Fire Science Degree Programs in West Virginia | Firefighter Training
Written by Kathleen Swed Last Updated: Feb 11, 2020
Among the nation's smaller states by both population and geographic area, West Virginia still offers growing options for aspiring firefighters. Projections Central cites a growing need for firefighters in West Virginia, indicating a 6.8% rise in demand between 2016 and 2026. This slightly outpaces the national job growth outlook of 5%, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).
West Virginia's rural areas and small towns make the state a regional outlier in terms of firefighter numbers, but opportunities are increasing. On this page, readers can learn more about how to become a firefighter in West Virginia. Topics covered include firefighter requirements in West Virginia, how requirements may vary among towns, answers to frequently asked questions, information on firefighter courses in West Virginia, detailed occupational statistics, and a list of firefighter resources in West Virginia.
Firefighter requirements in West Virginia differ depending on the regulations set by the local county, town, or individual department. Variables can include age minimums and caps, education requirements, licensure, testing, and department-specific training processes.
In Fairmont and Huntington, firefighters must be between 18 and 35 years old, while Bluefield does not specify an age minimum. However, all three towns require a high school diploma or equivalent. Fairmont and Huntington also administer similar testing as part of their application processes, with both towns requiring a civil service examination and physical agility test.
Civil service examinations typically cover reading comprehension and mathematics. To determine physical fitness, Huntington administers the National Testing Network's Candidate Physical Abilities Test (CPAT) for firefighters, which presents challenges such as a hose drag, stair climb, forcible entry, and ceiling breach and pull.
In terms of licensure, Bluefield requires firefighters to obtain EMT certification, plus firefighter I and II, HAZMAT awareness, CPR and first aid, and emergency vehicle operations. Firefighters in Bluefield must also participate in the Professional Firefighters of West Virginia Apprenticeship Program. In Wheeler, firefighters train through a six-week program, from which they graduate with certification in firefighter I and II, HAZMAT operations, emergency vehicle operations, CPR/first aid, mass casualty incident training, and four national incident training levels.
Becoming a Firefighter in West Virginia: Frequently Asked Questions
What is the specific training for West Virginia?
Generally, firefighters in West Virginia must know how to apply fire suppression methods and operate equipment, whether through pre-application education, a department fire academy, or on-the-job training.
Is EMT/paramedic/other training or certification required?
Some departments, such as Bluefield, require firefighters to hold EMT certification. Others only require CPR/first aid. Firefighter I and II, HAZMAT operations, and emergency vehicle operations often appear among firefighter requirements in West Virginia.
What is the test like for firefighters in West Virginia?
Some departments require prospective firefighters to pass a civil service examination, which typically requires test-takers to demonstrate reading comprehension and basic math skills.
What kind of shape should I be in to be a firefighter?
Most departments require firefighters to prove physical fitness adequate for the demands of the job. Testing processes may include physical fitness and agility tests, such as the CPAT exam and/or a medical examination.
What if I only want to fight wildfires in West Virginia?
Firefighters interested in learning to fight wildfires in West Virginia can seek training through West Virginia Public Service Training, which offers a specific course in wildland firefighting for entry-level firefighters.
How long does it take to become a firefighter in West Virginia?
It depends on the department. Wheeling's fire academy takes six weeks; applicants in Bluefield must apply with a host of certifications, and obtaining them can take three months to two years, depending on the path.
Firefighter Courses and Programs in West Virginia
Aspiring firefighters in West Virginia may obtain training by enrolling in an academic program leading to a certificate, associate, or bachelor's degree. No specific degree can guarantee a job or specific title, and paths to advancement vary. However, an academic degree represents one potential option for new or experienced firefighters with aspirations of leadership in the field.
Because firefighter requirements in West Virginia vary from place to place, prospective students should research local regulations to ensure that their chosen program aligns with their career goals. The list below offers details about a few firefighter courses available in West Virginia.
Associate degree-holders pursuing this degree may work with faculty mentors to master various competencies. APU's 122-credit bachelor's degree divides its requirements into fire behavior and combustion, fire prevention, fire protection systems, fundamentals of fire protection, emergency planning, and fire protection in building construction.
Available entirely online, APU's 60-credit associate degree provides fundamental firefighting knowledge and background in fire administration through courses in fire behavior and combustion, fire prevention, fire protection systems, fundamentals of fire protection, and fire protection hydraulics and water supply. It also offers a three-credit seminar in fire science that encompasses a final project or capstone.
Ideal for students seeking fundamental skills in fire science, AMU's 18-credit certificate program allows nine transfer credits and requires courses in fire behavior and combustion, fire prevention, fire protection systems, fundamentals of fire protection, and fire protection hydraulics and water supply.
Fire Science Colleges in West Virginia
Firefighter Salaries and Job Growth in West Virginia
The BLS reports that West Virginia employed only 830 firefighters as of May 2018, making it an outlier when compared to its bordering states of Virginia, Ohio, Kentucky, and Pennsylvania. Only West Virginia's regional neighbor of Delaware had fewer, but the comparison makes sense given that both states rank among the country's least-populated. West Virginia also scored low on the concentration scale, with a location quotient of only .54.
In salary, too, West Virginia lagged behind its neighbors except for Kentucky, paying firefighters an annual mean wage of $36,820 and an hourly rate of $18 as of May 2018. Given the state's lack of metropolitan areas, these low numbers make sense. Salaries vary fairly widely by region in West Virginia, with firefighters in the northern West Virginia nonmetropolitan area bringing in an hourly mean wage of $43,030. Those in the southern nonmetropolitan area earned a mean annual income of $22,990.
Firefighters in West Virginia can take advantage of a plethora of state-specific professional resources. Operated by West Virginia University, the West Virginia State Fire Academy provides opportunities for training and education. The state fire marshal's website also offers information on state certification and other areas of interest to local firefighters.
Professional organizations provide crucial resources for firefighters, offering insurance benefits and important community-building activities and events. They typically advocate for firefighter interests at the legislative level, communicating often with lawmakers to ensure that they understand the ongoing challenges facing those who work in the fire service.