Wisconsin offers extensive training and career opportunities for fire science and emergency service professionals. Some 7,850 firefighters are employed in the state, along with 170 fire inspectors and investigators, 1,100 first-line supervisors, and 5,780 emergency medical technicians (EMTs) and paramedics. Fire science courses and degrees at community colleges, technical schools, and state universities offer students the education and training they need to pursue a fire science career in Wisconsin.
The completion of basic training programs, certification, and advanced education can all impact annual earnings for fire supervisors, firefighters, investigators and inspectors in Wisconsin. Take a look at salaries for three common fire science careers at the entry (10th percentile), median (50th percentile) and advanced (90th percentile) levels:
|Wisconsin Fire Service Careers
|Fire Inspectors and Investigators
|Fire Service Supervisors
The Wisconsin Technical College System (WTCS) is the designated fire service education and training delivery mechanism for the state, with 16 technical college districts that offer approved fire service training courses. Thirteen have live-fire training facilities and are designated Regional Fire Training Centers. Others use portable training modules to simulate field training, and provide ample opportunity for performance-based education and training. Four fire-related associate degrees are available through Wisconsin’s technical colleges: fire science, fire protection, fire protection engineering technology, and fire medic. The WTCS also offers relevant certification in five categories at ten different levels.
Students in Wisconsin interested in the fire sciences can also earn a bachelor’s degree in the field. A degree in fire and emergency response management offered at the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh is ideal for those who have completed their associate’s degree in fire service at one of Wisconsin’s technical colleges and who wish to continue their education. The program is fully online, giving working firefighters, paramedics, and other fire and emergency professionals a chance to further their careers while keeping their jobs. The University of Wisconsin at Stevens Point, meanwhile, offers a bachelor’s degree in wildland fire science, as well as individual courses in basic and intermediate wildland firefighting.
Between Wisconsin’s thorough technical college system and offerings at some of its colleges and universities, prospective students in the fire sciences can easily find the right program for them at one of the following schools:
Any young person that wants to get into the fire service should be aware that once you are fortunate enough to be hired by a fire department, you will be seen and identified by those within your community as a firefighter so your personal conduct, on- and off-duty, will be expected to be exemplary at all times. The position of a firefighter is one that carries with it an expectation of public trust. The ones that came before you have earned that trust and it is your responsibility to maintain it. Every day, firefighters enter and protect people’s homes and businesses. They also deliver quality emergency medical care that the public expects to receive. Building one’s reputation comes long before the day you are hired and continues throughout your career. Be honest with people, treat them fairly and kindly, keep your word, and conduct yourself, at all times, in such a manner that reflects positively on yourself and the department that hired you.
I would recommend that any person wanting to get into the fire service obtain an associate degree in fire science as well as receive their paramedic license. As important as those two components are, one’s education path should not stop there. Firefighting is in a state of constant change and those not keeping up with current trends, new tactics based on research, and the science of firefighting will eventually find themselves behind those that do. To be a competent firefighter and to advance, one should make every effort to attend local, state, regional, and federal training opportunities. For example, many local departments and area technical colleges often sponsor training opportunities at a very reasonable cost. These situations also require very little travel. Regional conferences, such as the Fire Department Instructors Conference (FDIC), have additional travel requirements and expenses, but are a great way to expose oneself to a vast array of training and education opportunities from around the country. Find an area that interests you and start taking advantage of training and educational prospects, even before your advancement opportunity becomes apparent. Consider working toward a bachelor’s degree or even a master’s degree if you have any inclination you may want to eventually become involved in upper management. Many departments offer education reimbursement, so take advantage of that benefit.
The City of Fond du Lac Fire Department is unique in our area in one way because we are the only career department in the entire county. We are one of only fifteen ISO Class 2 rated cities in the State of Wisconsin. There are no Class 1 rated cities as of yet. Additionally, we are a member of MABAS Division 120. We are also currently working through the fire service accreditation and credentialing process through the Center for Public Safety Excellence, Inc. (CPSE). CPSE provides the only program of accreditation for fire service organizations in the world. Along with providing fire suppression and advanced life support emergency medical care, we also offer confined space rescue, hazmat, high/low angle rescue, swift and cold water rescue.
One of the state’s many associate level colleges, Madison Area Technical College offers programs in everything from graphic design to law enforcement. The school has several programs related to fire sciences and emergency preparedness.
Program Name: Fire Protection Technician
Program Description: Students at Madison College can prepare for a number of careers in the fire sciences through the school’s fire protection technician program, including firefighter, fire protection systems installer, industrial safety technician, and property risk management specialist. With further education or work experience, graduates can go on to careers as industrial safety managers, fire marshals, and fire inspectors. Designed for both working firefighters and those not yet in the field, the two-year program offers courses in fire protection, hazardous materials, fire investigation, hydraulics, and more. Over 70% of graduates reported finding work in the field within the state of Wisconsin.
Madison College offers several other programs in the area of fire sciences, including advanced EMT, paramedic, fire service certification and homeland security. For more information, visit http://madisoncollege.edu/program-info/fire-protection-technician and http://madisoncollege.edu/school-human-and-protective-services.
The University of Wisconsin (UW) Oshkosh serves more than 13,900 students, making it the third largest university in the state. The school offers a unique online fire and emergency response management degree that is the first of its kind in the state.
Program Name: Fire and Emergency Response Management (FERM)
Program Description: Developed by fire chiefs, the FERM bachelor’s degree at the UW Oshkosh trains students to manage public complex public health and safety organizations. The program is delivered through online courses only, with no on-campus requirements. It is designed for working firefighters and emergency personnel, although it also serves students not yet in the field. In order to join the program, students are required to have an associate’s degree in one of the following areas: emergency management, fire engineering, fire medic, fire protection engineering technology, fire protection technician, paramedic technician, or wildland firefighting. For those without a relevant associate’s degree, UW Oshkosh offers a Leadership Certificate in Fire and Emergency Response Management through online courses that students can complete prior to registering for the FERM bachelor’s program.
A dedicated scholarship for FERM students, the Candice E. Tylke Memorial Scholarship, is available each year. For more information on the FERM program, visit http://oce.uwosh.edu/online-degree-and-certificate-programs/fire-and-emergency-response-management/ .
The physical nature of firefighting means that many courses in the fire sciences must be delivered on-site. However, some topics within fire sciences, such as chemistry, fire behavior, and building construction, are just as easily conveyed through online means. This makes hybrid programs, with some online and some in-person classes, a viable option for fire science programs. For example, Fox Valley Technical College uses a combination of conventional on-campus classes and distance education courses in its Fire Protection Technical Program. In the broader field of emergency management, many courses and even full programs can be delivered online. The University of Wisconsin Oshkosh’s fire and emergency response management bachelor’s degree is fully online, making it an ideal choice for working firefighters or other emergency professionals who cannot attend classes during traditional daytime hours. The school also offers its Leadership Certificate in fire and emergency response management online as a convenient way for Wisconsin’s firefighters to further their education in the classroom while continuing to work in the field.