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5 ways the GI Bill can help you earn a job as a firefighter

Armed with your education benefit, you can help make yourself more attractive to local fire departments


Army Pvt. 1st Class Lucas Ternell puts out a small debris fire in a yard in Salisbury, Md.

Photo/Wikimedia Commons

After leaving the military, it can be hard to find a job that offers the same level of camaraderie that the armed services provide, as well as one that contributes to society in a meaningful way and provides a distinct sense of purpose. However, becoming a firefighter checks all of those boxes.

The process to becoming a firefighter is more drawn out than traditional jobs, and is also highly competitive. Being a military veteran offers an advantage, but there are other ways you can increase your chances of earning a spot in a department.

Using the G.I. Bill education benefit, there are several classes you can take and certifications you can earn that will make you an attractive candidate to many city departments.

1. Fire technology classes

While most new recruits are put through classes during the fire academy to learn the basics of fire behavior, building structure and other important topics, it’s miniscule compared to the ample amounts of information available to be learned.

Though not typically required by fire departments for employment, an applicant that is able to list completed advanced fire technology classes on their resume is one that will often get a second look.

The G.I. Bill will pay for courses as part of a degree program, or as part of continuing education courses. Contact your local community college for information on classes that can help you in your quest to become a firefighter.

2. Foreign language classes

Another not-required-but-highly-valued trait of a firefighter applicant is the ability to speak more than one language. The increase of large populations of non-English speaking communities in the United States drives the need for bilingual firefighters to bridge language barriers when responding to a call.

Some fire departments even offer a pay increase to those employees who can demonstrate fluency in certain languages. Yet, even without the possibility of a pay bump, the skill will set you apart from other applicants.

You can begin taking foreign language classes at your local community college, paid for with your military education benefit.

3. Basic EMT certification

Just like traditional college courses, the G.I. Bill can be used towards non-vocational training and certificates, like Emergency Medical Technician certification.

Most fire departments are looking for trained paramedics to join their department, which requires a minimum of an EMT-B certification. Using the G.I. Bill, military veterans can get this basic level of EMT training paid for before moving on to a paramedic program.

Under the Post-9/11 G.I. Bill, veterans can receive the full amount of tuition for a non-degree program at a public institution up to the national maximum, as well as housing allowance and textbook stipend.

4. Paramedic programs

Similar to basic EMT programs, the G.I. Bill will pay for a paramedic program, depending on the type of program and type of G.I. Bill being used. Under the Post-9/11 G.I. Bill, military veterans can have their tuition from a public university paid in full, as well as receive a housing allowance and textbook stipend.

5. Earning your degree

Though not required or necessary to apply for an opening as a firefighter, in competitive markets, it may not hurt to earn your degree in a fire-related area, such as fire protection administration or arson and explosion investigation. A degree in these areas can also open up paths for other career fields, such as an arson investigator, or a building inspector.

The G.I. Bill can be used for certifications, continuing education courses and traditional degrees, all of which can aid military veterans on their journey to becoming a firefighter. While you can’t guarantee that taking classes or earning a certification will grant you a spot in a fire department, you can make yourself the most attractive candidate in the pile of applications.

Rachel Engel is an award-winning journalist and the senior editor of and In addition to her regular editing duties, Engel seeks to tell the heroic, human stories of first responders and the importance of their work. She earned her bachelor’s degree in communications from Cameron University in Lawton, Oklahoma, and began her career as a freelance writer, focusing on government and military issues. Engel joined Lexipol in 2015 and has since reported on issues related to public safety. Engel lives in Wichita, Kansas. She can be reached via email.