How To Become A Firefighter In Wisconsin

When it comes to learning how to become a firefighter in Wisconsin, there are two possible routes that most people will take. Some will want to work in the rural, agricultural areas of their homes to protect their own communities.

Others will want to head into Milwaukee or other big cities for a more varied career. Whichever path you take, you need the right approach. So, how can you become a firefighter in Wisconsin?

How to Become a Firefighter in Wisconsin

  • Must be 18 or older
  • A valid driver’s license and proof of residency
  • Physically fit
  • High school education or higher
  • Training now required at all levels

The minimum qualifications here are straight forward but the rules have become tighter for volunteer firefighters. In this guide, I want to talk more about that, the different responsibilities in the state, the training opportunities and some of the bigger departments.

Firefighting in Wisconsin

The first thing that I want to talk about is the new rule about OSHA standards in the state. Each state can decide whether or not to uphold these firefighting standards at a state level.

Those that don’t tend to do so to help volunteer firefighters stay in their roles without too much red tape. This was the case in Wisconsin for a long time. However, the state has recently changed this so that all fire departments must now meet the minimum training standard.

There are some mixed opinions on whether this will help or hinder the job prospects and the work rate of some of the fire departments in the state. There are some issues here with volunteer departments.

In the past, anyone could sign up and enjoy quite a flexible working environment. They could learn at their pace and not have to worry about meeting standards in the same way as those in other states.

This meant that small rural departments could attract more people and concentrate on providing a great service. The fear is that this new rule will put off those that have other commitments and can’t learn as quickly or have access to training.

So, if you do want to be a firefighter here, you have to make sure you have the time to dedicate to your studies to make the grade. The plus side is that all departments should now be sure to provide the very best service they can to their residents.

This lack of clear regulations has led to a focus on the character of firefighters as desirable qualities.

Until now, the requirements to become a volunteer firefighter in Wisconsin were a little more relaxed and based more on the person than their skills.

A good example of this comes from the requirements in Madison. Here they talk about a recruit’s abilities to work within a team with good communication skills, integrity, problem-solving skills and compassion towards others.

Crew members need to be motivated to serve as well as to learn and keep up with their responsibilities. This also means a drive to stick with a good physical training regime. Overall, a good moral character and strong work ethic are the most essential traits. Skills with apparatus and firefighting strategies can be learned – personality traits can’t.

Wisconsin does have a good reputation when it comes to the diversity of its firefighters.

Fire Academies in Wisconsin

Whoever you are, it is clear that all Wisconsin firefighters now need the best possible training to succeed in this state. There are two different routes that you can take here.

You could train with a fire department training division on the job or you can get an education in a fire academy at one of the many technical colleges in the state.

The first program that I want to highlight here is the one at the Oshkosh campus of the University of Wisconsin. This institution is unique because it offers subjects and degree options that you won’t get in most smaller colleges.

There are two programs here: FERM and FEAM. FERM is their fire and emergency response program and FEAM is their fire and emergency administration and management program.

The latter is the only one in the state and is a four-year bachelor’s degree course. The aim to provide skills with the qualifications to move into those administration and management roles in the fire service.

Students here could be the future leaders of the state fire service shaping its approaches for years to come. Learn more here.

Another choice for new students is to take the shorter route to success and try a two-year associate degree course.

These programs offer enough certification to get students into the fire service with a well-rounded education. There is also the chance to transfer credits onto a longer degree course.

This Fire Protection Technician program looks at the behavior and suppression of fire and how to protect citizens in different situations. A perk of learning here is the range of on-site training facilities for hands-on experience. You can find out more about the campus and program here.

Major Fire Departments in Wisconsin

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

How to Become a Milwaukee, WI Firefighter

  • Must be 18 or older
  • A valid driver’s license and proof of residency
  • Physically fit
  • High school education or higher
  • Training now required at all levels

We have to start with Milwaukee because it is the largest city in the state. There are 1000 crew members here that work out of 30 stations across the city and surrounding area.

The majority of crew members are paramedics too so EMT and paramedic training is essential here. The department has a range of divisions to help it deal with all of the different needs of the city. This includes 14 paramedic units, heavy rescue teams and a trident fireboat.

Another benefit of working for the fire service in Milwaukee is that they have their own Fire Cadet program to catch the best recruits while they are young. The program is designed to teach teenagers what it takes to work as a firefighter in the city.

It is hard work and the instructors don’t go easy on them because it is essential that they understand the different roles and responsibilities early on. The course takes 100 weeks and includes college-level classes and assignments.

They also have to work a 40-hour week for hands-on experience. By the end, candidates should be able to take their Firefighter 1 certificate exam and have extensive knowledge about the profession.

Many will take this forward onto their careers once they are old enough to join. You can learn more about this program here.

How to Become a Madison, WI Firefighter

  • Must be 18 or older
  • A valid driver’s license and proof of residency
  • Physically fit
  • High school education or higher
  • Training now required at all levels

Finally, after singing the praises of Madison so much before, I want to talk about their department and its facilities.

There are 14 stations here that house 420 crew members and deal with around 30,000 calls per year. They offer services in fire suppression, prevention, EMS and rescue for the local population, tourists and all the university students in the area. You can find out more about their opportunities here.

Job Prospects for Firefighters in Wisconsin

As of 2018, Wisconsin has the third-highest concentration of jobs and location quotients. A quotient of 1.49 and 3.32 jobs per 1000 people.

Looking at high employment rates by metropolitan area, the Chicago-Naperville-Elgin area of Illinois, Indiana and Wisconsin was the largest with 13,090 staff and 2.82 jobs per 1000 people.

By non-metropolitan area, South Central Wisconsin was 2nd highest with 1,120 and 5.34 per 1000 jobs. The Northeastern area wasn’t far behind at 1010 jobs and 4.99 per 1000 jobs.

In 2018, the state employed 9,450 firefighters with an annual mean wage of $40,310. At the moment, the average pay in Milwaukee is a little higher at $44,490, with regular yearly rises up to $74,045.

There are pros and cons to keep in mind when learning how to become a firefighter in Wisconsin. There are a lot of opportunities for people of different minorities and age groups to learn about the profession and join a department.

But, the regulations are getting tighter and preparing for all the tests and firefighter interviews is more essential than ever for the best possible chance at getting hired.

Make sure that you are committed to this journey and work hard for your community. If you do that, you can enjoy a fulfilling career as a firefighter in Wisconsin.