Typically, the head of the fire department is known as the Fire Chief and it is one of the highest ranks a firefighter officer can achieve.

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Should I Become a Fire Chief?

Achieving the title of a Fire Chief is not as easy as it may seem because it requires a least a bachelor’s degree along with extensive firefighter training and field experience. It requires dedication, commitment and continuous training to outshine others and get promoted to the post of a Fire Chief. The duties of a Fire Chief are complex than those of a Firefighter. They supervise others, manage the resources and oversee the training of team members. They also perform other duties that include, helping with the medical treatment of the injured, supervise cleaning of hazardous material and perform fire control besides rescuing people.

Education-RequiredA certificate or an associate’s degree
Major-RequirementFire Science
License/CertificationCPR, EMT, Paramedic Certification or Certified Emergency Manager (CEM) may be required
Experience/Training7 to 8 years of work experience may be required
Key-SkillsLeadership, Communication, Critical Thinking, Decision-making and Interpersonal Skills.
Annual Mean Salary – 2021$83,270 (First-Line Supervisors of Fire Fighting and Prevention Workers)
Job Outlook – (2020 -2030)8% (Firefighters)

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (2019)

Career Requirements

There are many requirements to be fulfilled if you want to become a Fire Chief. All of these requirements have been discussed below. One of the most important requirements besides work experience is continued education. There are various training programs as well as continuing education programs that are offered by the U.S. National Fire Academy. Majority of these courses are specifically designed for training of firefighter officer. These programs focus on promotion towards the post of a Fire Chief.

Steps to Become a Fire Chief

If you are interested in building your career as a Fire Chief then, here is a step-by-step guide to help you get started.

Step 1:Education

To build a career in Firefighting, you may enroll in a certificate or an associate’s degree in Fire Science at a community, vocational or technical college. As an alternative and for better career prospects, you may opt for a bachelor’s degree in Fire Science. A bachelor’s degree in Fire Science is offered by many well-renowned institutions in the US.
For instance, a B.S. Fire Protection Administration and Technology is offered at the California State University with 120 credit hours that can be completed in 4 years. Whereas, the University of Florida offers an online Bachelor of Science in Fire and Emergency Services that prepares students to manage fire, EMS or emergency management agencies.

Step 2: Field Experience

To get to the position of a Fire Chief, you will need to gain field experience of at least 4 to 5 years as a Firefighter. In addition to that, you will also need to have experience of 2 to 3 years as a Firefighter Captain or Deputy Chief.

Step 3:Certification

The International Association of Fire Fighters (IAFF) mandates all firefighting individuals to obtain at least one or more of the following certifications:

  • CPR, EMT or Paramedic certification
  • Getting certified as an Emergency Manager (CEM) through the International Association of Emergency Managers
    (AEM) is very beneficial. This certification must be renewed every 5 years.

How do You Get Promoted in Firefighting?

The process to become a fire chief is entirely different from the one required to become a firefighter. To work as a fire chief, the candidate needs postsecondary education like a certificate, an Associate’s degree or a Bachelor’s degree in subject like fire science. On top of that, you also need field experience of 4 to 5 years. There are some other requirements as well, which vary from fire department to fire department.

How Long Does It Take to Become a Fire Chief?

As discussed earlier, becoming a Fire Chief takes a lot of time. You begin as a Firefighter and become a Fire Chief after many years of,

  • Extensive field experience
  • On-the-job trainings
  • Outstanding job performance
  • Continued education
  • Several promotions etc.

You may also be required to take some exams and get a few certifications. It may take you anywhere between 10-12 years before finally getting the title of a Fire Chief.

What Are the Requirements of Becoming a Fire Chief?

To become a Fire Chief in the US, all aspiring candidates must fulfill the following requirements:

  • Although a bachelor’s degree is preferred, candidates must at least possess a certificate or an associate’s degree in Fire Science.
  • Candidates must have a valid state issued driver’s license.
  • There should be no criminal record against the applicant.
  • Applicants must have either a CPR/Paramedic certification or be an EMT/a Certified Emergency Manager (CEM).
  • All candidates must have 7 to 8 years of training and field experience in firefighting.
  • Applicants must have received continuing education as a firefighter.
  • All candidates must have cleared the required examinations in addition to having excellent performance record on the job.

How Much Can I Make as a Fire Chief?

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, First-Line Supervisors of Fire Fighting and Prevention Workers earned an annual mean salary of $83,270 in 2021 which approximately amounts to $40.03 mean wage per hour.
Moreover, Other Ambulatory Health Care Services was reported as the highest paying industry for this occupation by the BLS in 2021 with an annual mean salary of $93,360. Whereas, California was listed as the top paying state in the US with an annual mean salary of $124,120.