Income and benefits
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual wage for firefighters in the United States was $50,850 in 2019. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $25,550 per year, and the highest 10 percent earning more than $92,020 per year.
The state government was the top paying industry for firefighters with a median annual salary of $55,030. This was followed by the federal government ($52,140) and the local government ($51,850).
Autonomy and Flexibility
Firefighters work in teams and are often told by dispatchers what emergencies they must respond to. In this sense, the control over their decisions, and thus their autonomy, is low. When a firefighter attends the scene of an emergency, they are often instructed by firefighters more senior than them on how they are going to tackle the fire, as a team. Therefore, firefighters who are at an entry level are likely to have less autonomy and control than those who have years of service.
As far as flexibility goes, firefighters are always hanging around waiting to respond to emergencies. They have little flexibility over how they plan their day and what shifts they will work.
Locations and commute
According to Zippa, the best states to be a firefighter which is where the annual pay is the highest and the number of job opportunities are the highest, are:
- Iowa, where the average annual salary is $62,679
- Kansas, where the average annual salary is $61,510
- Illinois, where the average annual salary is $63,626
- Indiana, where the average annual salary is $48,330
- New Jersey, where the average annual salary is $69,705
The worst states, according to Zippia, are Missouri, Nebraska, Vermont, Colorado and Utah.
88% of paid firefighters work for the local government, 3% work for the state government (excluding education and hospitals) and 2% work for the federal government.
Firefighters may also be volunteers. They share the same duties as paid firefighters and sccording to the National Fire Protection Association, about two thirds of firefighters are volunteers.
Firefighter tend to work shifts. When responding to an emergency, firefighters will wear protective gear, which can be very heavy and hot. When not attending to emergencies, firefighters work at fire stations, where they sleep, eat, work and remain on call. Whenever an alarm sounds, firefighters must respond, no matter what the time of day.
Unsurprisingly, firefighters have one of the highest rates of injuries and illnesses of all occupations. They will encounter dangerous situations, such as collapsing buildings or flames and smoke, on a regular basis.