Competition can be fierce to get hired as a rookie firefighter. You must meet physical requirements, hold a high school diploma or GED, pass a drug screening and a qualifying exam, before entering a firefighters' academy. Job growth is average in the field, and salary depends on seniority and rank.
Firefighters are public servants who risk their lives to help fight fires and handle other emergencies within a community. This career requires continuous training to ensure a person has the knowledge and safety skills necessary to do the job. Due to the nature of the work, this is a career that will always need skilled and qualified workers to carry out the essential job duties.
|Required Education||Postsecondary non-degree award|
|Other Requirements||Fire academy training|
|Projected Job Growth (2014-2024)*||5%|
|Median Salary (2016)*||$46,870|
Source:*U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the employment of firefighters was projected to grow about as fast as the average for all occupations between the years of 2014-2024, with a growth rate of five percent. This growth was due to population increases and the reduction of volunteer firefighter jobs, which were expected to be transitioned into permanent, full-time jobs.
Intense competition was expected for entry into firefighter careers, despite 17,400 new firefighter positions anticipated to open during the 2014-2024 decade. The strong pension plan that accompanies most fireman positions makes this career inviting. Local government fire departments employed the most firefighters as of 2015, according to the BLS. Others worked at state and federal fire departments or in private firefighting companies.
Firefighter candidates usually must be at least 18 years of age, in good physical shape and high school graduates. They must also usually pass a drug a screening and a written examination. Test scores on firefighting exams often play an important role in hiring decisions. Firemen usually need to remain physically fit and capable in order to sustain the job's high level of emotionally, mentally and physically demanding activity. Specific requirements usually vary by state and among each fire department.
Firefighters are typically the first responders to a fire. They must always be ready to jump into action despite the down periods in their jobs. In addition to attempting to put out fires, they might need to help treat victims and perform other vital life-saving or public functions. Some of the duties that a fireman might handle include providing safety to those involved in a fire, offering medical aid to the injured, protecting property that is on fire or near a property on fire, climbing ladders, carrying hoses and working in teams to perform specific job functions.
Career Advancement, Alternatives and Salary Information
According to the BLS, as of May 2015 firefighters earned an average annual salary of $46,870. States with the highest number of firefighters included California and Texas, with California paying considerably more than the national average. Other types of firefighters and fire experts also exist. Firemen can advance into the following careers and specializations:
- Fire inspector
- Fire investigator
- Forest fire inspector and prevention specialist
- Hazardous material worker
- Fire captain
- Fire chief
With advancement comes an increase in annual earnings. As of August 2016, PayScale.com reported that the median yearly wages for a fire chief were $71,805. Fire captain median earnings were $63,005 per year. Assistant fire chiefs made a median salary of $69,000 annually.
If you're physically fit, hold a high school diploma or its equivalent, score high on your department's firefighting exam and pass a drug screening test, you have a chance to qualify for a position as firefighter. With time on the job and further training, you may have the opportunity to move up in the command structure or even specialize as a specific type of fireman.