An Overview of the Firefighting Job Market
Firefighters represent an exciting segment of emergency responder employment. The field is growing, salaries are rising, and, as many EMTs transitioning to the fire industry know, the field can be extremely rewarding.
Let’s take a look at the current state of the firefighting job market and projections for the future. We’ll also take a deeper dive into the type of work environment you would be entering and the education required for a career as a firefighter.
Current Firefighter Career Statistics
According to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics’ most recent data — representing the year 2018 — there are about 332,400 fire jobs in America. That number is projected to grow by 5%, or about 17,600 jobs, by 2028.
While you may think that better building materials and safety codes will prevent fires and therefore decrease the need for more firefighters, the opposite is true. As the population grows and more structures are built, the need for qualified firefighters grows as well. Firefighters are also necessary first responders for a variety of emergency situations. In fact, approximately 65% of the calls fire departments received in 2018 were medical calls, according to the NFPA.
The average pay for firefighters is $49,620 annually, which breaks out to $23.85 an hour.
Note that these statistics refer solely to full-time, paid firefighters. Volunteer firefighters account for more than 700,000 additional firefighting positions in the United States.
A Look at the Firefighter Work Environment
From urban cities to rural farmland to protected wilderness, firefighters are stationed to protect people, infrastructure, property, and control the effects of fires.
Since firefighters work in natively dangerous situations, fire jobs have one of the highest injury and illness rates of any occupation. By wearing protective gear and staying current on the latest training, individuals can help lower their safety risks.
When firefighters aren’t out responding to fires or other emergency situations, they are based at fire stations. They stay there on call — eating, sleeping, and maintaining equipment — for a predetermined shift. Typically, these shifts last 24 hours, followed by 48-hours off. A few exceptions are made within their schedules depending on locations, seasons, training, and other circumstances.
Becoming a Firefighter and Continuing Your Education
At a minimum, firefighters must have a high school diploma and EMT certification, and they must complete training at a fire academy. This training typically lasts a few months.
Once initial training is complete, however, firefighters must continue their education through recertification and additional training. By continuing their education, firefighters help protect themselves, their team, and the people they serve. CareerCert offers over 50 hours of self-paced fire courses to help firefighters do just that.
From job growth to a variety of work environments and educational opportunities, it’s clear that the firefighting job market is strong, and we anticipate it to remain that way over the next several years.
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Occupational outlook handbook, firefighter: Summary. BLS.gov. Dec. 4, 2019.
- NFPA. Fire department calls. https://www.nfpa.org/News-and-Research/Data-research-and-tools/Emergency-Responders/Fire-department-calls.
- Evart B, Stein GP. NFPA’s “U.S. Fire Department Profile.” National Fire Protection Association. March 2019.
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Occupational outlook handbook, firefighter: Work environment. BLS.gov. Dec. 4, 2019. https://www.bls.gov/ooh/protective-service/firefighters.htm#tab-3.
- Pertz, M. Firefighter Shift Schedules and Working Hours Explained. FirefighterNOW. Accessed Feb. 27, 2020. https://firefighternow.com/firefighter-shift-schedules-and-working-hours-explained/.