Fire Science Degree Programs in Tennessee | Firefighter Training

Written by Kathleen Swed
Last Updated: Feb 10, 2020

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that the national demand for firefighters is increasing on pace with average growth projections for other occupations: a 5% rise in demand between 2018 and 2028. In Tennessee, Projections Central paints a slightly more optimistic picture, expecting a growth of 7.8% between 2016 and 2026. Aspiring firefighters in Tennessee can expect regionally standard salaries and a wealth of educational opportunities for those interested in joining the fire service.

On this page, readers can learn more about firefighter requirements in Tennessee, including some of the typical application expectations and testing processes. It also answers frequently asked questions and provides a list of postsecondary fire science programs, detailed regional statistics and salary data, and resources for firefighters in Tennessee.

Firefighter Requirements in Tennessee

Local jurisdictions, such as cities and counties, determine their own firefighter requirements in Tennessee. Professional qualifications may include education minimums, certification, and residential status. For example, applicants in Knoxville must be at least 18 years old, while Nashville and Morristown require an age minimum of 21. All three locations require a high school diploma or GED equivalent.

Certification and licensure requirements also vary from place to place. Sevierville requires candidates to hold multiple certifications, including firefighter I, CPR, vehicle extrication, blood-borne pathogens, hazardous materials, and four levels of incident command systems. Nashville requires firefighters to obtain EMT certification before completing the fire academy.

Testing also depends on the department. Morristown candidates take written and physical examinations. Knoxville's written exam covers reading comprehension, depth perception, mechanical aptitude, math, emergencies, and effective working relations. In Morristown, candidates can gain points in their favor for any college-level credits they may have earned. Many departments, including Knoxville, Sevierville, and Morristown, require a physical performance test.

Other potential firefighter requirements in Tennessee may include vision and hearing minimums, a driver's license, a background check, a psychological examination, and a medical examination.

Becoming a Firefighter in Tennessee: Frequently Asked Questions

  • What is the specific training for Tennessee?

    Where National Fire Prevention Association (NFPA) accredited training is required, firefighters must demonstrate competency in ladders, search and rescue, forcible entry, and fire streams. Some departments provide this training through an academy or on-the-job learning.

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

    Many departments in Tennessee do not require EMT certification. In Nashville, recruits can obtain certification by the end of the academy process. Sevierville requires a list of certifications, including firefighter I, CPR, vehicle extrication, blood-borne pathogens, hazardous materials, and four levels of incident command systems.

  • What is the test like for firefighters in Tennessee?

    Typical written exams for firefighter applicants cover questions in reading comprehension, math, and mechanical aptitude. In Morristown, the physical test requires candidates to pass challenges in hydrant operation, chopping simulation, ladder handling, and hose drag.

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

    Departments expect firefighter candidates to maintain good physical condition. Many require applicants to pass physical fitness tests to demonstrate their qualifications for the job.

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

    The Tennessee Department of Agriculture's Forest Protection division provides information on wildfire suppression efforts in the state, including how to participate in the volunteer fire assistance program.

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

    Many fire departments in Tennessee require no postsecondary education, though Morristown does weight college credits favorably during the hiring process. Fire academy program lengths vary, so it depends on the particular jurisdiction.

Firefighter Courses and Programs in Tennessee

Aspiring and in-service firefighters alike may benefit in the pursuit of an academic certificate, or a fire science-related associate or bachelor's degree. An excellent way to prepare for a career in the fire service and position oneself for advancement, academic programs offer a wealth of opportunities and can open the door to further career possibilities.

Because firefighter requirements in Tennessee vary by local jurisdiction, prospective students should conduct careful research to determine how to qualify for the job they desire. The list below offers a few examples of academic firefighter courses in Tennessee.

Volunteer State Community College

Program Name Associate of Applied Science in Fire Science
Program Description Designed for aspiring leaders in the field of fire science, Vol State's associate degree program requires 60-61 credits that students can complete entirely online. Required courses and electives include principles of emergency service, fire prevention, fire behavior and combustion, fire protection systems, and strategies and tactics, plus general education requirements.

Volunteer State Community College

Program Name Fire Science Technical Certificate
Program Description Designed to prepare students with hands-on knowledge and increase their practical firefighting skills, Vol State's 24-credit certificate program requires coursework in principles of emergency service, fire prevention, fire behavior and combustion, building construction for fire prevention, and principles of fire and emergency services safety and survival. Students may choose six credits of fire science electives.

Walters State Community College

Program Name Associate of Applied Science in Fire Science
Program Description Serving both entry-level and experienced firefighters, Walters State's 60-credit associate degree program includes courses in principles of emergency service, fire prevention, fire behavior and combustion, building construction for fire prevention, legal aspects of emergency service, leadership development, and fire protection hydraulics and water supply -- plus general education courses.

Fire Science Colleges in Tennessee

Degree Level
School Type

Firefighter Salaries and Job Growth in Tennessee

According to the BLS, Tennessee employed 5,710 firefighters as of May 2018. This gives the state a mid-level concentration of firefighters when compared to the rest of the country, with a location quotient of .87 and 1.93 firefighters employed for every 1,000 jobs. These numbers set Tennessee in the same concentration category as its neighboring states of Virginia, Kentucky, and Georgia, though North Carolina and Alabama scored higher location quotients.

Tennessee also met or exceeded regional standards in firefighter salaries as of May 2018. Firefighters in the state earned an annual mean salary of $40,280 and an hourly rate of $19, aligning with Alabama and Georgia but outpacing Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Kentucky by as much as $9,910.

Firefighters in the Knoxville area earned the most, bringing in an annual mean wage of $43,850, while the West Tennessee metropolitan area reported the lowest salaries in the state with an annual mean wage of $26,430.

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 Tennessee

Firefighters in Tennessee can take advantage of a strong network of resources designed to support them throughout their careers. Through state agencies, aspiring firefighters can locate the information they need to obtain certifications required by their local jurisdictions. The state also provides resources on wildfire conditions and training.

Professional organizations represent firefighter interests at the legislative level, ensuring elected officials remain current on industry concerns. These organizations also provide educational discounts, events, insurance, and support in collective bargaining. The list below offers descriptions of a few firefighter resources in Tennessee.

Tennessee Department of Agriculture Forest Protection

The Tennessee Department of Agriculture provides information for firefighters through its website, where firefighters and the public can obtain up-to-date fire reports, fire weather forecast, and information on the volunteer fire assistance program.

Tennessee Department of Commerce and Insurance Firefighting Commission

The firefighting commission suggests professional standards for firefighters in Tennessee and administers state-level certificates for those seeking licensure. The website also provides training resources, policy information, and preparation materials for certification exams.

Tennessee Firemen's Association

The Tennessee Firemen's Association partners with Columbia Southern University to offer its members discounted tuition, including for spouses and children -- plus free textbooks and additional scholarship opportunities.

Tennessee Professional Firefighters Association

An affiliate of the International Association of Fire Fighters, TPFFA supports Tennessee firefighters in collective bargaining, advocates for firefighter interests with the state legislature, and promotes high standards of training for firefighters in Tennessee.

Tennessee Fire Chiefs Association

Serving a membership of career and volunteer fire chiefs, the TFCA promotes leadership, camaraderie, and professional development through committee participation and two annual conferences.