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According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment of firefighters is projected to grow 7 percent from 2012 to 2022, slower than the average for all occupations. Competition for jobs will likely be intense. Physically fit applicants with high test scores and paramedic training should have the best job prospects

Firefighters held about 307,000 jobs in 2012. The vast majority—about 91 percent— worked for local governments. Most of the remainder worked for federal and state governments. A few worked at airports, chemical plants, and other industrial sites.

These employment numbers exclude volunteer firefighters. There are approximately twice as many volunteer firefighters as there are paid career firefighters.

Volunteer firefighters’ share the same duties as paid firefighters and account for the majority of firefighters in many areas. According to the National Fire Protection Association, about 69 percent of fire departments were staffed entirely by volunteer firefighters in 2012.

When not on the scene of an emergency, firefighters work at fire stations, where they sleep, eat, and remain on call. When an alarm sounds, firefighters respond, regardless of the weather or time of day.

Summary

Quick Facts: Firefighters
 
2012 Median Pay

$ 45,250 per year/

$ 21.75 per hour

Entry-Level Education
Post-secondary non-degree award
Work Experience in a Related Occupation
None
On-the-job Training
Long-terms on -the-job training
Number of Jobs, 2012
307,000
Job Outlook, 2012-22
7 % (slower than average)
Employment Change, 2012-22
20,300


Work Schedules

Firefighters typically work long and varied hours. Most firefighters work 24-hour shifts on duty and are off the following 48 or 72 hours. Some firefighters work 10/14 shifts which means 10 hours working and 14 hours off. When combating forest fires, firefighters may work for extended periods without time off.

Injuries and Illnesses

Firefighters have one of the highest rates of injuries and illnesses of all occupations. They often encounter dangerous situations, including collapsing floors and walls, traffic accidents, and overexposure to flames and smoke. As a result, workers must wear protective gear to help lower these risks. Often, the protective gear can be very heavy and hot. Firefighters control fires and respond to other emergencies, including medical emergencies.

Work Environment

When not on the scene of an emergency, firefighters work at fire stations, where they sleep, eat, and remain on call during shifts that often last 24 hours. Many work over 40 hours per week. The work can be very dangerous.

Pay

The median annual wage for firefighters was $45,250 in May 2012.