How To Become A Firefighter In Iowa

Iowa lies in the heart of the Midwest and is full of great firefighters and departments; leading many to ask how to become a firefighter in Iowa.

Those that are proud to live here want nothing better than to work hard, serve their community well and provide for their families. Becoming a firefighter in Iowa is one of the most rewarding jobs you can get.

You get to protect the people, communities and places that you love through fire, rescue and emergency medical care. So, how can you become a firefighter in the state of Iowa and help your own community?

How to Become a Firefighter in Iowa

  • 18 years old or older
  • Resident of the state with US citizenship
  • A valid state driver’s license
  • High school diploma or GED
  • EMT training recommended

Be aware that some age restrictions do apply when applying for a role with an Iowa fire department. Some smaller departments and volunteer departments may be fine hiring those straight out of high school if candidates are able to train on the job and earn their certifications.

However, Des Moines is an example of a large city department that won’t take anyone under the age of 21.

Aside from this fact, there isn’t too much to worry about and most aspiring firefighters can work their way through the process with ease. Below, I will talk more about what to expect, the different responsibilities in Iowa, the training courses and some of the departments.

Firefighting in Iowa

The age limit of 21 is a stumbling block but that shouldn’t put you off from training and learning about the hiring process. It also gives you more time to train for the written test and CPAT. The latter can be grueling for those that aren’t used to heavy lifting and endurance events.

Read up on the specifics for your chosen department and get training. Also, prepare yourself for the fact that you are sure to undergo a series of screening processes and firefighter interviews.

Essentially, the panels and hiring officers in any Iowa fire department will want to make sure that you are the ideal candidate for the job. They also have a lot of other candidates to compare you with. This means going over your background, employment record and your criminal record for any red flags.

This can include incidents when you were a juvenile or any small-scale drug offense too. Make sure to stay away from illegal substances and keep a clean driver’s license.

The challenges faced by firefighters in Iowa will depend on their location. Most of those that wish to take on career roles within the fire service will do so in one of the major cities within the state. There are vast metropolitan areas and cities with a large number of commuters, residents and tourists on a daily basis.

Add in all the flights and cars traveling to the airports and on the highways and that’s a lot of potential accidents and medical emergencies.

The cities are also home to all the best universities in the state, which means an influx of students during the school year. Urban firefighters need the right skills in fire suppression, urban rescue and EMT training.

Then there are those that will stay out in the more rural parts of the state. Iowa has a lot of smaller communities in agricultural areas. The state has seen a boom in organic farming in recent years. But, that doesn’t mean that there aren’t dangerous materials and pieces of machinery here.

Dry summers can also cause fires in these areas. Therefore, volunteer firefighters in these areas need to be able to handle these incidents, provide fast relief to remote areas and have knowledge in wildfire management.

Training is essential throughout your career no matter where you are in Iowa. These different communities and landscape will always bring up new challenges that require new strategies.

A commitment to building knowledge and skills is essential if you are to be a strong team member here. The basics and some of the more specialist skills are all available in state-approved training courses.

Fire Academies in Iowa

There are many universities and colleges in the state of Iowa that will allow students to train in fire sciences. This is a great place to learn a little more about the world in your late teens before applying.

The list below covers some of the different fire academies and community colleges that have specialist departments in fire studies and training. There is also the opportunity to learn with a more vocational approach at the training bureau or via programs delivered at your local fire department.

Kaplan University, now known as Purdue, has a number of campuses across the Midwest that provide academic and vocational courses. One of these opportunities is their Fire Science Degree Program.

There are different options available depending on your career plan and the time you have to dedicate to your studies. There is a full bachelor’s degree in either fire science or fire and emergency management. This degree gives the broadest approach with some detailed, technical modules in later years relating to management and administration.

The Associate degree is more focused on entry-level positions and takes less time to complete. Those that do so could transfer credits if they choose to later on. Everything that you need to know about studying fire subjects with Purdue in Iowa can be found here.

The Fire Service Training Bureau in Ames takes a different approach to teach candidates the ropes. This is where you can come to get a more vocational education and hands-on training towards all your required certificates.

This is also a great place for firefighters to return to when they need to improve their skills and take on new roles. There are advanced courses for instructors and for specialist incidents, hazardous materials, arson investigation and more. You can learn more about the options and the facilities on-site by visiting this link.

Major Fire Departments in Iowa

The following is a list of major fire departments in Iowa.  While it isn’t comprehensive it’s a great place to start if you’re interested in learning more about how to become a firefighter in Iowa.

How to Become a Des Moines, IA Firefighter

  • 21 years old or older
  • Resident of the state with US citizenship
  • A valid state driver’s license
  • High school diploma or GED
  • EMT training recommended

Des Moines has 10 stations placed across the city to handle calls as they come in. The majority of calls here are for fire suppression and medical emergencies so it is vital that firefighters have the skills needed to provide the very best care possible.

Of the 295 people employed by the department at the moment, 192 are trained paramedics. All personnel are also trained to deal with hazardous materials and there is a technical rescue and water emergency team.

Aside from the age limit mentioned above, the hiring process and requirements in this city are pretty straight forward. You can learn more about the process here.

How to Become a Cedar Rapids, IA Firefighter

  • 18 years old or older
  • Resident of the state with US citizenship
  • A valid state driver’s license
  • High school diploma or GED
  • EMT training recommended

The city of Cedar Rapids has a lot of people to protect within its jurisdiction. There are around 128,000 residents here that could rely on the fire service in medical incidents, fires, vehicular accidents and more.

This means that they need a strong, well-trained department that can respond from all of the cities stations. There are special operations divisions in the city that are ready to handle hazardous material, urban search and rescue and other dangerous calls.

Crew members also receive training on confined space rescue, high angle rope access and ice rescue. An interesting requirement here is that while you can earn your Firefighter 1 certificate as a recruit, you must have your EMT certificate before you join. You can find out more here.

Job Prospects for Firefighters in Iowa

The stats for Iowa in 2018 are about as average as you can get. There were 1,630 firefighters employed at a rate of 1.06 per 1000 jobs.

The annual mean wage for firefighters in Iowa is $43,970.

This means lower rates and pay than Eastern neighbors like Wisconsin and Illinois, but it was pretty much on par with Nebraska.

The area of Des Moines- West Des Moines was the highest employer by far for areas entirely in the state with 510 personnel. The split region of Omaha-Council Bluffs on the Nebraska border was a much higher payer at $48,940 per year.

If you’re interested in how to become a firefighter in Iowa, you may need to wait a little longer than usual due to the occasional age restriction. However, this can be a blessing for some applicants.

Those three years are a great time to grow as an adult, continue your education and ensure that you will pass the hiring process with flying colors. The better your preparation in this period, the better your prospects in career roles in the best fire departments in Iowa.

The hard work pays off when you get to provide such essential care and support to all those that need it the most. Stay motivated and you will get there.