Career Tips

What is the life of a firefighter like & what skills are needed to become one?

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There is no doubt that the life of a firefighter defines public service. Firefighters are the first to respond to dangerous situations like fires and vehicle wrecks. Their training provides crucial care in a stressful, often life-threatening environment.

If you enroll in an online safety degree program at an accredited university, you will likely learn how to keep people safe from fires, disasters, and public threats. This article will help you understand how a Master of Public Safety can expand your responsibilities and career opportunities.

What a firefighter does

When you become a firefighter, you can expect to protect people from fires and educate the public on fire safety. A trained firefighter is your best ally when your home or business catches fire, and the smoke and disorientation can keep you from getting out of the building safely. That is why firefighters are essential first-line workers who are trained to remove you to safety outside.

Wildfires are particularly prevalent in certain areas of the United States and Canada, with over 4 million acres burning in California in 2020 alone. Here are some additional facts about firefighting:

  • Firefighters are the first people to rush to a fire.
  • They teach people how to prevent fires in the home with practical safety measures.
  • Firefighters often travel to schools and libraries to teach about fire safety.

Requirements to become a firefighter

Firefighters are essential workers who put their lives on the line daily to protect and save people. While various fire departments have their own requirements, the general prerequisites to becoming a firefighter can encompass the following:

  • A firefighter needs to have a high school diploma.
  • An additional requirement can be the completion of fire science, fire protection technology, or another fire-related college degree.
  • Completion of emergency medical care or fire training courses is a plus.
  • You must pass the physical fitness, ability, vision, and strength tests.
  • To become an officer, you must have multiple years of experience to qualify for a promotion.

The life of a firefighter

Many times, becoming a firefighter is a family tradition. Sons and daughters can follow in a parent’s footsteps and become firefighters because they are passionate about helping and protecting people. While you could experience a stressful shift, the following days off can help this career choice to keep a good work-life balance.

The life of a firefighter looks like this:

  • You work a 24-hour shift and then have 48 hours off.
  • The fire shift starts at 7 or 8 am and ends the next day.
  • You should check the fire gear, apparatus, and trucks first thing on shift.
  • Some fire departments require an hour of physical fitness and training daily.
  • The firefighters might hear a lecture or participate in training exercises.
  • You will spend time inspecting fire hydrants and talking to school groups about fire safety.
  • You will likely respond to one or more of the following in a 24-hour shift:
    • A vehicle accident
    • Medical first response calls
    • A house fire
  • Many firefighters are trained basic emergency technicians.
  • Almost half of the firefighters will have paramedic certification.

How to earn a Master of Public Safety Degree

The innovative online Master of Public Safety degree is aimed at keeping citizens safe from terrorism, natural disasters, and crime. Courses like the online safety degree programs offered at Wilfrid Laurier University provide a tailored course to prepare students for a career in public safety leadership.

You can complete a Master of Public Safety degree in 30 part-time months. The program is entirely online and can be completed in a flexible period. The program features are:

  • You complete the online public management safety training in line with Canada’s four pillars of public safety.
  • You can choose one of four concentrations:
    • National Security
    • Border Strategies
    • Emergency Management
    • Countering Crime
  • The program consists of four credits comprised of eight classes.
    • Six courses focus on leadership skill development
    • Four courses in your selected pathway
  • Each course lasts six weeks, so you can finish full-time or part-time, depending on your schedule.

Enrolling in the Master of Public Safety Degree

To earn a master’s degree in any field, you must already hold an undergraduate degree. If you meet the undergraduate degree requirements, you can apply if you meet the following criteria:

  • You held a “B” average in your last five full credits of undergraduate work.
  • You should submit all transcripts from college work.
  • Write a statement of intent to the program.
  • Submit a professional resume.
  • Submit two letters of reference to the program.

Paying for your online degree

Financing your education is a genuine concern. However, there are multiple ways to pay for a degree that can open so many career possibilities. A university can help you secure grants you do not have to repay from the government, the university, and private organizations.

There are merit scholarships available that can help with various amounts. Many employers will reimburse all or part of the tuition cost for a master’s degree. At times, you can also opt to study part time and balance your studies with working to help reduce some of the costs of your course.

Careers for a Master of Public Safety Degree graduate

If protecting people, countering crime, and fighting fires incite your passion, this innovative degree can help you achieve your chosen career path. Consider the ways you can put your knowledge into action.

Battalion Chief and Assistant Chief Firefighter

As a firefighter, you need an undergraduate degree to advance into most cities’ leadership positions. Having the Master of Public Safety can give you a decisive advantage over others in your unit since you have specialized training in diverse situations that require fast thinking and expanded knowledge. Here are some positions you can achieve with this degree.

The battalion assistant chief is the person second-in-command to the battalion chief. This is an essential position as you are responsible for the daily supervision of staff officers and administrative support staff. You will have tremendous influence over the department’s policies and operations. In addition, you can expect to be responsible for the following duties:

  • You review and monitor the daily activities of the battalion.
  • You assume full responsibility in the absence of the battalion chief.
  • You are the personnel officer for your battalion and work closely with human relations to ensure all regulations are being met.
  • You participate in hiring and scheduling personnel.
  • You will help set the department budget and expenses.

The battalion chief is the leader of the fire department. This position is the final stop before moving to broader leadership roles in the government. As battalion chief, you are responsible for the department’s day-to-day operations. The duties of this position are diverse, and you will oversee the firefighter, interns, recruits, administrative staff, and all others at the fire station. Other responsibilities include:

  • You participate in fire calls when needed.
  • You are part of the incident command team.
  • You supervise all employees.
  • You participate in labor negotiations and aid conflict resolution.
  • You are responsible for the department budget.
  • You create the short and long-term goals for the unit.

Fire Commissioner

The fire commissioner is in a critical position to oversee fire services in a specific district. A fire commissioner is responsible for the services provided, the district budget, and personnel. This can be an elected or appointed position. Among the fire commissioner’s responsibilities are:

  • You ensure the community is receiving proper fire services.
  • You oversee the fire equipment to make sure there is proper equipment at all stations.
  • You participate in suspicious fire incidents and aid investigations.
  • You provide fire safety inspections for businesses and other buildings.

Public Safety Canada

Working for public safety can be an exciting profession. You would help to build a resilient and safe country by protecting the people from threats like terrorism, crime, and national disasters. You can be part of program analysis and development in the areas of:

  • Strategic Planning
  • Countering Crime and Crime Research
  • Emergency Management
  • Law Enforcement
  • National Security
  • Cyber Security
  • Security Administration
  • Finance
  • Information Technology
  • Human Resources

Emergency Manager 

As an emergency manager, you would prepare plans for emergencies and disasters. You would also have the responsibility to oversee the projects during these events. You can find emergency managers in the following:

  • Hospitals
  • Private Companies
  • Universities and Colleges

The qualities of a successful emergency manager include substantive and technical knowledge, leadership skills, practical management skills, problem-solving skills, and cultural and environmental awareness.

Law Enforcement Officer

Your degree can open doors to being a law enforcement officer. As a law enforcement officer, you are responsible for enforcing the law, managing public safety, and keeping public order. In addition to these overarching responsibilities, you are also providing the following:

  • You will investigate crimes for details and motives.
  • You will apprehend criminals.

As you progress through the leadership positions within the police force, you can also aspire to serve in these roles:

  • Police detectives work on assigned cases to collect essential details for criminal activities.
  • Police corporals supervise personnel and act as watch commanders in police units.
  • Police sergeants apply standing rules to situations, train personnel, develop policies, and assist in disciplinary actions.
  • Police lieutenants are responsible for developing department training and acting as department ambassadors.
  • Police captains report directly to the police chief. They train personnel, develop department budgets, and enforce policies.
  • Deputy police chiefs stand in for the police chief when necessary and oversee all the operations of several police departments.
  • The chief of police is the top police authority. They work with other government officials to ensure that public policies are enforced and act as a spokesperson for the police department.

Border Officer

Border officers ensure that goods and people can move freely into the country. Your role is crucial to protecting and ensuring the country’s people are safe. Being a border officer requires analytical thinking, good judgment, and decisive action.

You should be ready to handle stressful and difficult situations with expertise and exhibit practical communication skills.

There are multiple locations around the country where you can work as a border officer, including:

  • International airports
  • Border crossings
  • Marine terminals
  • Postal facilities
  • Railway ports

Intelligence Analyst 

An intelligence analyst works to mitigate risks to the country. You could work on counterterrorism, organized crime, and other areas to identify and neutralize threats. Your job responsibilities would include the following:

  • You would identify and analyze threats worldwide as they potentially affect your country.
  • You would develop and manage relationships with the local law enforcement community.
  • You would apply your experience and knowledge of your location to prevent threats to the area.

You would potentially be involved in one or more of the intelligence analyst concentrations:

  • A reports officer collects raw data through multiple channels.
  • Threat analysis involves assessing potential threats to a specific location in real time.
  • Domain analysis brings all the raw data together into a cohesive whole.
  • Targeting analysis includes sharing pertinent information with those vulnerable to threats.
  • Collection management includes expanding the methods by which raw data is collected.

Crime Analyst

As modern intelligence methods expand, a crime analyst’s job can be essential for collecting data to prevent crime. The complex criminal environment means you must stay abreast of intelligence that can help police departments do their job better. Your duties would include the following:

  • You would support police detectives and officers on specific cases.
  • You would use data to find criminal patterns, trends, and hot spots.
  • You would use data to predict where crimes could occur.
  • You would use data from various sources to provide accurate and actionable intelligence to the police.

Final Word

You can see the fantastic value of attaining a Master of Public Safety degree and the types of career options it offers. It can help advance your career path by expanding your knowledge and opening previously closed doors.

Throughout your studies, the faculty comes alongside each student to ensure success. This master’s degree can help you become a respected colleague in your field. As the only degree of its kind, your achievement will stand out as you seek to expand your horizons.

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