As you start to read this article I bet most of you noticed all the alphabet soup initials after my name. The reason for that is to show you part of what this article is about. When I started in the fire service in 1977 I really did not give much thought to what I was going to do when I retired.
I was just about to start my first year at a community college to get my associates degree in Fire Science. Two years later I started work on my Bachelor’s degree and just as I finished that I was hired by the Nashua NH FD. It was there I learned about certifications like Firefighter 1, 2 and 3; I obtained them all three in my first year there. I was single and I had the time and “freedom” to take many different classes all over the state and the country. When I left Nashua two years later I went to work for Tufts University in a Fire and Life Safety position. My training and certifications now turned towards Life Safety and NFPA related courses as well as OSHA safety programs.
All of this training was providing me the foundation for my training and education that I would continue to build upon for many years after. I was one of the first people to obtain the Certified Fire Protection Specialist certification when NFPA was beta testing the program. I obtained my Fire Instructor 1 certification so I could work at the Massachusetts Fire Academy. I was hired by the Everett Fire Department in 1986 and advanced through the ranks quickly and 10 years later I was a Deputy Fire Chief. One word of caution when you are looking at schools and “Certification” programs – do your homework. Is the school accredited, especially some of these online schools. Do searches to find out what the feeling is about the school and its programs, if you see things like they are a diploma mill or anyone can get a degree there should be a red flag. Remember the people that will be looking at your resume also know about these schools and will not think highly of your resume or you for not taking the time and getting the true education that you say you have.
In 1992 I start work at Providence College as an Adjunct Professor in the school of continuing educations fire science program. Through this program I would be asked to represent the school at meeting in Emmitsburg, Maryland at the National Fire Academy to help develop a national standard on fire science programs. We developed a model for the Associate’s degree and Bachelor’s degree programs over a few years. This program laid out an educational foundation for members of the fire service to building their careers on. The Associate’s level degree was aligned to the Lieutenant’s rank and advancement to Captain’s rank. The Bachelor’s degree was aligned to the Captain’s and battalion/district/deputy chief’s rank. The master’s degree was aligned to the Chief’s rank. Around this same time the National Fire Academy started offering the Executive Fire Officers program; a two-week class every year for four years with a applied research paper required to pass each class. At the end of the four year program you were give the credential of Executive Fire Officer (2006 I obtained my EFO) and soon most if not all of the hiring requirements for new fire chiefs would have the a job posting requirement for EFO and Master’s degree. Here is a quick homework assignment; I want you to pick a job that you would consider to be your dream job. Next go onto one of the job search sites like indeed or monster and put in the title for that position. Start going through the results and look at the “requirements” section of the listing. This will give you a good idea of what types of training and education that they are looking for in a candidate. You can use this data for planning your future classes and training programs. Today with so many programs available online you should be able to take at least one class per semester while you are work; there is enough down time at the station you should be able to fit it in.
I have seen a number of job listing for Chief position and there is usually a long list of required certifications that you will need to have and many of these can be obtained at your state level academy and the next question you need to ask is if the certification is also recognized by the National Pro-Board. Here is a job listing from an online search for fire chief:
“Minimum Requirements: A master’s degree is required from an accredited college or university with major course work in fire science, public administration or a related field. However, the preferred candidate will possess the following: a track record of progressively responsible experience in executive management of a fire department. A minimum of ten years of fire service experience is required, with five years of senior management responsibilities. Executive Fire Officer (EFO) or Chief Fire Officer (CFO) designation is also preferred. Candidate must receive a Certification of Compliance as a State of Florida Firefighter within one year of hire. A valid State of Florida Paramedic Certification is preferred. The incumbent of this position must be certified by the DoD, IFSAC or Pro-Board as Fire Officer III (includes Fire Officer I, II), Fire Instructor II, Fire Inspector II (includes Fire Inspector I), HAZMAT Incident Commander (includes Hazmat Awareness, Hazmat Operations), Airport Fire Fighter (includes Firefighter I, II).”
When you are at the point of starting your search for the afterlife you need to consider where you might like that position to be located? Do you want to move, do you want to work as a contractor and take an assignment in another country? You will see advertisements for these “Tax Free” jobs but again do your homework. For the position to be take free you need to spend 330 days out of the country; check the IRS site for more info. I worked in Kuwait in 2019 for a Virginia based company and I was hired as Fire and Explosion Investigator assigned with US Army Corp of Engineers. I was based at Camp Arifjan but I was deployable to any army base in the Middle East. There are many fire fighter, fire officer, emergency manager position available through these contracting companies and the pay is very good but the working conditions can be harsh and dangerous.
The life after the fire service does not mean you have to keep working in the fire station; many large company and government have position that can use your expertise and training, like insurance companies and multinational firms that have buildings around the world but want to be sure that they are working in safe buildings.
I have had the opportunity to talk with some of my former firefighters since I retired, and I have told them all the same things. Take the time now while you are young and prepare yourself and your family for the future. Invest in a good annuity program, invest in yourself, invest in your health. I have seen too many of my friends retire and not live long enough to enjoy it. I retired at age 55, everyone I worked with thought I would have been there until I was 65. The fire service is a great profession, but it is one that can take a toll on your health. I wish you all you all a healthy and long career and even longer healthy and long retirement!
Examples of NFPA Certifications
- Certified Fire Inspector I (CFI)
- Certified Fire Inspector II (CFI-II)
- Certified Fire Plan Examiner (CFPE)
- Certified Hazard Recognition Specialist (CHRS)
- Certified Life Safety Specialist (CLSS-HC) for Health Care Facility Managers
- Certified Sprinkler ITM Specialist for Facility Managers (CSITMS)
- Certified Water-Based Systems Professional (CWBSP)
- Certified Wildfire Mitigation Specialist (CWMS)
- Certified Marine Chemist (CMC) https://www.nfpa.org/Training-and-Events/Certification/Certification
Example of State Level certifcations:
- Airport Fire Fighter
- Emergency Medical Services Officer I
- Fire Apparatus Driver Operator – Aerial
- Fire Apparatus Driver Operator – Aircraft Rescue Fire Fighting Apparatus
- Fire Apparatus Driver Operator – Mobile Water Supply
- Fire Apparatus Driver Operator – Pump
- Fire Apparatus Driver Operator – Tiller
- Fire Fighter I
- Fire Fighter II
- Fire Officer I
- Fire Officer II
- Fire Officer III
- Fire Officer IV
- Fire Inspector I
- Fire Inspector II
- Fire Inspector III
- Fire Investigator
- Fire Service Instructor I
- Fire Service Instructor II
- Fire Service Instructor III
- Health & Safety Officer
- Incident Safety Officer
- Incident Safety Officer – Emergency Medical Service Operations
- Incident Safety Officer – Fire Suppression
- Incident Safety Officer – Hazardous Materials Operations
- Incident Safety Officer – Special Operations / Technical Rescue
- Public Fire & Life Safety Educator I
- Rescue Technician Rope Rescue / Rope Technical Rescuer I & II
- Rescue Technician Confined Space Rescue / Confined Space Technical Rescuer I & II
- Rescue Technician Structural Collapse Rescue / Structural Collapse Technical Rescuer I & II
- Rescue Technician Surface Water Rescue / Surface Water Technical Rescuer I & II
- Rescue Technician Trench Rescue / Trench Technical Rescuer I & II
- Rescue Technician Vehicle & Machinery Technical Rescuer I & II
- Responder to Hazardous Materials Incidents – Awareness
- Responder to Hazardous Materials Incidents – Operational
- Responder to Hazardous Materials Incidents – Technician
- Responder to Hazardous Materials Incidents – Incident Commander
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