Becoming a firefighter in North Carolina is a noble and challenging pursuit, combining the desire to serve the community with the physical and mental demands of a rigorous profession. As per the US Fire Administration, the state of North Carolina recorded 2.8 deaths and 8.1 injuries per 1,000 fires. The national figures were 2.3 deaths and 7.2 injuries per 1,000 fires.
There were 16,140 firefighters working in North Carolina as of May 2022 according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics. This article is designed to guide aspiring firefighters through the various steps and requirements needed to join the ranks of North Carolina’s bravest.
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Steps to Become a Firefighter in North Carolina
To become a firefighter in North Carolina, you need to follow several steps and meet certain requirements:
- Aspiring firefighters in North Carolina must be at least 21 years old in most areas, hold a high school diploma or equivalent, possess a state driver’s license, and have a clean driving record. It’s also advised to avoid any illegal drug use for at least a year before applying, as this can be a disqualifying factor.
- Men aged between 18 and 26 must be registered with the Selective Service to be eligible for employment in fire departments in North Carolina.
- Given the diverse roles firefighters play, including medical assistance and rescue operations, EMT training is essential. This is particularly true for departments in rural areas where volunteer fire crews might be the first responders in emergencies.
North Carolina has numerous colleges offering vocational training in fire sciences. These include programs at community and technical colleges across the
- After completing the necessary courses, candidates can receive the Firefighter Fire and Rescue Commission IFSAC Certification. The coursework includes training in general and communications, fireground operations, rescue operations, hazardous materials operations, safety & survival, traffic incident management, and emergency medical care.
The certification process involves passing both written and practical exams. Written exams require a score of 70% or greater on each unit examination, and practical exams are assessed on a pass/fail basis. Candidates who fail can retest once before they have to retake the entire class, but this must be done within 30 days of notification of failure. For practical skills exams, a candidate is given one chance to retest before taking the written exam
- For firefighters trained outside North Carolina, reciprocity is granted for certifications accredited by either the International Fire Service Accreditation (IFSAC) or the National Board on Fire Service Professional Qualifications (Pro-Board). Candidates must meet all prerequisites for the certification(s) they seek and pass an exam with a minimum score of 80% at a regional test site.
These steps outline the path to becoming a firefighter in North Carolina, highlighting the combination of education, physical fitness, legal compliance, and specialized training required for this challenging yet rewarding career.
Salary of Firefighters in North Carolina
As per the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, firefighters in North Carolina earned the following mean and median annual salaries:
- Annual Mean Salary: $36,660.
- Annual Median Salary: $33,920.
To give a more clear idea about the kind of salaries you can expect as a firefighter in North Carolina, below table contains starting salaries of three important NC fire departments:
|Raleigh Fire Department
|$46,540.00 per year
|Greensboro Fire Department
|$47,812.00 per year
|High Point Fire Department
|$44,736.00 per year
Career Outlook for Firefighters in North Carolina
As per O*Net Online, firefighters in North Carolina will enjoy an excellent job growth of 15% from 2020 to 2030.
Firefighters Training Academies in North Carolina
In North Carolina, there are several certified major firefighter training academies for new recruits:
Raleigh Fire Academy
- Held once a year, the Raleigh Fire Academy aims to prepare recruits to safely perform duties as firefighters. Graduates receive state-required certifications including NC FF I and II, NC HazMat Level 1, and NC (or National Registered) EMT. During the academy, recruits must complete all skills and maintain a minimum of a 70 percent grade average. Upon graduation, firefighters are assigned to one of Raleigh’s 28 fire stations.
Coastal Carolina Fire Academy
- Located at Coastal Carolina Community College, this academy offers two schedules – a daytime schedule from Monday through Friday and an evening/weekend program. Both lead to North Carolina Firefighter certification. Pre-requisites include being a high school graduate or equivalent and being at least eighteen years of age.
Craven County Fire Academy
- This 31-week training at the New Bern Fire Rescue Training Academy is open to current and aspiring firefighters. It provides hands-on learning opportunities, covering firefighter certificate training, hazardous materials, and traffic incident management systems. All courses are approved by the State of North Carolina, and instructors are state-certified.
Wake County Fire Academy
- Wake County Fire Services offers a 33-week program for its recruits, where they work towards certifications in EMT, firefighter, and technical rescue.
Asheville-Buncombe Technical Community College Firefighter Academy
- This academy offers state certification classes for NFPA 1403 and Firefighter certification. Students who complete all required classes are eligible for NC Firefighter certification. The program includes live-fire training for structural firefighting for students who have completed the necessary classes to meet the NFPA 1403 standard.
1)North Carolina Employment Trends – Firefighters: https://www.onetonline.org/link/localtrends/33-2011.00?st=NC
2)Salary & Benefits | High Point, NC: https://www.highpointnc.gov/665/Salary-Benefits
3)North Carolina Fire Loss and Fire Department Profile: https://www.usfa.fema.gov/statistics/states/northcarolina.html
4)Frequently Asked Questions | Greensboro, NC: https://www.greensboro-nc.gov/departments/fire/employment-training/frequently-asked-questions