September 22, 2021

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Firefighter Job Description, Salary, and Education

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Firefighter Job Description

Salary: $32,000 – $59,900Number of Jobs: 310,370
Hourly Rate: $15.38 – $28.80Employment Outlook: Good
Green Job: NoEducation: Long-term on-the-job training

What do Firefighters do?

Firefighters are trained to extinguish and control fires in response to situations where property, life, or the environment is in danger.

At the scene of an emergency, firefighters perform tasks assigned by their commanding officer. Depending on the situation, they may need to provide medical attention, break through debris, operate fire hoses, or enter a burning building.

You might not realize it, but firefighters respond to more medical emergencies than fire emergencies. They are often first responders to car accidents, heart attack scenes, and other medical emergencies that don’t involve fire.

Because they are able to respond to so many different types of situations, firefighters have to go through many types of training, and becoming a truly good firefighter takes many years of dedication and practice.

Work Environment and Schedule

When not responding to an emergency situation, firefighters spend their time in a firehouse. These are normally fairly comfortable, and include beds, a kitchen, a commons area, and just about everything needed to live comfortably for a short amount of time.

When responding to an emergency, this can be a very dangerous occupation. Fire is not easy to predict or control, and firefighters put their lives on the line every time that they attempt to do so. Collapsing floors, walls, and becoming overexposed to flames and smoke are just a few of the hazards that firefighters face.

Because they deal with a lot of personal loss, being a firefighter can be an emotionally difficult job. For some people the work is very rewarding, while others have a hard time dealing with the physical and emotional challenges that the occupation brings.

Firefighters work schedules that often exceed fifty hours per week. The exact schedule varies depending on the municipality, but here are a couple of the most common schedules:

  • Two 24 hour shifts each week, followed by 3-4 days off.
  • Four 10 hour shifts, followed by 3-4 days off.

Overtime is required of all firefighters when emergency situations require their attention. In some cases, emergency situations can last for days at a time.

How to Become a Firefighter

A minimum of a high school diploma is required to become a firefighter, but many firefighters have bachelor’s degrees. If you want to work as a firefighter and have an opportunity to earn a bachelor’s degree, you should do so. Having a four year degree will open up many opportunities for advancement that wouldn’t otherwise be possible.

To become a firefighter, you will need to be at least 18 years old and hold a certification as an emergency medical technician. Additionally, you will need to pass physical and written tests. Your local fire department’s website should provide the specifics about taking the fire exam.

Once hired, firefighters go through an extensive training program that teaches them how to combat fires, use emergency equipment, and respond to many different types of emergency situations. Training normally lasts at least a few weeks, and includes both classroom instruction and practical training.

Some fire departments offer apprenticeships. These apprenticeships normally last about four years, and provide a great opportunity to work with senior firefighters while receiving on the job training. In many cases, apprenticeships lead to permanent employment.

Many firefighters seek continued training by attending sessions conducted by the National Fire Academy


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Employment Outlook

There are currently 310,370 firefighters in the United States, with 15,280 new firefighter job openings created each year.

Firefighter jobs are not expected to see much growth beyond their current levels in the next decade.

Firefighter Salaries

Overall Salaries

Firefighter salaries can vary depending on your experience, the location, company, industry, and benefits provided. Nationwide, most firefighters make between $32,000 – $59,900 per year, or $15.38 – $28.80 per hour.

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