How To Become A Firefighter In Maryland

If you’re wondering how to become a firefighter in Maryland, you can’t assume that every department is the same – or every day on the job for that matter.

Maryland is an interesting state with lots of different vocations, attractions and needs.  Life as a firefighter in Maryland is diverse with lots of interesting calls to handle.

The best firefighters here are the ones that will put themselves through the all the right training to best serve their community. So, how can you become one of these dedicated Maryland firefighters?

How to Become a Firefighter in Maryland

  • 18 years old or older
  • A valid state driver’s license and residency
  • High school diploma or GED
  • Commitment to continue your education
  • Good character is essential

There aren’t too many major hurdles facing firefighters that want to get onto a Maryland department at entry levels. If you have the right education, character and proof of your age and residency, you are then on the first step towards your new career.

In this guide, I want to tell you a little more about some of the different roles in Maryland and the training that you will need to succeed. I will also talk about some of the different departments and their expectations.

Firefighting in Maryland

One of the interesting things about Maryland is that there are 5 very distinct geographical areas in the state with clear boundaries and features.

Those that live and work in the Western area around the Appalachian Mountains will have different challenges to deal with as a firefighter than those in the Capital region or the Eastern Shore. I want to take a moment to discuss these three and what you can expect as a firefighter there.

The Western Region:

The Western area by the mountains is much more rural and sparsely populated. Here local fire-departments and volunteer services need to use their skills to reach those in need and manage the landscape.

This could mean providing medical aid for hikers and campers in the wilderness, dealing with forest fires or simply helping with domestic fires and outreach programs in smaller communities. Specialist wildland fire training and rope rescue courses may help.

The Capital Region:

The Capital area is much more densely populated as the majority of the state population resides around Baltimore and Washington DC. This brings different risks with fires in larger buildings with large groups of people in need of help.

Firefighters need to be skilled in extraction strategies, dealing with structural issues and handling different materials. The major road networks also bring the risk of major traffic accidents and other calls for EMT services.

I will talk more about Baltimore and its department below. Advanced courses in hazardous materials and structural issues are a must.

The Eastern Shore:

Then there is the Eastern Shore with a vast coastline along the Chesapeake estuary. This brings different challenges with coastal communities that may be at risk from the weather, high tides and other maritime issues.

Firefighters here should be prepared to handle fires situated on boats and in ports, providing flood relief, dealing with hazardous spills and providing water rescue. The water around Maryland may be its biggest asset.

There is a lot of money in the fishing industry, the port and in tourism on the shores. Ocean City is a popular destination, as a smaller coastal town.

Therefore, fire crews in these areas also need to prepare for an influx of visitors that may not be so savvy about water safety.

Volunteer Firefighting in Maryland

Becoming a volunteer firefighter is a great way to get your foot in the door in Maryland. Local fire departments in smaller communities will always be grateful for help to handle calls and community services.

Your experience here and the on-the-job training will give you a good idea of what it takes to be a career firefighter. You can then train to get your Firefighter 1 and 2 certifications to hopefully get a paying role somewhere else.

The expectations in the Maryland volunteer departments are all about your character as a service member. They talk about the need to be a team player that will commit to the work and provide a competent service on every call.

They also would rather see people with compassion, integrity and honesty than those with lots of qualifications but no community spirit. They know that the skills and knowledge can be taught – and they do so free of charge to get everyone on the same page.

They use training guides in collaboration with the University of Maryland for the best education possible. You can find out more here.

Fire Academies in Maryland

There are two routes that you can take when training to become a firefighter in Maryland. The first is to take the academic route. Some colleges and universities in the state offer Fire Science courses that provide college credits in key subjects.

A one-year certificate is often enough on its own to get you into your Firefighter I exam. A longer associate degree opens the doors to even more opportunities. The alternative is to go to an official fire academy as a recruit through a fire department.

Montgomery College has long been a popular choice for an academic approach to education. They have a Fire Science program that teaches the basics of fire management, behavior, prevention and suppression in a classroom setting.

Once completed, the credits can then transfer to another degree course, if desired, at the University of Maryland.

A full degree course can help those with aspirations for leadership roles and more specialized positions in departments. More information is available here.

The Maryland Fire Service Institute:

We also can’t overlook the impact of this institute of fire service training. The center has trained firefighters in the state for more than 80 years and now has more than 400 instructors.

It is all about providing firefighters with the expert knowledge needed to handle the situations they are sure to face. That is why the catalog of courses here is so varied. You can find out more about the opportunities here by clicking this link.

Major Fire Departments in Maryland

The following is a list of major fire departments in Maryland.  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 Maryland.

How to Become a Baltimore, MD Firefighter

  • 18 years old or older
  • A valid state driver’s license and residency
  • High school diploma or GED
  • Commitment to continue your education
  • Good character is essential

Obviously, we need to talk about Baltimore as it is the largest city in this state and the site of the most calls. There are around 635,000 residents in Baltimore over a total of 81 square miles.

In one year, the department can handle approximately 270,000 emergencies. This is significant compared to other places in the state. There is always the risk of a house fire, medical emergency, vehicle incident or other disasters here.

Firefighters need to be vigilant and keep up with their ongoing training in more specialized areas. That is why it is so helpful that in addition to their 38 stations, Baltimore is also home to The Frank J. Trenner Fire Training Academy and a Public Safety Academy. Find out more here.

How to Become an Ocean City, MD Firefighter

  • 18 years old or older
  • A valid state driver’s license and residency
  • High school diploma or GED
  • Commitment to continue your education
  • Good character is essential

Another department of interest in this coastal state is Ocean City. It may be smaller than Baltimore, but it still has a lot of responsibilities. They are a combination department with around 200 volunteers and 100 career personnel.

They only respond to around 6,000 calls each year and while this seems really small, we have to factor in the seasonal nature of the department. They can get very quiet in winter and very busy in summer. That is because the jurisdiction covers around 10.5 miles of beach in West Ocean City.

So, trainees here need to be prepared for this shift in their workload and the challenges of water rescue, increased medical emergencies and more. You can learn more here.

Job Prospects for Firefighters in Maryland

Maryland firefighters can make a pretty good living because the average wage here is higher than that of neighboring states.

The mean annual salary for firefighters in Maryland is $61,780.

This is above average for the country and higher than neighboring states. Pennsylvania firefighters made around $56,090 on average while West Virginian firefighters made $36,820.

If you’ve been wondering how to become a firefighter in Maryland, just know it is not for the faint-hearted. It is easy to paint a gentle picture of small coastal towns with friendly little volunteer fire departments.

However, those small departments see their fair share of tragedies through many different calls. They all help new volunteers learn lots of skills to become a career firefighter in bigger towns.

If you train hard and show the right attitude, you can look forward to a long and varied career in the Maryland fire service.