How to Become a Firefighter

Firefighter Key Stats
Avg. Salary / year $44,920
Avg. Pay / hour $21.60
Education 2-4 Years
Job Outlook 7.2%

Firefighters work to protect people and property from the hazards of fire, as well as other disasters.

Firefighters will respond to emergency services reports of a fire, and will attend the scene to help anyone in danger, secure the scene, and put out the fire.

Firefighters are also called out to many other emergency situations, such as traffic accidents.

They are often the first to attend the scene of an emergency, and are called on to provide medical assistance to anyone injured.

To become a firefighter, you will need to be physically fit, and have good hearing and vision.

You will also need to be a stable person who is able to be calm in a crisis.

You will likely be exposed to some things that are difficult to deal with, so you will need the skills to cope with this.

Helping the community and saving lives can make for a very rewarding career.

Though the career of a firefighter is demanding, it is also one with a very high rating of job satisfaction.

Education Requirements to Become a Firefighter

The minimum requirement to become a firefighter is a high school diploma.

There is not a formal requirement for any education past high school, however more and more firefighters are attaining two and four year degrees in fire science.

You can complete these courses at college, or community college.

To attain promotions later on, these qualifications are essential.

Some fire departments run apprenticeship programs, where new recruits will have the opportunity to learn on the job.

All new firefighters are required to go through training before they start working.

If you’re in high school, you can start working towards becoming a firefighter now.

Try and do some work experience with your local fire station.

In some places, you can also become a volunteer firefighter.

Another good idea is to get involved at a community level, many fire stations host community fundraising events, why not offer to lend a hand?

Firefighter Job Description

Much of the time spent as a firefighter is responding to emergencies.

In reality, a firefighter is more likely to respond to an emergency situation than they are a fire.

They are usually the first of the emergency services to arrive on the scene.

Being able to provide first aid and other medical assistance is a large part of the role.

Firefighters may be required to complete administrative tasks, or complete reports on situations that have attended.

they may also work in the community, helping to fundraise, or visit schools for the purpose of education.

  • Manning a fire station
  • Communicating with 911 operators
  • Working with law enforcement officers and paramedics
  • Attending emergency situations
  • Providing medical aid
  • Assisting people who are trapped in dangerous situations
  • Putting out fires
  • Assessing risk of further fires
  • Assessing risk of explosions

Working as a firefighter can be a hazardous job.

Beyond the obvious exposure to dangerous situations and injury, a firefighter must also work in hot environments where they can breathe in smoke and dangerous fumes.

When you become a firefighter, you’ll need to get used to long hours and shift work.

Some firefighters stay at the station, waiting for a call out.

Others will stay at home, then go in what they are asked to attend an emergency.

Firefighter Salary and Career Path

Firefighters have much opportunity to rise up the ranks.

Promotion is usually based on the results of internal exams, along with any further training a candidate has undergone.

There is also opportunity to work in fire prevention and related services.

This line of work is more administrative and offers a higher salary.

Some firefighters will go on to work in different parts of law enforcement, medicine, or emergency services later on in their careers.

Some become fire investigators and reporters, while others gain employment with insurance agencies.

A firefighter just starting out could expect to earn around $30,000 a year.

The median wage is around $45,000 a year.

The top firefighters in senior positions can earn six figure incomes.

There is no doubt that working as a firefighter can be a dangerous occupation.

However, it is an important job that is essential to the safety of the community.

If you want a job where you can make a different to people’s lives, then you might like to consider becoming a firefighter.

BLSThe below information is based on the 2021 BLS national averages.

  • Annually
  • Monthly
  • Hourly

National Average Salary


Average Salary by State

StateAvg. Annual Salary
New Hampshire$52,260
New Jersey$84,930
New Mexico$39,940
New York$72,670
North Carolina$36,950
North Dakota$52,010
Rhode Island$62,860
South Carolina$39,750
South Dakota$49,090
West Virginia$36,850
Puerto Rico$27,250

The top earning state in the field is New Jersey, where the average salary is $84,930.

These are the top 5 earning states in the field:

New Jersey - $84,930
California - $80,990
Washington - $76,280
New York - $72,670
Colorado - $68,300
* Salary information based on the May 2021 Occupational Employment Statistics (OES) Survey for Firefighters, OCC Code 33-2011, BLS.
* Employment conditions in your area may vary.

Frequently Asked Questions

What does a firefighter do?

A firefighter can also be called a ‘fireman’.

It is a highly skilled man or a woman whose main responsibility is to combat and extinguish fires.

A firefighter is usually a career professional; however, some people are allowed to volunteer for duty.

The professionals do not have a lot of responsibilities, but all of them are of extreme importance – putting out fires, rescuing and caring for the injured (firefighters can act as emergency medical technicians), investigating the sources of fire, and working to prevent future fires.

Once the fireman reaches the site, he or she will be responsible for a specific task – hose operators connect hoses to fire hydrants; pump operators control the water flow; tillers guide the aerial ladders; others rescue potential victims, and so on.

How much do firefighters make?

On average, a firefighter can make a little more than $50.000 per year in the United States.

In case you decide to follow this career path, you can expect to earn anywhere between $25.500 and $99.000 annually.

The salary would certainly depend on a variety of factors – your education and experience level, the employer, the location and so on.

The firefighters that work in New York, New Jersey, and California, for example, have the highest average salaries.

An entry-level firefighter can earn $12 per hour, while a specialist with plenty of experience will make $48 and more.

How much does it cost to become a firefighter?

An aspiring firefighter should have at least a high school diploma.

However, nowadays, a lot of candidates decide to go for an associate’s or even a bachelor’s degree, in order to have more chances of getting employed.

An associate’s degree in fire science can cost you anywhere between $3.000 and $30.000 per year; the cost depends on a variety of factors (the books, supplies, and accommodation expenses are not included).

You would certainly need to pass a fire exam – the cost and requirements will vary by state, in Massachusetts, for example, the application fee is $200.

The majority of fire departments will require you to have an EMT certification (an $80 application fee).

What is the demand for firefighters?

Between 2016 and 2026, the firefighter job market is expected to grow by 7.2%, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

That is close to the national average for all occupations in the United States.

The competition rate will remain high as there are always more people interested in becoming firefighters than the number of available positions.

Those who possess a degree and certification will have better job prospects.

The industry is mainly concentrated in California, Florida, and Texas.

How long does it take to become a firefighter?

In case you decide to go for a degree in fire science, it will take you 2 years to earn an associate’s or four years to obtain a bachelor’s degree.

To become an emergency medical technician, you would need to train for several hundred hours (the requirements vary by state).

Post-hiring training usually lasts anywhere from 3 to 6 months.

In most cases, fire departments hire every year or two.

Jamie Willis
Career Specialist at BecomeopediaHi, my name is Jamie Willis, and I have been helping students find their perfect internships and education paths for the last ten years. It is a passion of mine, and there really is nothing better than seeing students of mine succeed with further studies.

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