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Would a college education be necessary to work in wildland firefighting?

I have been accepted into Stephen F. Austin University but I'm not sure if I need to spend thousands of dollars on education. #college #college-advice #college-bound #education #firefighting #wildland-firefighting #hot-shot #school

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Alex’s Answer

That's a good question. Yes, it can help to go for something like forestry management or possibly something else may catch your interest if the school has an agricultural program. As someone with a cousin working for the US Forest Service, it borderline is a requirement to work for them or National Parks. Working in volunteer firefighting can be helpful, but also there are internships offered with parks and forestry organizations that while they may not advertise them heavily, they do offer them.

Thanks so much for the answer James N.

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Hannah’s Answer

Hi James,

While a bachelors degree is not usually a requirement for most firefighting roles, some postsecondary education or training is needed to show employers that you are prepared to work safely in your chosen area. It's important to keep in mind that while an entry-level position as a firefighter may not require more than a high school diploma and some certifications, a more specific occupation as a wildland firefighter might encourage coursework or a degree in agriculture, forestry, or outdoor recreation management. Some of this education can be achieved through technical certificates or associate degrees rather than a four-year degree. Education requirements may also depend on the entity that is hiring you: the local, state, or federal level.

Some of my information I collected from the National Wildfire Coordinating Group, and I strongly recommend you visit their website (https://www.nwcg.gov/how-to-become-a-wildland-firefighter) to learn about the steps to become a wildland firefighter. And please explore the rest of the site, too! There's a lot of great stuff!

If you would like some initial on the job training and experience, you can also look into volunteer firefighting. This may be at a county or city level and would not necessarily be centered on wildland firefighting, but it's definitely a starting point!

In short, some post-high school education is probably needed to achieve your goals, but that education can come in different forms - don't be discouraged by thinking that your only option is a four-year degree and the student loan debt that might accompany it!

For more info, see also the Bureau of Labor Statistics' page on Firefighting: https://www.bls.gov/ooh/protective-service/firefighters.htm#tab-3

Thanks so much for the answer! James N.

I would encourage you to look into a degree in Sustainability, Ecology, or Geology. Amber Holt-Geary

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Robert’s Answer

As Alex said, college (usually a junior or community college for"fire science") is a great bet in starting any career. It is relatively inexpensive, especially state-run community colleges, and has a curriculum which is geared towards passing a state or national licensure test. Additionally, you will graduate with an Associates Degree, which will all but guarantee placement in a four-year University that offers fire science as a major. In my state, however, one does not need a degree to become a firefighter. Applicants must first score well on a civil service exam and demonstrate that they can meet the physical demands common to the profession of firefighting. If this is the way you wish to go about beginning your career, it would help to check the websites of both your town's city hall and/or call your fire chief to find out if and when the next firefighters class begins. In terms of "fighting wildfires", depending on the size, urgency, and possible loss of human life, most firefighting professionals within the radius of the fire itself will be called to serve in putting it out. For example, in California wildfires are extremely large and occur often. That said, everyone from firemen to military helicopter pilots to forest service personnel will be utilized in order to minimize the potential loss of life caused by these wildfires. So James, if you were to become a firefighter in any of the ways we've spoken of, there is still no guarantee you'll be fighting fires in the California redwoods. You will, however, be saving lives in your own neck of the woods, and that's something you can really be proud of!

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Patricia R’s Answer

Hannah's answer is full of good, practical information, especially if you want to minimize your education debts.

Another good place to check out is the website “study.com” (URL below.)

If you want to search more, several terms in a browser will get you lots of other information. Such as:

Wildland firefighting
Wildland firefighting job requirements
Wildland firefighting training, etc.

Even if you find one site that tells you what you want to know, I’d advise you to look on at least three (3) different sites, and then compare their information. One site might say that a four-year degree is a must; another may say only a HS diploma or GED is needed. Knowing more will help you make a more-informed decision.

Thanks for your answer! James N.

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Monique’s Answer

Don't get into debt if you don't have to at a 4 year school. Follow the great advice in the other answers. Learn the requirements for your area and go from there. Look into grants, as there may be a shortage and funds might be available to help pay.