10 Steps to Becoming a Firefighter - For Military Service Members
FireLink and Military.com
Photo courtesy of the USAF.
Step 3: GI Bill, Education, and Certifications
For veterans looking to earn a degree or certification, the GI Bill covers tuition reimbursements for attendance at:
• Four Year Universities
• Community Colleges
• Advanced Degrees
Payment is based on the number of classes you attend:
• 12 hours or more – fulltime
• 9 – 11 hours – ¾ time
• 6 – 8 hours – ½ time
• less than 6 hours – reimbursed at a rate not to exceed the tuition & fees charged for the course(s).
For graduate level training, the training time is determined by the college – for example, if a 2 hour class is considered full time in a graduate program at your school, the VA will pay you the full time rate. For current payment rates see here.
The GI Bill will allow you to attend more than one college at a time, as long as the classes at both institutions count towards your degree, and the school granting your degree accepts the classes at the second school as part of your requirements. However, the GI Bill will not pay you to take the same classes twice unless you receive a failing grade in a class that is a graduation requirement.
The GI Bill can pay you for more than one degree, for example: it will pay you for a degree in Fire Science and then for a second degree in Computer Science, or for an AA, BA, MA in the same field. Once you have a degree, you could pursue another one provided you have remaining entitlement on your GI Bill.
Non-College Degree Training
The GI Bill is available for training at Non-College-Degree Institutions, examples of this type of training are diploma vocational schools such as EMT Certification
The monthly entitlement is based on the number of clock hours you attend training during each week of the month.
If you enroll in firefighter training while in the military, the training you get is the same across all services (Army, Marines, Air Force, Navy, and Coast Guard). You should receive your DOD (Department of Defense) IFSAC (International Fire Service Accreditation Council) certifications. These certifications apply nationally, however some states require that you be certified locally as well. You will also leave training with your Firefighter 2 and Hazardous Materials Operations Level.
Find out from whichever department you are applying to for a listing of their certification requirements. If you feel that any of your military experience may qualify you to test out of training, bring it up with the department. You may be able to successfully challenge the certifications, but don’t be surprised if you have to go through training again. Some systems are set in stone for both safety and liability, and it will show your dedication if you take the process in stride.
California Certifications DoD Admin Center, for example, accepts Firefighter I, Instructor I, and Fire Officer I. Anyone can challenge the HAZMAT Test (at any level) through the CERTEST Program provided they score at least 80% and have met the annual refresher training requirements.
A Note on Fire Science Degrees
One of the biggest points of concern for people applying to fire departments is whether or not to take the time to earn a degree in Fire Science. Earning a degree in Fire Science shows a strong commitment to the fire service. A degree shows that a candidate has the ability to set a goal and achieve it, a great quality for a firefighter. It also demonstrates that the candidate can read and write effectively. Departments are barraged these days with qualified candidates and a fire science degree plus military experience can be the added bonus that sets you apart.