How to Become a Firefighter in California – Schools and Degree Programs

Firefighter Career in California

As a firefighter in California, you get an opportunity to work in an exciting and challenging work environment and serve the public. A career in firefighting involves responding to emergency and hazardous situations such as harmful material spills, vehicle accidents, medical emergencies, wildland fires, etc. Routine activities of firefighters include educating people about fire safety, ensuring implementation of fire codes in buildings, responding to emergency situations and more.

As a whole, the career of the California firefighter can be sum up in the following advantages and disadvantages:

Advantages:

  • You get the opportunity to bring a difference in the lives of people.
  • You work in a team and get a chance to communicate with different people.
  • Firefighters are endowed with lucrative retirement packages.
  • The career provides you with better opportunities to get promoted.
  • You get continuous on-job training that helps you keep your skills and knowledge updated.

Disadvantages:

  • Getting an entry in the firefighting field is not easy; there is a stringent competition.
  • There are no fixed working hours for firefighters. In case of emergencies, they require to work during weekends and holidays for long hours.
  • You need to deal with harmful chemicals and fire that may harm your health severely.
  • As a firefighter, aspirants are supposed to handle traumatic situations such as dead and severely injured victims, which might take a toll on your emotional balance.

Firefighter California Education Requirements

You might be thinking that what does it takes to become a firefighter in California? Well, these professionals must fulfill the following educational requirements for becoming a firefighter in California:

  • Complete a GED or a high school diploma, or equivalent.
  • Obtain an associate degree in fire science technology from an accredited Fire Academy California.
  • Consider taking classes in fire prevention, emergency medical services, and hazardous material.
  • A certificate in EMT (Emergency Medical Technician) or Paramedics will be an added advantage.

How Much Time it Takes to Become a Firefighter in CA?

The duration of becoming a firefighter largely depends on your educational and career aspirations. If you want to enter the firefighting field after completing the associate degree, it may take 3-4 years, and if you’re pursuing a bachelor degree in fire science before taking up the job, it will take 6-7 years. The time duration also depends on how long you prefer to work as a volunteer firefighter.

Volunteer Firefighter in California

For working as a volunteer firefighter and get into the Fire Academy California, aspirants are supposed to meet specific requirements which are mentioned below:

  • The minimum age limit for firefighter in California is 18 years.
  • Complete graduation from an accredited firefighter academy.
  • Must qualify a background check and possess a clean driving record.
  • Some firefighting agencies need aspirants to have State of California Paramedic or EMT card.

Being a volunteer firefighter, you get the following benefits:

  • Firefighting agencies pay a stipend to volunteer firefighters that help them in becoming financially independent.
  • Being a volunteer firefighter is a stepping stone towards becoming a full-time firefighter. You get familiar with the real working environment and learn to deal with fire and emergency situations along with using fire equipment.
  • You get preference in jobs as most of the fire agencies and departments prefer to hire aspirants who have previously worked as a volunteer firefighter.

How Much do Firefighters Make in California?

According to the statistics of salary.com, as of September 28, 2018, Firefighters in California made between $37,627 and $62,711 while the average annual salary of these professionals was $50,169. As of October 15, 2018, according to indeed.com, firefighters in the state of California earned an average salary of $49,582 per year, which was estimated to be 17% above the average wage at the national level.

As per the BLS (as of May 2017), California was the second highest paying state to firefighters after New Jersey. The firefighters in California were paid the mean hourly and yearly salary of $35.51 and $73,860, respectively. The average per year income of firefighters at 10th, 25th, 50th, 75th, and 90th percentile was $39,960, $53,530, $72,250, $93,060, and $112,250, respectively.

The average annual firefighter salary in Los Angeles city of California was $60,000, according to payscale.com (as of October 14, 2018).

Firefighter Jobs in California

According to the BLS, there were 31,150 firefighters employed in the state of California (as of May 2017). The employment per thousand jobs for these professionals was 1.87. A growth of 7% in the employment of firefighters has been projected from 2016 to 2026 in the United States. The fireman requirements in the state will be on the rise due to an increase in retirements of firefighters in the coming years.

Since there is a strong competition in the field of firefighting; aspirants need to increase their competitiveness, and they can do so by obtaining higher education, acquiring additional certifications in the field, working as a volunteer firefighter, participating in job-related workshops, etc.

Top California Fire Academies and Schools

Below is the list of some of the best firefighter schools in California that help you obtain requisite competencies to get entry-level firefighter jobs in California.

  1. California Polytechnic State University

    Cal Poly follows the philosophy of learning by doing and aims to provide hands-on educational experience to students. This 4-year, nationally-ranked public university focuses on the personal and professional development of students through its academic programs. The Fire Safety Regulation and Management course offered by the university comprises four units.
    Address: 1 Grand Avenue, San Luis Obispo, California 93407
    Course Offered: Fire Protection Engineering
    Key Highlights: The university offers both online and on-campus fire protection engineering degree to students. The curriculum covers a wide range of topics including fire prevention and control, fire safety, fire risk management techniques and tools, etc., and prepares aspirants to become professional engineers in the field of fire science.

  2. California State University, Los Angeles

    California State University is an internationally recognized university in Los Angeles that aims to prepare students to become innovative leaders in their civic and professional lives. For those who want to make a career in firefighting, the university offers a bachelor degree in Fire Protection Administration and Technology that equips students with administrative and technical skills. The major program consists of 100-108 quarter units.
    Address: 5151 State University Drive, Los Angeles, CA 90032
    Course Offered: B.Sc. in Fire Protection Administration and Technology
    Key Highlights: The curriculum covers various aspects of firefighting such as Fire Behavior and Control, Fundamentals of Fire Prevention, Fire Investigation, Fire Apparatus and Equipment, etc. The curriculum is designed after consulting with the state and local boards, and committees of all levels of fire sciences.

  3. San Diego Miramar College

    The college was founded in 1969, and offers 90 technical education certificates and 70 associate degrees. It is accredited by WASC (Western Association of Schools and Colleges) and ACCJC (Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges). More than 22,000 students are enrolled every year in different courses of this college. The Fire Protection Technology program conducted by the college provides certificates and degrees in various fields of Fire Science along with hands-on and theoretical training.
    Address: 10440 Black Mountain Road, San Diego, California 92126-2999
    Course Offered: Certificate and Associate Degree
    Key Highlights: The Fire Protection Technology program focuses on public safety, fire service management, fire suppression, and fire prevention. After completing the course, students will be able to use fire equipment, comprehend standards, codes and regulations, evaluate the emergency and fire incidents, analyze the cause of fire, etc.

  4. Southwestern College

    Southwestern College was established in 1961 and provides over 320 certificate and associate degree options. The college serves approx 20,000 students each year. The institution emphasizes the intellectual growth and professional development of students. The Fire Science program prepares students for entry-level jobs in the field of firefighting.
    Address: 900 Otay Lakes Road, Chula Vista, California 91910
    Course Offered: Certificate and Associate Degree
    Key Highlights: The Fire Science program provides an opportunity for students to gain hands-on experience in a fire station under the supervision of a Fire Captain. After completing the coursework, students can pursue a career in fire prevention and inspection, public fire service, and federal and state fire agencies.

  5. Fresno City College

    Fresno City College (FCC) is the first community college in California and second in the country. The college provides an engaging learning environment to help students achieve their educational goals. It works in collaboration with the community to enhance the social and economic development of the region. The Fire Academy program is a 26 units class and 12 units of course options that prepare aspirants for the posts of Firefighter II, Fire Marshal Chief Officer, Fire Instructor, etc.
    Address: 1101 East University Avenue, Fresno, California 93741
    Course Offered: Certificate and Associate Degree
    Key Highlights: FCC Fire Academy was established in 1992. This program is an ARTP (Accredited Regional Training Program) through the office of the California State Fire Marshal, and is recognized by the State of California. The coursework enables students to achieve initial employment and prepare for bachelor’s degree.

  6. Lake Tahoe Community College

    The college is recognized by the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges (ACCJC) of the Western Association of Schools and Colleges. The college promotes learning and success to serve global, regional, and local communities. The Fire Science program provides knowledge of various aspects of fire operations and services. The program follows the FSHE (Fire and Emergency Services Higher Education) Model.
    Address: One College Drive, South Lake Tahoe, California 96150
    Course Offered: Associate Degree in Fire Academy, Fire Officer, and Fire Science
    Key Highlights: The Fire Science program conducted by the Lake Tahoe Community College fosters critical thinking skills, oral and written communication skills, and imparts knowledge about strategies and tactics of firefighting, management techniques, use of fire equipment, etc.

  7. Palomar Community College

    This 2-year community college strives to prepare students as responsible global citizens and individuals so that they can contribute creatively and effectively in an ever-changing world. The college offers more than 200 certificate programs and associate degree. For firefighting aspirants, the college provides Basic Fire Fighter 1 Academy, certificate and degree programs in Fire Technology – Emergency Management and Fire Technology – General.
    Address: 1140 West Mission Road, San Marcos, California 92069
    Course Offered: Certificate and Associate Degree
    Key Highlights: The Fire Academy is a one-semester course. The application process to get enrolled in the academy comprises application submission, a physical ability test, and an oral interview. The selection is based on a point system.

  8. Glendale Community College

    Founded in 1927, Glendale Community College offers specialized job training and adult education programs, and aims to provide exceptional student services to help them achieve their educational goals. The Fire Technology program aims to foster the skills required for firefighting and fire prevention.
    Address: 1500 North Verdugo Road, Glendale, California 91208
    Course Offered: Certificate and Associate Degree
    Key Highlights: The Fire Technology program comprises 27 units. Students learn about crisis intervention, hazardous materials, fire investigation, firefighting strategy and tactics, behavior of fire, etc. Students can assume the role of Firefighter, Fire Investigator, Fire Prevention Officer, etc.

  9. Allan Hancock College

    Allan Hancock College provides affordable and high-quality education to promote self-development, critical thinking, life-long learning, and technological literacy. It is one of the five best community colleges in the state. The college serves more than 11,500 credit students each semester. The public safety programs conducted by the college give insights to students into environmental safety, law enforcement, and fire.
    Address: 800 South College Drive, Santa Maria, California 93454
    Course Offered: Certificate and Associate Degree
    Key Highlights: The college offers Wildland Fire Technology and Fire Academy/Fire Technology programs that prepare students to deal with fire and emergency situations. Courses focus on codes and regulations, applicable laws, fire suppression and detection systems, firefighter safety, etc.

  10. American River College

    This state-funded community college is one of the largest community colleges in California with more than 30,000 students. The college aims to strengthen the basic skills of students and provide them with an academically rich environment to achieve their educational goals. The Fire Science Technology of the college was set up under the direction of the Sacramento Regional Fire Technology Advisory Board and the California Fire Technology Directors Association.
    Address: 4700 College Oak Drive, Sacramento, California 95841
    Course Offered: Certificate and Associate Degree
    Key Highlights: The intensive Fire Technology program is divided into in-class and hands-on practical training. The Certificate of Achievement can be obtained by completing 29 units major while the Associate’s Degree can be obtained by completing 60 units. Upon completion of the course, aspirants may work in the areas of firefighter-paramedic, public education, fire extinguisher manufacturing, fire prevention, etc.

Other California Fire Academies

  1. Riverside City College
    Address: 4800 Magnolia Avenue, Riverside, California 92506
  1. East Los Angeles College
    Address: 1301 Avenida Cesar Chavez, Monterey Park, California 91754
  1. Santa Rosa Junior College
    Address: 1501 Mendocino Avenue, Santa Rosa, California 95401-4395
  1. Butte College
    Address: 3536 Butte Campus Drive, Oroville, California 95965
  1. El Camino College
    Address: 16007 Crenshaw Boulevard, Torrance, California 90506
  1. San Antonio College
    Address: 1100 North Grand Avenue, Walnut, California 91789
  1. Pasadena City College
    Address: 1570 East Colorado Boulevard, Pasadena, California 91106
  1. Moreno Valley College
    Address: 16130 Lasselle Street, Moreno Valley, California 92551
  1. College of the Canyons
    Address: 26455 Rockwell Canyon Road, Santa Clarita, California 91355
  1. Rio Hondo College
    Address: 3600 Workman Mill Road, Whittier, California 90601
  1. Solano Community College
    Address: 4000, Suisun Valley Road, Fairfield, California 94534
  1. Imperial Valley College
    Address: 380 East Aten Road, Imperial, California 92251
  1. Las Positas College
    Address: 7600 Dublin Boulevard. 3rd Floor, Dublin, California 94568