Fire Science Degree Programs in Washington | Firefighter Training
Written by Timothy Levin Last Updated: Feb 11, 2020
Firefighters fill vital roles wherever they serve. These highly trained professionals use their skills to prevent and combat blazes in homes, wildlands, and commercial establishments. As trained emergency medical professionals, they also respond to medical emergencies, traffic accidents, natural disasters, and other hazardous events. Students seeking exciting careers should read on to determine whether becoming a firefighter in Washington suits them.
The ongoing threat of fires and other emergencies contribute to a consistent demand for firefighters across the country. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects a 5% growth rate in U.S. firefighting positions from 2018-2028, creating around 17,600 new openings.
The following sections explore hiring requirements, relevant academic programs, firefighter salary expectations, and frequently asked questions about becoming a firefighter in Washington.
Firefighter requirements in Washington vary depending on the area in which you plan to work. Each fire department lists a specific recruiting process and enforces its own requirements for written exams, interviews, training, and certifications. Some firefighter requirements are common across departments, but aspiring professionals should look up and confirm the hiring expectations in their city, town, or county.
Applicants to Washington fire departments should generally hold a high school diploma or GED equivalent. They should also be 18 years old and hold a valid driver's license.
In Seattle, firefighters apply online to take the FireTEAM test, a 2.5-hour exam that tests applicants' basic competencies. Candidates must hold emergency medical technician (EMT) certification or qualify for certification upon hire. After the exam, selected applicants must pass an oral board exam, Candidate Physical Ability Test (CPAT), background check, psychological evaluation, and medical screening.
Firefighters in Vancouver must be certified paramedics through the National Registry of Emergency Medical Technicians (NREMT). Vancouver's fire department prefers candidates who hold paramedic certification through Washington state or Clark County. Candidates must pass a written exam, an oral interview, a background check, a physical, and a fitness evaluation. The fire chief ultimately selects successful applicants.
Becoming a Firefighter in Washington: Frequently Asked Questions
What is the specific training for Washington?
Washington does not impose statewide training mandates for its firefighters. Instead, each fire department enforces its own training requirements. During training, recruits learn to use equipment and employ firefighting techniques.
Is EMT/paramedic/other training or certification required?
Aspiring Washington firefighters typically need to earn EMT certification before applying for a job or shortly after being hired. In some departments, firefighters must be registered paramedics.
What is the test like for firefighters in Washington?
Preliminary written tests evaluate applicants' general aptitude for the profession, covering topics like basic math and reasoning. Many departments outsource testing through organizations like the National Testing Network or Public Safety Testing.
What kind of shape should I be in to be a firefighter?
Firefighters must maintain excellent shape at their time of application and stay physically fit while working. New firefighters must pass physical fitness exams such as the CPAT and generally be non-smokers.
What if I only want to fight wildfires in Washington?
The Washington State Department of Natural Resources (DNR) employs over 1,300 permanent and seasonal workers. Whether they work for the DNR or for a local fire service, firefighters must complete specialized training before fighting wildfires.
How long does it take to become a firefighter in Washington?
The time it takes to become a firefighter in Washington depends on each candidate's qualifications and their desired department's recruitment process. They may need to earn certification before applying or wait for the next exam date.
Firefighter Courses and Programs in Washington
Firefighter schools in Washington, sometimes called fire academies, build the practical skills firefighters need to succeed in their work. These academies, in which firefighters often enroll through their departments, comprise several weeks of intensive training, including physical conditioning, practical training events, and class time.
In addition, many firefighters must become certified EMTs or paramedics through a degree or certificate program at a college or university. Most fire departments do not require postsecondary education, but firefighters may benefit from degrees in fire science or fire administration. Before enrolling in any firefighter courses in Washington, candidates should research the hiring regulations in their area.
After completing the AAS in fire science technology, students can pursue entry-level jobs in municipal, state, federal, and private fire departments. The program includes both general education and fire-specific courses and spans six quarters. Students take classes in areas such as EMT skills, basic fitness, building construction, hydraulics, and fire tactics.
This degree prepares students for entry-level firefighter positions. The program takes two years to complete and comprises 92 total credits. Students take courses on emergency medical services, hazardous material operations, wildland fire management, and fire codes. General education classes cover subjects such as English and sociology.
This program qualifies graduates to take the NREMT paramedic certification exam. Students complete over 600 hours of classroom and lab instruction, plus 450 hours through clinical experiences at hospitals. Coursework explores topics including electrocardiography, trauma care, and clinical practice.
Fire Science Colleges in Washington
Firefighter Salaries and Job Growth in Washington
Washington is the third-highest-paying state for firefighters in the country, with firefighters in the state earning a mean annual income of $73,850. For comparison, the median yearly salary for firefighters in the U.S. is $49,620.
Firefighter salaries in Washington depend on factors like professional experience and geographic location, meaning many firefighters earn above-average salaries for the state. For example, the yearly income for firefighters in the Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue metropolitan area sits at $83,550. The top 10% of firefighters in Washington enjoy salaries exceeding $103,160 per year.
In addition to high salaries, firefighters in Washington benefit from above-average job growth. Projections Central foresees a 10.8% increase in job opportunities for Washington's firefighters from 2016-2026 -- more than double the overall job growth rate for firefighters in the United States.
Firefighter unions, which operate at the international, state, and local levels, provide useful services to firefighters and other emergency services workers. Members of these associations generally benefit from resources including chapter meetings, social events, scholarships, financial and legal services, and continuing education programs. Unions also help firefighters advocate for legislation and secure better benefits.
Government agencies also provide helpful resources to aspiring and experienced firefighters. State, local, and national agencies keep firefighters informed on public safety issues, regulations, and research. Read on to learn about some useful resources for firefighters in Washington.