How Much Does a Firefighter Make a Year

By Ashley Kilroy · February 26, 2024 · 9 minute read

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How Much Does a Firefighter Make a Year

Firefighters make an average of $56,310 per year nationwide. However, firefighter compensation varies by location and position, so salaries can climb up to well over six figures for more leadership positions. As a result, firefighting can provide competitive annual pay for those who want to do the rewarding work of rescuing others during emergencies.

Read on to learn more about the income, responsibilities, and pros and cons of pursuing a career as a firefighter.

What Are Firefighters

Firefighters are trained professionals who respond to fires, rescue situations, hazardous material spills, and medical emergencies. Their primary responsibility is to protect life, property, and the environment from the adverse effects of human-made and natural fires.

These dedicated professionals navigate unpredictable circumstances with selflessness. The job can be dangerous but also a very rewarding career. A few details to note:

•   Firefighters are typically employed by city, county, state, and federal governments.

•   Because fires and other emergencies are dangerous, these professionals put their lives on the line every day.

•   The job is demanding because shifts can last 24 hours. Firefighters usually work full-time.

Additionally, firefighters typically have emergency medical technician (EMT) certifications because they respond to health crises. For instance, local fire departments provide critical assistance for people trapped under debris from a storm. Likewise, they often transport the injured to hospitals and health facilities. For this reason, most firefighters can drive and operate ambulances as well as fire trucks.

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Examples of Firefighter Job Responsibilities

Here are the essential duties of firefighters, most of which relate to helping individuals and communities during emergencies:

1.    Fire suppression: As the name implies, a firefighter’s definitive job is extinguishing fires. This includes house fires and wildfires. Firefighters use various tools and equipment, such as water hoses, fire extinguishers, and specialized vehicles, to control and put out fires.

2.    Rescue operations: Firefighters are trained in various rescue techniques to save people from dangerous situations, including trapped individuals in buildings, vehicles, or natural disasters.

3.    Emergency medical response: Many firefighters are emergency medical technicians (EMTs) or paramedics. This training allows them to provide prehospital medical care, including administering first aid and stabilizing patients until they are transported to a hospital.

4.    Hazardous materials response: Firefighters are usually the first on the scene of accidents involving hazardous chemicals and materials. For instance, if a tanker truck crashes, firefighters use specialized equipment to contain and mitigate the effects of the spill.

5.    Public education and prevention: A part of firefighters’ public service is engaging in community outreach and educational efforts for fire safety and best practices for emergency response. They also provide tours of fire departments to residents.

6.    Equipment maintenance: Firefighters rely on their gear and equipment to perform their jobs, and disasters can occur at any time. As a result, maintaining and cleaning their equipment, including fire engines, tools, and personal protective gear, is vital.

How Much Do Starting Firefighters Make a Year?

An entry-level firefighter’s salary varies depending on location, with the lowest 10% of positions starting at $29,150 on average. While the starting pay is lower than other jobs, firefighters can increase their salaries by getting promoted to leadership positions or specializing in a certain aspect of the job.

For instance, a firefighter officer leads teams of firefighters and can earn an annual salary of $161,372. Likewise, professionals who provide paramedical training for firefighters can earn $120,828 per year. So, yes, it is possible to earn a $100,000 salary or more as a firefighter.

Remember, changing locations can also help increase firefighters’ compensation. For instance, firefighters in North Carolina earn an average salary of $36,660, while positions in New Jersey have an average pay of $77,740. (Of course, the local cost of living may rise along with the pay.)

What is the Average Salary for a Firefighter?

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics database shows that the average firefighter salary is $56,310 annually vs. hourly pay. Here’s a breakdown of the average firefighter salary by state, listed alphabetically:


Average Annual Pay

Alabama $42,600
Alaska $54,730
Arizona $47,850
Arkansas $36,470
California $78,350
Colorado $67,340
Connecticut $67,560
Delaware $45,680
Florida $56,560
Georgia $40,010
Hawaii $72,880
Idaho $39,820
Illinois $68,030
Indiana $55,420
Iowa $45,360
Kansas $40,560
Kentucky $32,980
Louisiana $32,320
Maine $42,830
Maryland $60,560
Massachusetts $66,640
Michigan $64,200
Minnesota $49,880
Mississippi $33,790
Missouri $55,380
Montana $51,730
Nebraska $60,990
Nevada $61,150
New Hampshire $50,150
New Jersey $77,740
New Mexico $40,530
New York $73,520
North Carolina $36,660
North Dakota $51,490
Ohio $52,290
Oklahoma $52,770
Oregon $65,880
Pennsylvania $61,290
Rhode Island $60,360
South Carolina $39,580
South Dakota $49,750
Tennessee $42,080
Texas $53,630
Utah $44,650
Vermont $46,920
Virginia $54,180
Washington $76,930
West Virginia $37,110
Wisconsin $43,980
Wyoming $44,420
Source: US Bureau of Labor Statistics, ZipRecruiter

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Firefighter Job Considerations for Pay & Benefits

As a firefighter, you can expect to make $56,310 on average, which is a few thousand dollars less than the average salary in the U.S., which is currently $59,540. Additionally, numerous benefits come with the job to enhance your financial well-being and quality of life.

For example:

•   Full-time firefighters receive health and dental insurance, disability coverage, paid time off, tax-advantaged retirement plans, and pensions.

•   Union firefighters can receive their pay and benefits through a contract, locking in their compensation package.

•   Firefighters can qualify for exclusive financial aid and scholarships for higher education. For instance, The Maryland State Firemen’s Association gives scholarships to students getting degrees in fire science or medical emergency services. This could help students who might otherwise be entering a career without a college degree.

•   Firefighters can enjoy the satisfaction of knowing they helped their neighbors at the end of the day. From pulling children out of burning buildings to assisting the injured, a firefighter’s duty centers on safeguarding life. As a result, the profession is personally meaningful and fulfilling. (It’s worth noting, though, that given the human interaction involved, it may not be the best career for an introvert.)

Pros and Cons of Firefighter Salary

Being a firefighter means enjoying the perks of the job while making the best of the drawbacks. Here’s a comparison of the two:


First, the upsides of pursuing this career:

•   Helping others: Firefighters experience a deep sense of purpose by directly contributing to the safety and wellbeing of their communities. The opportunity to protect individuals and families is a significant motivator for individuals drawn to this profession. Additionally, their willingness to put themselves in harm’s way to save others can garner appreciation and gratitude.

•   Straightforward qualifications: Becoming a firefighter typically requires a high school diploma or GED, passing a physical fitness test, and being at least 18 years old. The position’s accessibility allows individuals from diverse educational backgrounds to pursue a career in firefighting without requiring extensive academic qualifications.

Furthermore, firefighters interested in more education can acquire extensive education (including EMT training) and scholarships for higher education to advance their positions.

•   Competitive pay and benefits: While entry-level firefighting positions might offer low initial pay, more experienced firefighters earn a competitive salary vs. the national average. Considering the accessible entry-level requirements, the job has good pay and benefits without extensive education. Likewise, full-time firefighters receive comprehensive benefits packages, including health insurance, retirement plans, and other perks. While it’s likely not the highest paying job in your area, it reliably puts food on the table.

•   Tight work bonds: Firefighters work closely as a team and forge strong bonds with their colleagues. The nature of emergency response requires cooperation and communication, creating a sense of camaraderie among team members. Additionally, firefighters often face challenging situations together, leading to shared experiences that strengthen their professional and personal relationships.

•   Federal loan forgiveness: Firefighters may qualify for Public Service Loan Forgiveness under specific criteria. The PSLF Program is designed to assist public service providers, including firefighters, in repaying their federal student loan debt.


Next, consider the potential downsides of becoming a firefighter:

•   Safety risk: Firefighters face inherent risks associated with entering burning buildings, handling hazardous materials, and engaging in rescue operations. Long-term exposure to smoke and chemicals is also dangerous. These physical hazards can lead to injuries, health complications, or loss of life.

•   Challenging work schedule: Firefighters often work in shifts, which can include 24-hour shifts and working overnight. For this reason, firefighters typically work over 50 hours per week instead of a typical 9-5 job. Combined with the challenging situations firefighters tackle, the job might not be a fit for those who want a low-stress job or folks that want to work from home sometimes.

•   Few to no traditional weekends or holidays off: Firefighters frequently work on weekends and holidays because emergencies happen regardless of the time of year. This can impact personal and family life, as firefighters won’t have the same days off as those working in more traditional Monday-to-Friday roles.

The Takeaway

Across America, the median salary for how much a firefighter makes a year is $56,310, though the earning potential can rise into the six figures. Firefighters play a crucial role in safeguarding people, property, and the environment from the adverse effects of fires and emergencies. Responding to a wide range of incidents, from fire suppression to rescue operations and medical emergencies, firefighters are dedicated professionals who undergo extensive training to serve their communities effectively. However, the job is a challenging one, with inherent health and wellbeing risks, as well as possibly long hours and considerable stress.


Can you make 100k a year as a firefighter?

While the national median salary for a firefighter is $56,310, making $100k a year in the profession is achievable. For instance, the positions of fire lieutenant, captain, and chief all have the potential to pay six figures.

Do people like being a firefighter?

Firefighting can be a fulfilling, meaningful career because the job is about helping others in emergencies and dire circumstances. However, it can be mentally and emotionally taxing because of the intensity of the work. Therefore, whether you like being a firefighter will depend on your job preferences and outlook.

Is it hard to get hired as a firefighter?

The path to becoming a firefighter involves getting your high school diploma or GED, passing a written exam, physical, and in-person interview. Therefore, while the educational barriers are low, getting hired as a firefighter can require discipline and commitment.

Photo credit: iStock/dear2627

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