More than 26,000 firefighters are employed in Texas. In fact, the state has the second highest concentration of firefighters in the U.S., with Dallas alone employing more than 5,000. Firefighters, emergency medical technicians (EMTs) and paramedics work in major cities, small towns, and across the rambling rangelands and wildland areas of the state. Local and regional fire academies, community colleges, four-year universities, and online schools all offer certificate and degree programs to prepare students for a career in fire science.
Texas firefighters, supervisors, and investigators/inspectors are among the better paid emergency service professionals in the country. The following list shows annual earnings for common fire science careers in the state:
|Texas Fire Service Careers
|Fire Inspectors and Investigators
|Fire Service Supervisors
In order to prepare for a fire science career, Texas colleges offer both associate’s and bachelor’s degree options as well as certificate programs.
Fire science degree and certificate programs in Texas are offered through two-year community colleges. A typical certificate program takes about a year to complete and includes a combination of fire science courses and practical experience in firefighting. Much like a certificate program, students in an associate’s degree program, cover general education courses, fire science courses, and practical training. Topics that may be covered in firefighter courses include fire safety, emergency operations, equipment handling, incident management, and public safety. An associate’s degree in fire science typically takes two years to complete.
Many fire science programs are designed to fulfill state requirements for firefighter certification in Texas. According to the Texas Commission on Fire Protection, students must complete 471 hours of firefighter training. Because of this, students should be careful to select a degree or certificate program that meets these requirements. Firefighters also need basic medical training, so students who want to become firefighters should ensure that their program of interest includes EMT – basic training. Fire science programs designed to train firefighters typically include practical training at a fire academy, located either on campus or at a local training facility. At a college campus fire academy, such as Angelina College Fire Academy, firefighter training is typically conducted in daylong training sessions that last about 12-16 weeks.
Bachelor’s degree programs in fire science are also available, and are generally designed for students who wish to pursue careers in fire services management or administration. Unlike an associate’s degree program, a bachelor’s degree program would not include firefighter training; instead, curriculum tends to focus on the management aspects of emergency services, such as disaster planning, personnel management, and fire research and prevention. This option is a viable path for current firefighters looking for career advancement or for students looking for a career in which they can develop strategies for preventing and responding to emergencies.
In addition to two- and four-year colleges, fire science training and education can also be completed through local fire departments and academies in Texas.
Texas fire departments administer independent firefighter recruitment programs. The recruitment process typically includes passing background checks and physical examinations, as well as a series of interviews. Most departments require recruits to be at least 18 years old and to hold at least a high school diploma or GED. Recruits who successfully complete the initial screening process are typically selected to enter the firefighter-training program. The duration of programs may differ from department to department. The training program at the Fort Worth Fire Department, for instance, is seven months in duration, including nine to ten weeks of EMT training.
The leading firefighter academy in Texas is the Texas A&M Engineering Extension Service (TEEX) Recruit Firefighter Academy. Located at Brayton Fire Field near the Texas A&M campus, the fire academy has trained more than 3,500 firefighters since 1971 and is the largest firefighter training facility in the world. Brayton Fire Field is a 297-acre complex, boasting numerous training facilities to simulate a multitude of fire emergencies. Training at the fire academy is 12-weeks in length. What makes this fire academy stand out is that it prepares students for firefighter certification across the U.S., not only in Texas. Graduates are eligible for ProBoard certification.
Fire science colleges in Texas may offer limited firefighter certification programs, or they may offer extensive training programs for firefighters, fire instructors, and arson investigators. Below is a list of Texas schools offering fire science and firefighting programs:
Never stop learning and always remember you represent not only your department, but also the entire fire service, in all that you do both on and off duty.
Individuals should seek out both formal education and professional development opportunities to enhance their knowledge, as well as to remain informed and educated about multiple aspects of leadership. You can do this by seeking out relevant programs offered through a variety of teaching sources. Education and professional development will provide a broader base to remain informed about what is happening outside of your organization and where you can find answers.
In Texas, we are fortunate to have the Texas Commission on Fire Protection, which provides general and specific guidelines to what the requirements are for certification and professional development. In addition, we have a world-class training center in the Texas Education Extension Service to help in skills development as well as career advancement.
Program: Firefighter Recruit Academy
Texas A&M Engineering Extension Service (TEEX), a member of the Texas A&M University system, offers a few different options for students interested in fire science. Students interested in becoming firefighters can enroll in the TEEX Firefighter Recruit Academy, which offers two options for firefighter certification—traditional face-to-face and online. Completion of either program prepares graduates to sit for the Firefighter I and Firefighter II certification, as well as Hazardous Materials Awareness and Hazardous Material Operations. Additionally, TEEX also offers more than 20 training programs related to fire science and emergency services through its Fire Services Emergency Services Training Institute—recruits can pursue certification as a fire instructor, fire investigator, or fire officer. Examples of other programs include industrial firefighting & emergency response, marine firefighting and safety, and rescue training.
To learn more, visit the TEEX Fire Recruit Academy: http://www.teex.com/teex.cfm?pageid=ESTIprog&area=ESTI&templateid=1420
Del Mar College offers degree and certificate programs in fire science. The short-term certificate programs lead to fire and arson inspector, fire inspector, or basic firefighter certification. The fire science associate’s degree programs are offered with either a general option or a basic firefighting option. The general option is an academic program of study, while the firefighting option includes the training required to earn firefighter certification in Texas. Del Mar College’s firefighter training programs comprise 724 hours of training; nearly double the minimum training hours required by the Texas Commission on Fire Protection.
For more information about Del Mar College’s firefighter programs, visit the Fire Science page: http://www.delmar.edu/Fire_Science/fire_science.aspx
A handful of Texas colleges offer online fire science programs, including firefighter-training programs. In a typical online firefighter program, students complete all the required courses online. Because of the technical nature of the program, learning materials are often delivered through videos, PowerPoint presentations, and other visual learning aides. After completing the academic phase of the program, students move on to the firefighting phase at an on-campus training facility. The hands-on training phase of the programs provide all the necessary training to become a certified firefighter in Texas. The TEEX Firefighter Recruit Academy has an online academy for students who cannot attend the complex for the 12-week program. After students complete the online portion of the program, they attend a 21-day boot camp at the academy.
For current firefighters and others already working in the field, some colleges in Texas offer online bachelor’s degree programs in fire science. These programs focus on the management and planning aspects of emergency services, such as fire protection systems design and defense planning. Some programs may also allow students to earn certifications from the National Fire Association.