Many firefighters have considered furthering their education to achieve their goals. Getting a college degree while working as a firefighter can be challenging. But it can also be a good choice for their career as a firefighter. Many schools and programs offer degrees for firefighters. These degrees can help firefighters do their job better and advance their careers. 

Let’s look at the challenges and benefits of going to college, the different schools and programs available, and the types of degrees that can help firefighters succeed.

So if you’re a firefighter who has been thinking about going back to school, this article  is for you. Even if you’re not considering a degree, it’s best to know that the option can provide personal and professional growth.

Degrees and Certifications

A variety of bachelor’s degree programs and certifications are available to firefighters. These programs are typically offered by colleges and universities, as well as through fire academies and other fire services agencies.

Here is a list of some of the degrees and certifications that firefighters can obtain:

  1. Bachelor’s degrees in fire science, fire technology, or fire administration programs: These programs provide firefighters with the knowledge and skills they need to advance their careers in the fire service.
  2. Candidate Physical Ability Test (CPAT) certification: Many fire departments require firefighters to pass the CPAT to show their physical fitness and readiness for fighting fires.
  3. Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) certification: Firefighters are often required to have EMT certification to provide medical assistance to the public and respond to emergencies.
  4. Wildland Firefighting: Wildland firefighters are trained to fight fires in remote or rural areas, such as forests or grasslands.

Benefits of higher education in the fire service

Higher education can offer many benefits for firefighters, including:

Improved job firefighter positions and potential for promotion

Firefighters with higher education might have a better chance of getting promoted or becoming a leader in their fire department. They may be able to apply for different jobs depending on what they studied and how much education they have. There are many different options available to them. Some possible positions that firefighters with a degree might pursue:

  • Fire chief

This is a leadership position that is responsible for overseeing the operations of a fire department. The role requires a bachelor’s or master’s degree in fire science, public administration, or a related field.

  • Fire inspector

They are responsible for conducting inspections of buildings and other structures to ensure they comply with fire codes and regulations. A degree in fire science, criminal justice, or a related field may be helpful for this role.

  • Fire Investigator

They are responsible for determining the cause and origin of fires. A degree in fire science, criminal justice, or a related field may be useful for this role.

  • Fire Prevention Officer

They work to educate the public about fire safety and prevention measures. A degree in fire science, public relations, or related field may be helpful for this position.

firefighter during a mass casualty drill

Firefighter Emergency Medical Technician, mass casualty drill

  • Emergency Medical Technician

They provide primary medical care and transportation to individuals who are sick or injured. A degree in a related field, such as nursing or healthcare, may benefit this position.

  • Paramedic

They provide advanced medical care and transportation to individuals who are sick or injured. A degree in a related field, such as nursing or healthcare, may be beneficial for this position.

Greater understanding of fire science and emergency management principles

Degree programs in fire science or emergency management can give firefighters a deeper understanding of the principles and practices essential to their work. These include fire dynamics, building codes, hazardous materials response, emergency medical procedures, and fire prevention.

Enhanced critical thinking and problem-solving skills:

Higher education can help firefighters develop the critical thinking and problem-solving skills essential in effectively managing emergencies. These skills can include analyzing complex situations, making decisions under pressure, and communicating effectively with team members.

Challenges of being a firefighter while attending college

Being a firefighter and attending college can present several challenges, particularly when it comes to balancing the demands of both roles.


One major challenge is the impact of shift work and on-call availability on academic commitments. Firefighters often work long shifts and may be called in on short notice to respond to emergencies. This situation can make it difficult to attend classes and complete assignments regularly.

Firefighters resting after a rescue operation

Firefighters after a rescue operation

Physical and Mental Demands

Firefighting can be physically demanding, with firefighters performing different tasks that may require strength, endurance, and agility. In addition, the job can be emotionally and mentally draining, as firefighters are often exposed to traumatic events and may have to deal with the stress and trauma of those experiences.

Time and Energy

Firefighters may have to devote long hours to their job, leaving little time for studying and completing coursework. The demands of the job may leave them feeling physically and mentally exhausted, making it difficult to focus on their academic pursuits.

Do you need a college degree to be a firefighter?

It’s not a requirement to have a college degree to become a firefighter, but having a degree can be beneficial. In some cases, a degree in a related field, such as fire science or emergency management, may be preferred or required by certain employers.

There are many other ways to become a firefighter besides earning a degree. Many fire departments require applicants to have a high school diploma or equivalent and may also need candidates to have completed some form of firefighting training or certification program. A fire department may also have its own fire academy that provides aspiring firefighters with the skills and knowledge they need to succeed in the field.

smiling firefighter

To sum it all up, yes, firefighters can go to college and earn a bachelor’s degree. Many firefighters have at least some college education, and some have completed bachelor or graduate degrees. Some colleges and universities offer degree programs and can provide firefighters with the knowledge and skills they need to advance their careers in the fire service. 

Some firefighters may choose to attend college to become a firefighter, while others may pursue a degree after starting their career in the fire service. 

While a bachelor’s degree or an associate degree is not necessarily required to become a firefighter, it can certainly be helpful in terms of increasing job prospects and advancement opportunities. It can also provide firefighters with a more well-rounded education and a deeper understanding of the principles and practices of firefighting and emergency management.

If you’re considering a career in firefighting, it’s worth considering whether a college degree might be a good option.