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U.S. Department of the Interior - Office of Wildland Fire
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Wildland Fire Career Path



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What is the typical career path in wildland fire?

There is no standard way to advance in a wildland fire career, but there are a few common steps for those who want to progress in the field.

  • In the first four-to-eight years of their career, many firefighters work on wildland fire engines, handcrews, or in aviation or fuels. Progression from an entry-level firefighter to leadership responsibilities is possible during that time.  Those kinds of experiences provide a solid background in operations, which is needed to move into an entry-level management position.

  • During the next four-to-eight years, many wildland firefighters will continue to gain a diversity of experience, often by working in entry-level management jobs in suppression and fuels management.  Some of those positions require a college degree in specified fields. The combination of experience and education provide the necessary depth of knowledge needed to move into a mid-level management position, with responsibilities for the oversight of an entire fire program at a local level.  Often, these are the jobs that fire personnel choose to remain in for the rest of their careers.

  • The next level is for those who want to move into regional, state or national-level management and leadership positions.  Generally, you should have 15 to 20 years of varied experience to qualify for these positions. 
Please see the Fire Management Career Ladder which provides an overview of various jobs and a general range of years in a career in fire management.