How Much Do Firefighters Make? (THE EPIC ANSWER)

You're thinking of firefighting as a career. But you want to know how much do firefighters make?

We get it...

We're not rich or have 'Rockefeller' as our last name. After all, you have to pay the bills, mortgage, food, car payment, and so on.

You want to know if you can make a living as a firefighter. So let's find out some ridiculously detailed stuff on the firefighter salary question.

How Much Do Firefighters Make?

Firefighter pay varies greatly because it depends on several factors such as location, experience level, position, and industry. We'll address these fluctuations later. For now, we will look at average pay for all firefighters across the nation.

We're going to break this answer down into common questions we get. This should help give you a good perspective on the burning question of "how much does a firefighter make?"

Firefighter Salary

How Much Do Firefighters Make a Year?

According to the Bureau of Labor Statics 2011 survey, the average salary for a firefighter is $47,720 annually.

How Much Do Firefighters Make a Month?

You can find the equivalent monthly salary, $3,977, by dividing this number by 12. An hourly rate is more difficult to determine.

How Much Do Firefighters Make a Hour?

Most fire departments must be manned twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. Therefore, each fire department sets its own schedule, which doesn't follow a typical 9-5 workday. Assuming a 45-hour workweek, the average firefighter makes $20 per hour.

As stated above, shifts vary by department. Some choose to have firefighters work 24-hour shifts with 48 hours off. Others choose to work three 10-hour days with three to four 14-hour nights, and three days off. Firefighters are paid the same hourly rate if they are resting while on call, or if they are actively working an emergency situation.

How Much Does an Entry Level Firefighter Make?

When starting your career, it's a very common concern of knowing how much does an entry level firefighter make. Let's look at the high and low ends of the pay scale. Starting firefighters in a lower pay area may $22,480 annually.

This translates to $1,873 monthly and $10 hourly. However, an experienced firefighter in an in-demand area may make $75,520 annually. This firefighter makes $6,293 monthly and $32 hourly.

firefighter salary

Firefighter Benefits

When looking at how much does a firefighter make, you cannot forget to include the benefits offered to them by their employers. Many departments offer generous benefits packages to offset the fact that fighters are put in immediate danger and hazardous conditions.

Again, each department offers different benefits, so be sure to check with your local agency to determine the benefits you may be eligible for. Let's look at the different types of firefighter benefits that may be offered.

1

Insurance

  • Health and Dental

When looking for a career, most people desire one that will provide health and dental insurance. Fire departments often offer these types of insurance with little or no cost to the employee, and families can be added to the policy for an additional monthly deduction.

Health insurance in this industry is typically better than other, non-hazardous industries. Also, some departments offer life-long coverage for the firefighter and his family.

  • Disability

In any position that puts you in dangerous conditions, disability insurance is a must. Most fire departments offer both short and long term disabilities insurances. These insurances pay a portion of your salary if you cannot work due to injury or illness.

2

Retirement Pensions

Retirement pensions or other plans are offered by most agencies. When working for a government owned entity, such as a city or county fire department, you may be eligible to receive a government pension package.

Some government departments do not collect social security but instead put that money toward a fund for their employees. If you work for a public or private company large enough to employee their own firefighters, chances are they offer a 401(k) or similar retirement plan.

3

Vacation Leave

Along with scheduled days off and Kelly Days, firefighters enjoy paid vacation days. Kelley Days are days the firefighters are off so they will not accumulate too many hours during the week.

Many firefighters combine Kelly Days with schedule changes and vacation pay to receive an extra long paid vacation.

4

Government Employees and Union Members

  • Union Benefits

Many fire departments belong to a firefighter union, the International Association of Fire Fighters. Union members unite together to ensure fair workplace practices for all. As a member, you will also reap these benefits.

  • Government Programs

If you choose to work for a government agency, you may be eligible for government employee programs including tuition reimbursement for furthering your education, or academic scholarships for children.

average salary for a firefighter

Do Firefighters Make Good Money?

As we briefly discussed earlier, many factors play into the question do firefighters make good money...

  • Rank
  • Location
  • Industry

1. Rank

Firefighters work on different ranks based on both their experience and position. Entry-level firefighters with up to five years experience make approximately $38,000 annually. A firefighter in the middle of his career, from five to ten years, makes $43,000 annually, and one with ten to twenty years experience receives $51,000.

A firefighter who is late in her career with more than twenty years of experience may make $62,000 per year. Please remember these numbers are estimates for comparison sake only and may not reflect the actual income of firefighters in your area.

In addition to the experience of the fireman, agencies determine pay based on the position held. For example, entry-level New York City firefighters made $43,074 annually in 2011. A lieutenant in that same department would make $125,848; captains made $149,163; and battalion chiefs made $161,281. Firefighters with one-year experience made $49,470 and three years of experience earned $59,629.

As you can see, the actual annual income level depends greatly on the position held and job responsibilities. This scenario is the same in most jobs. However, you can see the progression of raises in the above data. If there is a particular fire department that interests you, government run agencies are required to publish this information for each position.

2. Location

The annual salary of firefighters is greatly influenced by the location of the department. Pay fluctuates by state and even by city. Here are some common area averages by states:

  • How Much Do Firefighters Make in Arizona:  $44,700
  • How Much Do Firefighters Make in California:  $68,350
  • How Much Do Firefighters Make in Colorado:  $49,700
  • How Much Do Firefigthers Make In Florida:  $48,060
  • How Much Do Firefighters Make in New York:  $80,150
  • How Much Do Firefighters Make in North Carolina:  $30,530
  • How Much Do Firefighters Make in Texas:  $45,830
  • How Much Do Firefighters Make in Virginia:  $44,700

These fluctuations result from various reasons including the demand of firefighters and how many qualified persons exist in the area. Also, different dangers exist in different regions. Fire Departments take into consideration these factors along with the cost of living in their area and the department’s budget when setting a pay scale.

3. Industry

As a firefighter, you may work for a city or state government. You may work for a public company, and you may work for a contractor. Each entity will pay differently depending on their needs, job requirements, and benefits offered. Private employers typically have a higher annual salary, but might not offer comparable benefits. Additional research will be necessary to discover which industry you choose.

Besides pay, consider the environment you will be working in. Contractors may place you in plants where explosions are the highest concern, but a city fire department may respond to more calls to rescue a cat from a tree. The work schedule may vary by industry also. A private company with employees present from 9 to 5 would not need a 24/7 fire department.

how much does a firefighter make

Other Benefits of Firefighting

Honorable

Firefighting calls for a unique type of person. One who races into danger when others run the opposite way. You may be in a position where your responsibility is to protect the lives of others, yourself, and other firefighters.

Brotherhood / Sisterhood

While you must consider how much money do firefighters make, don't forget to account for the things you will gain, like a family that watches out for you when you are in danger. Firefighters must have a team mentality and work like a well-greased machine in order to have everyone come home safe.

Job Security

You will also enjoy job security. The firefighting industry sees few layoffs because their position is essential for the safety of others. Also, the demand for firefighters will only increase. Our population is every increasing creating a greater demand for those who work keeping people safe.

Also, our country is seeing an increase in our life expectancy. As people get older, they have more accidents and require the assistance of first responders, such as firefighters.

Community Service

But do you want to know the best part about being a firefighter? The smile of a little girl when you hand her kitten to her, the relief on a mother's face when you exit a burning building with her toddler, and the hardy pat on the back when you stop a plant fire from turning into an explosion.


In conclusion, you shouldn't worry too much about the question of how much do firefighters make. Not only do you get to make good money as a firefighter, firefighting is a noble position that offers many benefits including its above average salary and benefits packages.

Jim Connelly
 

The Founder of Public Safety Elite, I'm a proud member of the Fire Service, a dedicated husband to a wonderful wife, proud father of a beautiful young lady, and passionate about Public Safety for a fulfilling career!

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