Today we are talking about Money! The good kind of money you earn from a paycheck that sends cha-ching’s of delight into your bank account!
Like all professions, Career Firefighters are a paid career… but pay will depend on what you are looking for!
For the most part, Firefighter make a modest wage, and could be considered blue collar work. So ff you are looking to get rich, chances are that won’t happen on a Firefighter Salary alone.
Instead, let’s look about how much Firefighters get paid, which state earns the most for Firefighters, and the all important question- can firefighters make six figures?
Do Firefighters get paid well?
That depends on how you define well!
So we know that working as a firefighter has always been inherently dangerous work. And there’s a risk of death that puts Firefighting in the top 5 most dangerous careers in the US.
So it would make sense that the firefighters are well compensated. Now this has a lot to do with where they work due to cost of living. But it’s not a cut and dry annual salary number. There are a ton of factors to consider.
That hard and fast anwser is that NO- for most Firefighters- the pay is ‘not’ well.
70% of Firefighters in the USA are volunteers, and for the other 30% most of them are living on a tax payer wage and this has been modestly capped to allow for service without overburdening the government.
There are a few cases, which we’ll talk about below, where Firefighters DO earn a healthy wage. And newsflash- those depend on the state, the education, and the experience.
Let’s talk about the states that make the most for Firefighters next.
In what states do Firefighters have the highest wages?
The states that make the most are New Jersey, California and New York. They all make around 70k+ average a year. Compared to some southern and western states, who average 35-50k, this seems like a lot.
But the reason that these states pay so much is because the cost of living is significantly higher than other states. SO the pay is comparable once you factor that in. Also the call volume for these states with major cities is extreme.
Its very high speed low drag with fires every shift and non stop medical calls if they have rescues and ambulances. This has hard impacts on the health and wellness of firefighters.
What many Firefighters do in these states where wages are higher is this- they commute in- some by car, some by plane. They will travel several hours to get to their station so that they can earn a higher wage and live in an area with a lower cost of living.
What are some factors that affect salary
Now a salary that you may see posted may not accurately show the actual annual pay. Working as a firefighter a lot of times departments and states will have built in overtime due to the strange amount of hours firefighters work.
Sometimes departments factor this in when posting the annual income on hiring sites and sometimes they don’t. This built in over time is usually paid time and a half.
Also departments have minimum staffing requirements that have to be upheld. After all they can’t just close a fire department because someone called out sick. Well they shouldn’t anyways.
So in comes mandatory overtime. Thus firefighters end up having a lot of overtime opportunities, especially in large county departments.
Most of the time when a city has a large event or festival they will hire the fire department to work extra hours and man the event specifically. This pay varies but a lot of times ends up being overtime pay.
What about the firefighter with a family to support?
Of course this is going to depend where the firefighter works so I will speak for central Florida. A single firefighter who lives on their own without dependents can live comfortably. And if you are just getting married, there’s a number of ways to have a beautiful wedding on a Firefighter’s salary.
But a firefighter who is married with several kids and a single income household is much harder. We use a lot of budget hacks to make sure my Family is supported on a Firefighter’s budget alone. Now that’s two opposite sides of the spectrum but you get the point and hopefully that gives you an idea of what it’s like.
Can firefighters ever make six figures?
In some places it is possible for firefighters to break 100k but this after a lot of overtime and of course having some rank and time on the job.
The reality is unless a firefighter is an intermediate or senior officer of sorts they have a small chance of hitting six figures working only one job. And those long hours are hard on the loved ones.
Unfortunately this is the reality for most public service work. Thus why this job is a job of passion not a job of monetary wealth. It is why you see a small number of firefighters that have a second job- either one they own, or one where they can work part time around their full time gig.
Firefighters can work their way up the chain and make a really decent living for themselves and have a job that is respected by civilians and the people that work with/for them.
Is the job still worth it even if the Pay isn’t where it should be?
The balance is subjective. If a firefighter works in a low to medium call volume area they will be paid to maintain operational readiness. Which basically means they wait and are at the ready should something happen.
This could be only a few minutes or a few hours but they get paid the same rate regardless. Now this downtime is usually filled with training and administrative work so it’s not all movies and napping in recliners.
In fact most of the time the firefighters have to stay busy doing training and admin work during normal business hours but it tends to be a low impact kind of job compared to running calls.
How can a firefighter make more money?
As far as making more money within the department the firefighter currently works the answer is simple. Go back to school, get more certifications like Paramedic or Officer courses and test to promote to the next rank or position.
Also work the overtime when it’s available. Now for making money outside of their normal fire department job there are plenty of options. SInce a firefighter often works 24 hours on shift then is off for 48 hours it leaves time for side hustles.
A Lot of places will hire part time firefighters, EMTs and Paramedics. Places like race car tracks hire firefighters for race days to be on standby for wrecks and such.
And if you’re like me and live near theme parks they also a lot of times hire part time first responders for seasonal and out of season work. This ends up mostly providing emergency medical services to guests of the parks.
But since firefighters have a reasonable amount of off days it’s the perfect opportunity to explore the entrepreneur side of things. Some even start a small or eventually a big business.
After all you can never go wrong when you invest in yourself. Well most of the time anyways.
And it’s so helpful to work from a computer these days whether it’s making digital content or physical products utilizing drop shipping.
And that’s the tea on Firefighter Pay
Being solely a firefighter will probably not make anyone rich. But it does provide an opportunity to firefighters to invest in themselves. Whether that be physically with fitness or financially with entrepreneurial exploration.
Heck even a new hobby or interest to explore is a good option. This is why so many firefighters fish regularly. One thing is for sure though… you sure don’t become a firefighter for the money!