Fire Science Degree Programs in Virginia | Firefighter Training
Written by Melissa Sartore Last Updated: Feb 11, 2020
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) estimates a 5% increase in firefighting positions from 2018 through 2028, granting aspiring firefighters plenty of opportunities to enter the field. Requirements for firefighters in Virginia vary by jurisdiction, but they must all be 18 years of age, have a high school diploma or GED equivalent, and a valid driver’s license.
Firefighters in Virginia should take part in formal training, for which they can choose from an array of certification and degree options in the Commonwealth. Requirements for Virginia firefighters also emphasize physical ability and agility, with a potential need for candidates with emergency medical training, as well.
To become firefighters in Virginia, individuals need a clear understanding of the position's duties and responsibilities and how to best meet their department needs. As firefighters pursue careers in Virginia, they also benefit from training opportunities and resources offered by a strong network of colleagues throughout the Commonwealth.
Firefighter requirements in Virginia vary by city, county, or comparable jurisdiction, with no single overseeing body in the Commonwealth. The Virginia Department of Fire Programs offers coursework and programs for individuals interested in entering the profession, all of which provide foundational knowledge and skills training. Technical schools, community colleges, and universities also offer certificates and degrees in fire-related disciplines.
In addition to basic statewide requirements, individual localities across Virginia impose their own firefighter requirements. In Virginia Beach, for example, firefighters must commit to abstaining from tobacco and maintaining an acceptable fitness level.
Fairfax County, Virginia, prefers candidates with emergency medical technician (EMT) credentials. Over the course of the selection process in Fairfax County, firefighter candidates must pass a written exam based on fire preparedness training and the Candidate Physical Abilities Test (CPAT), with additional examinations and evaluations of their overall medical and psychological health.
Firefighters in Virginia can obtain formal training from a local fire academy to prepare for their future careers. Virginia Beach features a firefighter training academy, where recruits undertake six months of formal training in the classroom and through practical exercises. Wildland firefighters in Virginia can complete programs established by the Virginia Department of Forestry in anticipation of placement as a wildfire professional.
Becoming a Firefighter in Virginia: Frequently Asked Questions
What is the specific training for Virginia?
Firefighters in Virginia benefit from training in fire science fundamentals and physical operations. Aspiring firefighters can apply for positions before participating in this training.
Is EMT/paramedic/other training or certification required?
Many training programs in Virginia provide emergency medical training, while other departments prefer candidates with previous emergency medical credentials. Individual departments vary in their requirements.
What is the test like for firefighters in Virginia?
Exam requirements for firefighters in Virginia include written and physical assessments. Firefighter candidates complete tests on fire prevention, protection, and overall safety -- plus exercises to demonstrate that they can carry out the operations commonly performed by firefighters.
What kind of shape should I be in to be a firefighter?
Firefighters in Virginia must maintain good physical health and agility at their time of application and throughout their career. Many departments administer the CPAT, which includes eight firefighting-related exercises. Other departments administer exams to assess candidates' overall physical strength and endurance.
What if I only want to fight wildfires in Virginia?
To become a wildland firefighter in Virginia, individuals must obtain certification through the Virginia Department of Forestry (VDOF). The VDOF offers beginner and advanced credentials with additional opportunities to work with the U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Service.
How long does it take to become a firefighter in Virginia?
It can take anywhere from six months to several years to become a firefighter in Virginia. Some departments provide training, while certificates and associate degrees require students to enroll in vocational schools or community colleges.
Firefighter Courses and Programs in Virginia
Virginia offers aspiring firefighters multiple programs to prepare for the job. Individuals aiming to become firefighters can enroll in one of the state's fire academies, such as those located in Henrico and Fairfax counties. These facilities require no previous training and offer basic course and field work alongside more advanced programs.
Vocational schools and community colleges, including North Virginia Community College and Tidewater Community, offer certificates and associate degrees in fire science alongside programs offered by the Virginia Department of Fire Programs.
The AAS in fire science technology at NOVA prepares students for careers in fire service and to advance within the profession. Learners complete 67 credit hours of coursework, focusing on topics including principles of emergency services, fire prevention, fire safety and survival, and firefighting strategy and tactics.
TCC’s AAS in fire science technology provides students with the knowledge and skills to enter a fire academy in Virginia. Learners complete 64 credit hours of coursework in four semesters, exploring fire investigation, hazardous materials, and fire dynamics. The degree also serves as a foundation to transfer to a four-year degree in the discipline.
Through seven divisions, the VDFP offers training programs to aspiring firefighters. Each division includes counties in the Commonwealth, each preparing individuals to enter fire service positions at departments within their jurisdiction. Students learn about emergency response, public protection, and overall fire safety and prevention as part of the general fire service training curriculum.
Fire Science Colleges in Virginia
Firefighter Salaries and Job Growth in Virginia
With more than 10,000 firefighters, Virginia offers fire service professionals an annual mean wage of just over $51,500. This exceeds the national median pay of $49,620, providing firefighters in the Commonwealth an incentive to work in Virginia. Metropolitan areas like Alexandria and Arlington provide even higher wages, with firefighters earning nearly $65,000 annually.
On-the-job experience and specialized credentials allow firefighters to advance in the profession, moving into positions as fire investigators and inspectors or into leadership roles as fire marshals and chiefs. Additional firefighter experience usually provides leverage for higher salaries, as well.
In Virginia, firefighters can also obtain training to fight wildland fires. The annual mean wage for forest and conservation workers across the country is nearly $28,000, according to the BLS. In the Alexandria and Arlington metropolitan areas, however, forest and conservation workers earn more than $42,000 annually.
Virginia offers a variety of professional resources to aspiring and practicing firefighters. These organizations offer access to news, continuing education resources, peer-to-peer networking, and career advice, among other options. While the list below is not comprehensive, it does offer a general picture of the options available to future and current firefighters.