What Skills Are Required to Be a Firefighter?

by Dennis Hartman; Updated September 26, 2017
Firefighters need to know how to use their equipment safely and effectively.

Firefighters take on significant responsibilities when they choose their profession, putting themselves in the path of danger and taking calculated risks to keep others safe. While firefighters receive extensive training as new recruits, they need to develop or already posses certain skills to perform their jobs safely and effectively.

Safety Knowledge

One of a firefighter's most important skills involves knowledge of safety procedures and techniques. This includes effective communication skills that allow a firefighter to communicate with colleagues, other emergency responders and victims at the scene of an accident. Attention to detail is another skill firefighters use to survey scenes and identify dangers before proceeding. Firefighters also need to learn the safe, approved procedures for a number of emergency scenarios, such as entering a burning building or extracting a victim from a crashed car.

First Aid Skills

The majority of a firefighter's emergency responses don't actually involve fires. Instead, firefighters respond to a number of scenarios, including car accidents, medical emergencies, natural disasters and even false alarms. One thing these scenarios have in common is the possibility that someone will need immediate medical attention. Firefighters need expert knowledge of first aid techniques, including CPR, basic assessment and victim stabilization.

Physical Abilities

Firefighting is physically demanding work with irregular hours and intense physical strain. A firefighter needs to pass a medical and physical exam in order to prove the ability to perform under pressure. Firefighters must be strong enough to carry heavy gear or remove victims and agile enough to maneuver in an enclosed space. Firefighters can use special training regimens and physical techniques to get the most out of any body type, but regardless of natural physical attributes, a firefighter needs the physical skills the job demands.

Knowledge of Equipment

Firefighters can't solve most problems with their bare hands, which is where skillful use of specialized equipment comes into play. A firefighter must be able to operate hand tools, such as an axe, saw and high-pressure hose, as well as more complex machinery and gear. Fire engines take much more skill to drive than a conventional automobile. Safety training and equipment training often go hand-in-hand so that firefighters can demonstrate an ability to use tools effectively and safely.

2016 Salary Information for Firefighters

Firefighters earned a median annual salary of $48,030 in 2016, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. On the low end, firefighters earned a 25th percentile salary of $32,670, meaning 75 percent earned more than this amount. The 75th percentile salary is $64,870, meaning 25 percent earn more. In 2016, 327,300 people were employed in the U.S. as firefighters.

Photo Credits

  • Firefighter turnout gear in night hitch image by mcsgraphic from Fotolia.com