 for firefighter applicants.

Education levels and work experience also differ among locations. Many departments, including Central Coventry and Providence, require a high school diploma or proof of equivalent. Cumberland also requires high school education or GED diploma, adding to that two years of public safety or military experience.

In Cumberland, firefighter candidates must hold emergency medical technician (EMT) certification prior to application, while Providence provides EMT training and firefighter I and II certification as part of the city's fire academy. Central Coventry and Newport do not specify a need for EMT or other certifications, though Central Coventry does provide a 12-week training academy.

Newport and Central Coventry do require written exams, however, and Central Coventry's physical examination includes challenges such as ladder climb and swim test. Providence candidates must pass the National Testing Network's candidate physical abilities test (CPAT), completing tasks such as stair climb, hose drag, equipment carry, and search.

Additional firefighter requirements in Rhode Island may include application fees, board interviews, background checks, drug screening, and psychological examinations.

Becoming a Firefighter in Rhode Island: Frequently Asked Questions

  • What is the specific training for Rhode Island?

    Training for firefighters in Rhode Island varies by department. The state offers firefighter I and II certification levels, with courses covering topics like fire origin and cause, fire protection systems, and traffic incident management.

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

    Some departments, like Cumberland, require EMT certification upon application. Others, like Providence, provide EMT training as part of the academy and expect certification before recruits qualify as full firefighters. Some fire departments do not require it.

  • What is the test like for firefighters in Rhode Island?

    Firefighters seeking certification must demonstrate proficiency in the topics covered by firefighter I and II courses. For departments requiring only a civil service exam, questions typically pertain to reading comprehension, oral instructions, and math.

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

    To qualify for work as a firefighter, most departments require candidates to maintain good physical condition. Potential recruits often complete tests to demonstrate physical fitness and agility.

  • What if I only want to fight wildfires in Rhode Island?

    The Rhode Island Division of Forest Environment runs a forest fire program to educate local departments on effective wildfire response. The division also trains forest rangers and offers opportunities for public education on fire prevention.

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

    It depends. Most departments in Rhode Island require only a high school diploma or equivalent. Some candidates may need to obtain EMT certification prior to applying, which can take three months or longer. Central Coventry offers a 12-week fire academy for recruits, as does Providence, fulfilling the training requirements in a post-hiring scenario.

Firefighter Courses and Programs in Rhode Island

Aspiring firefighters may opt to fulfill their educational requirements by pursuing an academic program leading to a certificate or degree in a fire science-related area. Rhode Island offers a few such programs, and firefighters hoping to advance to leadership within departments or elsewhere in public service may find that completing a degree helps them reach their goals.

Because firefighter requirements in Rhode Island differ so much from town to town, prospective students should make sure that they understand the requirements for their desired location before committing to an academic program.

Community College of Rhode Island

Program Name Associate of Applied Science in Fire Science/Emergency Medical Technician
Program Description Designed for new and experienced firefighters and emergency services personnel, CCRI's 63-credit associate degree program requires courses in fundamentals of fire prevention, firefighting tactics and strategy, building construction and fire codes, municipal fire administration, and fire protection systems and equipment -- plus general education courses such as composition, sociology, and math.

Providence College

Program Name Bachelor of Science in Fire Science
Program Description Ideal for those aiming for leadership in fire, emergency, and/or public service, PC's 120-credit program requires major courses in fire protection, firefighting tactics, Rhode Island codes and ordinances, fire investigation, collective bargaining, and principles of business management -- plus general education in English, philosophy, theology, and fine arts.

Providence College

Program Name Associate of Science in Fire Science
Program Description Designed to prepare students with fundamental firefighting skills, PC's 60-credit associate degree program requires coursework in fire protection, firefighting tactics, Rhode Island codes and ordinances, hydraulics, fire investigation, organizational communication, and collective bargaining -- plus general education courses and 18 credits of electives.

Fire Science Colleges in Rhode Island

Degree Level
School Type

Firefighter Salaries and Job Growth in Rhode Island

An outlier among its New England neighbors, Rhode Island employs only 1,330 firefighters annually, according to the BLS's May 2018 report. This number puts the state among the lowest-employing for firefighters in the country. Given Rhode Island's small size, this makes sense; Rhode Island actually scored a location quotient of 1.25 in the same time period, landing it among its New England peers (except for Connecticut, which scored a lower quotient) in the second-highest category for firefighter concentration.

Firefighters in Rhode Island earned less in May 2018 than their closest New England colleagues, bringing home an annual mean wage of $55,240 and an hourly rate of $27. Though Rhode Island paid less than its border states of Connecticut and Massachusetts, the state outpaid New Hampshire, Maine, and Vermont by as much as $18,490.

National Average Salaries for Firefighters

0-12 Months

Entry Level

1-4 Years

Early Career

5-9 Years


10-19 Years



Source: PayScale

Firefighter Resources in Rhode Island

Rhode Island firefighters can benefit from a small but mighty force of resources offered by state offices and professional organizations. The State Fire Marshal offers training opportunities for those seeking education and/or certification, and both new and seasoned firefighters must stay informed on current wildfire dangers through updates from the state.

Professional organizations, too, provide crucial support for firefighters. Camaraderie and community engagement are crucial components of the field, and unions liaise with elected officials to keep them aware of firefighter interests and concerns in the state. The list below describes a few resources for firefighters in Rhode Island.

State of Rhode Island Office of the State Fire Marshal

Rhode Island's Fire Marshal oversees certification for firefighters, running tests for those seeking licensure. The office also provides training opportunities through its fire academy, with a wealth of courses such as firefighter I and II, HAZMAT operations, driver/operator, and fire instructor.

Rhode Island Division of Forest Environment Forest Fire Program

Rhode Island's DFE trains local fire departments in wildland suppression techniques and educates the public on fire prevention. Additionally, the division provides fire department assistance to those responding to wildland fires, plus fire alerts, district maps, and information on regulations.

Rhode Island State Association of Firefighters

An affiliate of the International Association of Firefighters, the RISAF posts job openings on its website, serves members through fundraisers, and offers events such as conventions and conferences.

Rhode Island Association of Fire Chiefs

The RIAFC supports firefighters and fire-service leaders through legislative advocacy and member resources. These include job postings, monthly meetings, and professional discounts.

Rhode Island State Firefighters' League

Dedicated to uniting firefighters to work as a team, the RISFL promotes quality training for firefighters, encourages camaraderie, and engages in legislative advocacy on behalf of its membership of career, volunteer, and retired firefighters.