Firefighters- Requirements, Salary, Employment and Job Outlook

Firefighters are the personnel who control fires and handle other medical emergencies. They generally work for long and have no fixed working hours. In May 2017, 327,300 firefighters were working in the USA as per BLS report. Accredited apprenticeship programs are conducted by some fire departments that may last up to four years. These programs comprise on-the-job-program and classroom instruction under the guidance of experienced firefighters. The program teaches you how to extinguish fires with pumps, hoses, and additional apparatus; operate and drive pump engines and emergency vehicles; maintain firefighting equipment; evacuate fire structures and treat victims. If you are looking for detailed information about this career, you are at the right place. This article will acquaint you with the requirements, salary, and future job prospects of this profession.

Requirements to Become a Firefighter

Here is a summary of requirements that one is expected to fulfill in order to work as a firefighter.

  • The applicant must be at least 18 years old while taking exam and 21 years old when hired.
  • Aspirants should be citizens of the United States. Moreover, you may need to live in the area where you are seeking or taking the job. Candidates residing in the area of employment might be granted a preferential residency examination credit.
  • You are supposed to possess GED or high school diploma. You may also be asked to show pre-hospital care certifications (EMT/paramedic) and college credits.
  • You must be good at understanding and speaking English.
  • The aspirant must not have any convictions, misdemeanor arrests or felony against them; otherwise, his/her eligibility will be canceled.
  • The candidate must be an eminent member of the community.
  • You shall not be considered eligible for the fire service if you had been discharged from the armed forces in a dishonorable manner.
  • You should have a driver’s license.
  • It’s compulsory to qualify drug screening test.
  • The applicants should have a birth certificate or any other proof of identity.

How to become a firefighter?

Step 1- Complete Your Education

It’s compulsory to complete high school diploma or its equivalent. Post-secondary education is required for some firefighter positions. You must undertake initial first responder course and acquire EMT-Basic certification before enrolling in a firefighter academy for program. You may earn a 2-year associate degree in fire science from a community college or any other program facility.

Step 2- Clear CPAT (Candidate’s Physical Ability Tests)

CPAT consists of 8 phases and is given in one sitting. It is mandatory to pass all the phases, which are- stair climb, hose drag, equipment carry, ladder rise, forcible entry, rescue drag, search, and ceiling breach and pull.

Only after completing one phase, you can move to next phase. In case, you fail to complete any phase properly, you need to retake the whole test so as to become eligible for applying for fire department positions.

Step 3- Obtain the Certificate

Join firefighter academy, technical school or vocational school to get the required program. After completing the program, take certification test conducted by your state. If you pass this test, you will be offered Firefighter 1 certificate.

Start 4- Start as a Volunteer

Fire departments have several openings for people who are willing to offer volunteer services. Begin as a volunteer to enter this highly competitive field and build significant professional contacts.

Step 5- Get a Job

Apply for entry-level positions available within the fire departments. Prepare a good resume which clearly exhibits your skills, potential, and experience to the employer. You may choose to work with fire-equipment suppliers and manufacturers, construction trades, state fire organizations and local firefighting agencies.

Step 6- Advance in Your Career

You can continue your education to obtain a bachelor degree in public administration, fire science or other related fields. This will increase your chances of promotions to the positions of engineer, lieutenant, captain, battalion chief, assistant chief, deputy chief, and chief. After acquiring enough experience, you may also assume designations of fire investigators or inspectors.

Firefighter Salary

Firefighters on an average earned $49,080 per annum and $23.60 per hour in May 2017. Overtime and other fringe benefits add up to their salary. According to the BLS (Bureau of Labor Statistics), top paying states for firefighters in May 2017 were New Jersey, New York, California, Washington, and Nevada. The hourly and mean wages provided by these states is represented below in a tabular form.


Annual Mean Wage

Hourly Mean Wage

New Jersey



New York












Information Source – The Bureau of Labor Statistics OES (as of May 2017)

According to, in June 2018, firefighters earned an average annual salary of $41,480.

Percentile Wage Estimates

  • 90% of firefighters earned less than $83,570 per annum and $38.99 per hour; 10% made more than $81,110 per annum and $40.18 per hour.
  • The annual and hourly wages of 75% of these workers were less than $66,610 and $32.03, respectively; remaining 25% earned the yearly and hourly wages more than $66,610 and $32.03, respectively.
  • 50% of firefighters were reported to gross less than $49,080 per year and $23.60 per hour; the rest 50% were salaried more than $49,080 per year and $23.60 per hour.
  • 25% were remunerated less than $33,400 per annum and $16.06 per hour; while 75% were paid more than $33,400 per annum and $16.06 per hour.
  • 10% were waged less than $33,400 per year and $16.06 per hour, whereas 90% took home more than $33,400 per year and $16.06 per hour.


Annual Wage

Hourly Wage
















Information Source – The Bureau of Labor Statistics OES (as of May 2017)


Being the largest state in the US, California was the largest employer of the firefighters. As per the May 2017 reports of the BLS, it provided employment to 31,150 firefighters. Texas was the second largest employer for these professionals, followed by Florida, Ohio, and Illinois.



Employment per 1000 jobs

Annual Mean Wage

Hourly Mean Wage


























Information Source – The Bureau of Labor Statistics (as of May 2017)

Job Outlook

The Bureau of Labor Statistics has projected 7% growth in the demand of firefighters between 2016 and 2026. It is slower than the average for all other vocations. It infers that potential firefighters will have to put up with cut-throat competition for getting jobs. Low education requirements, opportunities for public service, and job challenges are some aspects that attract students towards this field. It is likely for a single position department may receive hundreds of applicants.

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