Tennessee is home to lively cities, rural towns, and sprawling wildlands. More than 5,400 firefighters serve the state in fire stations, volunteer departments, and agencies. High quality training and education are the key to becoming a successful fire service professional in Tennessee. Firefighters, emergency medical technicians (EMTs), and paramedics can complete certificate and degree programs at community colleges, fire academies, and online training programs.
Annual salaries for Tennessee firefighters, investigators/inspectors, and supervisors typically vary based on the individual’s experience and education. Take a look at salaries for three common fire science careers in the state:
|Tennessee Fire Service Careers
|Fire Inspectors and Investigators
|Fire Service Supervisors
Those interested in a pursuing a career as a firefighter have a couple different options for training in the state of Tennessee:
Tennessee offers several fire science programs at two-year community colleges. Typically leading to a short-term certificate or a two-year Associate of Applied Science degree, associate’s degree programs in fire science combine academics, emergency medical training, and practical experiences in firefighting. The general education curriculum typically focuses on courses in the liberal arts and sciences, and fire science courses cover topics such as fire investigation, fire behavior, and fire protection systems. Some schools offer courses that prepare students for state or national firefighter certification.
Fire science training is also available at fire departments and fire academies. The Tennessee Fire Service and Codes Enforcement Academy, for example, is a 330-acre training campus with classrooms, fire labs, and fire stations. The academy provides training, testing, and certification for firefighters and other emergency personnel. Firefighter training academies may also be facilitated through public safety departments in individual cities. For example, the city of Memphis operates the Memphis Fire Services Training Academy, which serves as the primary center for firefighter training in the area. Training at a fire academy requires intensive training in firefighting procedures and emergency medical care.
There are a handful of Tennessee colleges that offer fire science programs; however, training opportunities through fire stations and academies are plentiful. Below is a list of colleges and universities offering fire science programs in Tennessee:
|DEGREE LEVEL||STATE||SCHOOL NAME||PROGRAM NAME|
|Associate||Tennessee||Chattanooga State Community College||Fire Science / Fire-fighting|
|Associate||Tennessee||Southwest Tennessee Community College||Fire Science / Fire-fighting|
|Associate||Tennessee||Volunteer State Community College||Fire Science / Fire-fighting|
|Award (<1 year)||Tennessee||Volunteer State Community College||Fire Science / Fire-fighting|
Prepare yourself by going to a local community college that offers EMT/Advanced or EMT/Paramedic programs and get your license. Also, look around your community for volunteer fire departments or rescue squads and ask about becoming a volunteer. An individual can gain some GREAT training and real life experience by becoming a volunteer.
Check online opportunities. Several of our personnel have achieved degrees through some of the online colleges/universities. Several offer not only associate degrees, but bachelor’s and master’s programs as well. Also check professional fire service online sites such as NFA, FEMA, IFSTA, Fire Engineering, etc.
We have a department of 325 dedicated men and women, and even though there can be squabbles, at the end of the day the family aspect of caring and watching out for each other remains, not only on-duty but off-duty as well. The life of a firefighter is hard to describe, but once you become a firefighter, it overtakes the fabric of everything you do and everything you stand for and believe in. Firefighters love the thrill and love to help people, even on their worst days.
Program: Associate of Applied Science in Fire Science Technology
Volunteer State Community College (Vol State) offers certificate and associate’s degree programs in fire science technology. Requiring about 17 credits, the certificate program covers courses in emergency medical services, fire prevention, and fire behavior, as well as elective courses in fire investigation and administration. In the associate’s degree program, students are required to complete 60 credits of coursework, including general education courses.
The standout feature of the fire technology program is Vol State’s transfer agreement with Middle Tennessee State University (MTSU). Through this AAS-to-BS transfer agreement, students who earn an associate’s degree in fire science technology at Vol State can transfer to a bachelor’s degree program in professional studies with a concentration in Organizational Leadership at MTSU. This bachelor’s degree program is designed for students who want to move into administrative positions in emergency services.
For more information about Vol State’s fire science technology program, visit the Fire Science page: http://www.volstate.edu/FireScience/
Program: Associate of Applied Science in Public Safety: Fire Protection
The associate’s degree program at Walters State Community College is modeled after standards set by the National Fire Academy and includes training in both homeland security and disaster management. This 60-credit program includes a limited general education curriculum, followed by core and elective National Fire Academy courses. Topics covered in the program include emergency services, fire prevention, and arson investigation. The program also covers legal issues related to emergency services, as well as training in fire service instruction. Designed for students currently working in fire service, the program concludes with a capstone course that includes a research paper and an exit examination.
The complete curriculum for the fire protection program at Walter State Community College can be found at the school’s Division of Public Safety: https://www.ws.edu/academics/public-safety/fire-protection/
Online fire science programs are available at colleges and universities in and outside of Tennessee. The fire science technology program at Chattanooga State Community College, for example, is a fully online associate’s degree program. This two-year distance learning program is designed to provide a pathway to a career in firefighting or emergency response, but it does not include on-campus training. Instead, graduates go on to complete firefighter training at area academies and training centers. For current firefighters, completing this online degree can complement and advance an already established firefighting career.
There are also a variety of schools outside of Tennessee that offer online associate’s and bachelor’s degree programs in fire science, and many state fire marshal programs and national fire agencies approve these degree options. Most programs are intended to provide a basis for career advancement, rather than practical hands-on training in firefighting. Online associate’s degree programs generally cover topics in fire science and medical services, with a few courses related to management.
Online bachelor’s degree programs in fire science are designed for students seeking careers in fire administration and management. Some of these bachelor’s degree programs are four-year programs, while others are two-year transfer programs. The curriculum generally covers topics such as emergency management, protection systems design, and firefighting technology.
In addition to traditional degree and certificate programs, continuing education programs in fire science are also available, often through state and national agencies. The National Fire Academy offers online, self-paced courses that can provide both college credits and continuing education units (CEUs).