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Career Opportunities in the Fire Sprinkler Industry
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The fire sprinkler industry is a specific section of the construction industry which provides built-in automatic fire protection for buildings. All types of buildings, structures, and occupancies, from homes and high-rises to shopping malls and factories, are protected.

Opportunities exist now in the fire sprinkler industry, offering careers of importance and value to your community, as well as to your own growth and future. This pamphlet will answer some of the questions you may have about this exciting industry.

What are fire sprinkler systems?

Individual fire sprinklers are spaced throughout the ceiling of a building. The sprinklers are integrated with a network of piping and connected to a water supply. Heat from any unwanted fire activates one or more sprinklers in the immediate vicinity of the fire, permitting water to flow which extinguishes or controls the fire.

What are the career opportunities?

The fire sprinkler industry is one of the fastest growing segments of the construction industry in the United States. This $3 billion industry more than doubled in size between 1982 and 1990, and is expected to continue this phenomenal rate of growth. Model building codes require a large percentage of new buildings to be protected with fire sprinklers, and thousands of existing buildings are also being retrofitted with sprinklers every year.

Because of this growth, the industry offers many rewarding career opportunities. An excellent place to start is an engineering technician who prepares working drawings for fire sprinkler installation. As you gain skill and experience, opportunities for career enrichment include positions in estimating, sales, purchasing, finance, marketing, and middle and upper management.

You can be a valuable human resource to your employer, who will help you establish a clearly defined career path based on your strengths and abilities.

What does the engineering technician do?

The engineering technician employed in the fire sprinkler industry generally works for a fire sprinkler contracting firm. These firms vary in size from small companies with only a few technicians to a few large nationwide companies such companies each employing over a hundred technicians. Across the country there is an urgent need to fill hundreds of training positions for engineering technicians.

The technician works primarily in an office environment, but is also involved in building site visits and surveys. He or she works with building plans prepared by architects and engineers, and prepares detailed working drawings to indicate how sprinklers and piping should be placed within a building in conformance with specifications prepared by design professionals. The layout and detailing of sprinkler plans must be performed within guidelines established through national consensus standards and codes. He or she must also deal with the supplemental requirements of insurance authorities, fire authorities, building codes, and water departments. As such, the technician is a vital part of the fire protection contracting team.

Today's engineering technician utilizes computers to hydraulically calculate pressure losses through system piping and valves. There is also a trend toward the use of complete Computer Aided Design (CAD). Senior level technicians may also become involved in project management which requires temporary establishment of a field office.

What does it take to become an engineering technician?

While there are no formal education requirements for a fire protection engineering technician, a high school diploma is considered the minimum qualification for entry level positions. Many individuals enter the industry after receiving a two-year Associate degree in fire science or mechanical engineering technology, or after completing vocational school training in drafting. Work experience gained from related mechanical construction applications is considered when applicable.


The qualities which help an individual succeed in this career path are:

1. An aptitude in math and spatial relationships;
2. Basic drawing or drafting skills;
3. Attention to detail and ability to learn computer skills;
4. Mechanical aptitudes;
5. And, perhaps most important, the ability to clearly communicate both verbally and in writing.

What type of certification is available for the sprinkler technician?

In 1980, the National Fire Sprinkler Association, Inc., a non-profit trade association representing all segments of the fire sprinkler industry, established a nationwide program for certification of fire protection engineering technicians. This program is administered by the National Institute for Certification in Engineering Technologies (NICET), and is sponsored by the National Society of Professional Engineers.

The program recognizes four levels of competence for the technician involved in sprinkler layout and detailing:

LEVEL I - Student (Entry Level) Technician
LEVEL II - Associate Engineering Technician
LEVEL III - Certified Engineering Technician
LEVEL IV - Senior Engineering Technician


A Level III Certified Engineering Technician is an individual with a broad understanding of industry technical requirements and practices, and with at least five years experience.

A certified fire protection engineering technician is widely respected for his or her demonstrated competence and ability. A number of municipalities require that sprinkler plans be prepared by a Certified Engineering Technician competent in fire sprinkler system layout and detailing. More than a dozen states now have fire sprinkler contractor licensing laws which require contractors to employ certified technicians.

What are the benefits?

While salary levels vary in different parts of the country, individuals who have achieved recognition as Certified Engineering Technicians in the fire sprinkler field generally earn $30,000 to $50,000 per year and typically receive a generous package of employee benefits. Entry level salaries are naturally lower, with pay commensurate to the level of training and competence. Senior technicians and those who have moved into estimating, sales, and other management positions can earn considerably more.

Fire causes death and destruction, and the installation of a fire sprinkler system provides for the protection of both life and property. Therefore, one of the most satisfying benefits of a career in the fire sprinkler industry is the opportunity to assist in saving lives and property from the ravages of fire.

How do I get started?

While an increasing number of community colleges and four-year universities offer specialized training for fire sprinkler engineering technicians, most technicians first enter the industry through employment with a fire sprinkler contracting firm. See your guidance counselor or contact the source below for additional information.

Helpful Links:

NICET
THE ACADEMY OF FIRE SPRINKLER TECHNOLOGY



      

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