Firefighter Salary: Requirements, Education, and More

For those with a passion to help others, to rush into a burning building when others are running away, and to be a first responder in times of need, then becoming a firefighter may be the perfect position. It takes a considerable amount of physical strength and endurance to become a firefighter. This isn't just a position that requires some medical training but also one that requires physical fitness.

Due to this, not everyone who wants to become a firefighter can do so. But for those who will put in the work to prepare their body and their mind for such a position, it is an in-demand position needed throughout the United States. A firefighter salary will vary, depending on where someone works and for how long they have worked, but this kind of position is more than just money.

It's the ability to give back to the community and keep others safe.

Becoming is a firefighter is difficult work, but it is rewarding. For those who are interested in such a position, the next step is to determine what is required of them and how they can prepare themselves to both become a firefighter and to thrive as one.

What is a Firefighter?

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Firefighters are first responders. These are individuals who are the first called onto a scene to assist. In the event of a property fire, they will first look to make sure everyone is safe and removed from the property. They will then look to prevent the spread of the fire. Once the firefighters have finished containing the fire, they can work to put the fire out.

The process will change depending on the fire, what caused it and what kind of location it is in. Firefighters dealing with forest fires will use different tactics from what city firefighters use.

Firefighters are more than just individuals who fight fires though. They are individuals who will provide first aid whenever necessary. With the medical training, they receive they can administer basic first aid services and work directly with EMTs.

Firefighters will also help secure the scene of an accident. If a situation arrises above ground level, the aid of a firetruck and its extendable ladder is available. Essentially, in the event of an emergency, they will often work alongside other first responders such as the local police department.

A firefighter spends part of his or her time in the fire station. As fires occur, day or night, firefighters will sleep, eat and live on the premises for several days at a time. The average shift length is usually two or three days, although this depends on the fire station, the local needs and the number of firefighters within the station.

Education & Certification

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To become a firefighter, an individual must have at least a high school diploma (or GED). Beyond this, it does not require a traditional education to work as a firefighter. However, there are other job requirements an individual must meet.

There is an educational path known as a firefighter education. This comes in the form of a certificate although there are degrees in fire science available. A fire science program dives into everything from investigation methods, how to control a fire and how to use firefighting equipment. These courses are widely available at community colleges and vocational schools.

Some four-year universities do provide these courses, although the fire science program is usually part of a larger first responder educational course.

To become a firefighter, an individual must undergo some medical training. This includes CPR, the handling of hazardous materials and first aid. Depending on the location, it may require them to serve as an EMT (or at the least, get an EMT-Basic certification). As a first responder, a firefighter needs to have general medical administering skills, which is why these elements are requirements.

There are programs known as firefighter apprenticeships. These are available through some vocational schools and often work directly with a local fire department. The apprenticeship programs last for around four years and will put an apprentice through extensive training. These are paid apprenticeships, and the students will not only train in becoming a firefighter, but they will also respond to calls to learn first hand.

While firefighter apprenticeships are not available everywhere, these are desirable options for anyone who knows they want to become a firefighter. The programs are available with those who meet the high school graduation/GED requirement and so, by the time they are finished with the four-year program, they are trained and ready to take on such a position.

Often the fire department will take on several of the apprenticeships upon completion of the program and make them full-time firefighters. If there is not an open position, they provide a recommendation to other departments. For first-time applicants, it shows on-the-job experience and training, which makes them desirable hires.

According to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, firefighters will see a job market growth of around five percent. This is in accordance with the entire job market, so it is remaining steady with that of market inflation. To make sure an interested individual can obtain an available position though (especially in a desired location), it is important to do whatever is possible to establish themselves above other applicants.

This is done not only through the firefighter apprenticeship programs, but by obtaining an associate's or bachelor degrees in fire science.

With this kind of education, it not only helps an applicant stand out, but it also will help when it comes to future promotions for higher positions within the city fire department. Those interested in not just working as a firefighter but potentially a shift leader or head of the city department, having an elevated degree in fire science is desirable. Obtaining such a degree can occur after becoming a firefighter.

This is beneficial for anyone who has already made their way into the professional but wants to improve their ability to advance within the industry.

Career Path

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A firefighter will start as a rookie firefighter. Every station is made up of a team, and individual firefighters will take on different roles. This varies on each location and the team, so a rookie will probably have different roles in the event of a fire. As the firefighter grows in experience, they can move up the ladder.

Eventually, they may move into more of a command role. They usually determine these kinds of roles based on experience and certifications. As with other positions, the longer an individual serves as a firefighter the higher their pay grade will rise.

Some individuals do not first begin as firefighters though. Many start their work off as EMTs. It requires much of the same medical training to become an EMT and a firefighter, so serving as an EMT becomes a stepping stone position before moving up. Depending on the location, serving as an EMT may be a requirement (although nurses have moved on to take on the role of fighting fires as well).

Having a bachelor's degree in fire science will help for future promotions.

Average Firefighter Salary

The average firefighter salary will depend on several variables. First, it depends on where an individual works. In larger cities where a firefighter is more likely to remain constantly busy, they will see an increase in their salary. More rural locations often see a lower salary although city and state officials determine the pay scale of a worker.

The average salary for a firefighter begins at around $46,000 annually. With more training and certifications a firefighter will increase their earning potential. Additionally, the longer an individual works as a firefighter, the more money they will take home.

Firefighters are employees of the city. Due to this, they receive city benefits. Public employees often have better benefits than most employees in the private sector. This will include health benefits, a retirement fund and other add-ons that go above and beyond just the salary.

Locations where city and wildfires are more likely to occur, firefighters will typically bring home a higher salary. For example, a firefighter salary in New York City is 70 percent more than the national firefighter salary average. However, firefighters in Columbia, South Carolina, make 38 percent under the national average.

Firefighter Salary - The Conclusion

Working as a firefighter is rewarding work. Most people aren't interested in the firefighter salary. This is a position individuals take up if they have a passion for the work and want to be there to help others.

Firefighters rush into burning buildings when there is someone in need and they are the first to arrive in a time of crisis. These are brave men and women who are willing to put their lives on the line in order to do the work they love and be there for those in the community.

The pay is adequate, and the position does come with desirable benefits, but this is a position that pays not only in cash and perks, but in the reward of knowing others in the community are still alive because of what a firefighter did.

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