Firefighters are responsible for fighting fires, responding to emergencies and educating the public. It's a great career for anyone looking for an adventurous, interesting job focused squarely on helping people.


Although you might not realize it, firefighters do more than just fight fires and rescue victims from burning buildings. They also respond to emergencies such as traffic accidents, treat sick or injured people, maintain firefighting and safety equipment, and educate the public about fire safety.

Standards vary by state, but becoming a firefighter typically requires being at least 18 years of age and holding an emergency medical technician (EMT) certification, with a bachelor's degree in fire science, public administration, or a related field sometimes helping lead to a promotion. Important qualities for firefighters to have, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports, are communication skills, courage, decision-making skills, physical stamina and physical strength.

Online schools for law enforcement may be able to provide those skills and qualifications, getting you one step closer to a rewarding firefighting career, but be sure to check with the fire department in your state to find out about any additional training or certification you may need.

How Much do Firefighters Make?

According to the BLS, as of May 2013, the average annual wage of firefighters in America was $48,270, with the lowest-paid 10 percent earning an annual wage of $21,960 or less, and the highest-paid 10 percent making at least $80,430 per year.

You might not realize it, but firefighters can work in a variety of different industries, and these jobs come with varying salary ranges as well. The top-paying industries for firefighters in America, as of May 2013, were:

  • Scientific research and development services: $70,900 average annual wage
  • Architectural, engineering and related services: $58,680 average annual wage
  • Investigation and security services: $56,540 average annual wage

Does Location Matter?

In addition, location matters when it comes to salary, with certain parts of the country paying significantly higher wages than others. The states with the highest pay for firefighters in May 2013, per the BLS, include:

  • New Jersey: $75,130 average annual wage
  • New York $72,480 average annual wage
  • California: $71,630 average annual wage

The highest paying metro areas for these law enforcement professionals were all in the San Francisco Bay Area, with average salaries in San Francisco and nearby cities topping out at more then $90,000 per year. However, this region is among the most expensive in the country from a cost of living perspective, which can cancel out the higher salary in some cases. It may be worth looking into jobs in areas such as Tacoma, Washington, and Miami, both of which have average annual salaries of more than $76,000 and have a lower cost of living.

Firefighter State Employment

To gauge where employment will rise the most for firefighters, it's possible to look at both growth projections from state labor data and which cities had the most firefighters employed (and thus are likely to continue the trend). Projections Central reports that between 2012 and 2022, the U.S. states with the highest projected growth for firefighters include:

  • Kentucky: 31% growth (1,080 new jobs)
  • Texas: 18.4% growth (4,770 new jobs)
  • Utah: 17.7% growth (560 new jobs)

And the metropolitan areas in America with the highest employment level of firefighters, as of May 2013, were:

  • Chicago-Joliet-Naperville, IL metropolitan division
  • New York-White Plains-Wayne, NY-NJ metropolitan division
  • Los Angeles-Long Beach-Glendale, CA metropolitan division

Researching a firefighter education online may be the first step to joining this fulfilling, sustainable career.

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1.Long Term Occupational Projections for Firefighters, Projections Central, https://www.projectionscentral.com/Projections/LongTerm
2. Occupational Employment and Wages, May 2013: Firefighters, Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, April 1, 2014, http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes332011.htm
3. Firefighters, "Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014-15 Edition," Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Jan. 8, 2014, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/protective-service/firefighters.htm