Firemen, also known as firefighters, protect the public from blazes by emphasizing fire prevention and fighting fires when they occur. They provide emergency services and are often the first on the scene for traffic accidents or heart attacks. The work is extremely hazardous, and is only partially compensated for by relatively high salaries compared to educational requirements.
Training and Pay
Firefighters require only a high school diploma to apply, though candidates with some postsecondary education are preferable. They must pass written and physical tests before being admitted to academies where they are trained for several weeks. They are then assigned to a fire company for a probationary period. As of May 2009, firemen made median wages of $45,050 per year, with a range of $22,990 to $74,390. This equaled $21.66 per hour, with a range of $11.05 to $35.76.
Most firemen are typically hired by local government, though their salaries can vary by jurisdiction. In 2009, their highest salaries for states were in New Jersey, with means at $34.53 per hour or $71,810 per year for 5,360 positions. Second-ranked California had lower pay of $32.19 per hour or $66,950 per year, but greater opportunities with 34,940 jobs. In cities, Los Angeles had the best wages at $44.18 per hour or $91,890 per year, for a sizeable 8,010 jobs. Second-ranked Vallejo, California, paid $41.82 per hour or $86,990 per year for only 160 positions, according to PayScale,
The Fire Department of New York (FDNY) provides a typical example of salaries and raises for the profession, as of April 2011. Firemen start with a total salary of $43,074 per year, which includes a base of $39,370 per year plus a fringe of $3,704. The fringe represents overtime, holiday pay and other miscellaneous income. They then earn an annual total of $49,470 after one year. After three years, fire fighters get $59,629, and after five years, they receive $99,104. As for promotions, lieutenants earn $125,848 per year, captains get $149,163 and battalion chiefs make $161,281.
The FDNY also offers benefits that are typical of the profession. Firemen can have flexible work schedules, though must remain at the firehouse during their assigned shifts. They also get lifelong medical coverage for themselves and their families, and up to four weeks of paid vacation. Finally, after 20 years of service, firemen also receive a pension.