Firefighter

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Job Outlook:
As fast as average
Education: Postsecondary nondegree award
Salary
High: $84,750.00
Average: $56,310.00
Hourly
Average: $27.07

What they do:

Control and extinguish fires or respond to emergency situations where life, property, or the environment is at risk. Duties may include fire prevention, emergency medical service, hazardous material response, search and rescue, and disaster assistance.

On the job, you would:

  • Rescue victims from burning buildings, accident sites, and water hazards.
  • Dress with equipment such as fire-resistant clothing and breathing apparatus.
  • Assess fires and situations and report conditions to superiors to receive instructions, using two-way radios.

Important Qualities

Communication skills. Firefighters must be able to explain conditions at an emergency scene to other firefighters and to emergency-response crews.

Compassion. Firefighters, like EMTs and paramedics, need to provide emotional support to those in emergency situations.

Decision-making skills. Firefighters must be able to make difficult choices quickly, sometimes in life-or-death situations.

Mental preparedness. Firefighters must be able to handle the stressfulness of their work, which may involve entering a burning building or treating medical emergencies.

Physical stamina. Firefighters may have to stay at disaster scenes for long periods of time to rescue and treat victims.

Physical strength. Firefighters must be strong enough to carry heavy equipment and move debris at an emergency site. They also carry victims who cannot walk.

Personality

A3 Your Strengths Importance

Characteristics of this Career

92% Stress Tolerance  -  Job requires accepting criticism and dealing calmly and effectively with high-stress situations.
91% Dependability  -  Job requires being reliable, responsible, and dependable, and fulfilling obligations.
90% Self-Control  -  Job requires maintaining composure, keeping emotions in check, controlling anger, and avoiding aggressive behavior, even in very difficult situations.
89% Integrity  -  Job requires being honest and ethical.
89% Attention to Detail  -  Job requires being careful about detail and thorough in completing work tasks.
88% Concern for Others  -  Job requires being sensitive to others' needs and feelings and being understanding and helpful on the job.
87% Cooperation  -  Job requires being pleasant with others on the job and displaying a good-natured, cooperative attitude.
86% Leadership  -  Job requires a willingness to lead, take charge, and offer opinions and direction.
85% Adaptability/Flexibility  -  Job requires being open to change (positive or negative) and to considerable variety in the workplace.
82% Initiative  -  Job requires a willingness to take on responsibilities and challenges.
80% Persistence  -  Job requires persistence in the face of obstacles.
79% Social Orientation  -  Job requires preferring to work with others rather than alone, and being personally connected with others on the job.
75% Achievement/Effort  -  Job requires establishing and maintaining personally challenging achievement goals and exerting effort toward mastering tasks.
73% Analytical Thinking  -  Job requires analyzing information and using logic to address work-related issues and problems.
66% Innovation  -  Job requires creativity and alternative thinking to develop new ideas for and answers to work-related problems.
A3 Your Strengths Importance

Strengths

100% Realistic  -  Work involves designing, building, or repairing of equipment, materials, or structures, engaging in physical activity, or working outdoors. Realistic occupations are often associated with engineering, mechanics and electronics, construction, woodworking, transportation, machine operation, agriculture, animal services, physical or manual labor, athletics, or protective services.
64% Social  -  Work involves helping, teaching, advising, assisting, or providing service to others. Social occupations are often associated with social, health care, personal service, teaching/education, or religious activities.
A3 Your Strengths Importance

Values of the Work Environment

81% Support  -  Occupations that satisfy this work value offer supportive management that stands behind employees. Corresponding needs are Company Policies, Supervision: Human Relations and Supervision: Technical.
78% Relationships  -  Occupations that satisfy this work value allow employees to provide service to others and work with co-workers in a friendly non-competitive environment. Corresponding needs are Co-workers, Moral Values and Social Service.
75% Achievement  -  Occupations that satisfy this work value are results oriented and allow employees to use their strongest abilities, giving them a feeling of accomplishment. Corresponding needs are Ability Utilization and Achievement.
64% Recognition  -  Occupations that satisfy this work value offer advancement, potential for leadership, and are often considered prestigious. Corresponding needs are Advancement, Authority, Recognition and Social Status.
61% Independence  -  Occupations that satisfy this work value allow employees to work on their own and make decisions. Corresponding needs are Creativity, Responsibility and Autonomy.

Aptitude

A3 Your Strengths Importance

Abilities | Cognitive, Physical, Personality

78% Problem Sensitivity  -  The ability to tell when something is wrong or is likely to go wrong. It does not involve solving the problem, only recognizing that there is a problem.
72% Oral Comprehension  -  The ability to listen to and understand information and ideas presented through spoken words and sentences.
69% Oral Expression  -  The ability to communicate information and ideas in speaking so others will understand.
69% Deductive Reasoning  -  The ability to apply general rules to specific problems to produce answers that make sense.
69% Far Vision  -  The ability to see details at a distance.
69% Arm-Hand Steadiness  -  The ability to keep your hand and arm steady while moving your arm or while holding your arm and hand in one position.
69% Static Strength  -  The ability to exert maximum muscle force to lift, push, pull, or carry objects.
66% Speech Clarity  -  The ability to speak clearly so others can understand you.
66% Inductive Reasoning  -  The ability to combine pieces of information to form general rules or conclusions (includes finding a relationship among seemingly unrelated events).
66% Control Precision  -  The ability to quickly and repeatedly adjust the controls of a machine or a vehicle to exact positions.
66% Multilimb Coordination  -  The ability to coordinate two or more limbs (for example, two arms, two legs, or one leg and one arm) while sitting, standing, or lying down. It does not involve performing the activities while the whole body is in motion.
66% Stamina  -  The ability to exert yourself physically over long periods of time without getting winded or out of breath.
66% Near Vision  -  The ability to see details at close range (within a few feet of the observer).

Job Details

Responsibilities
Rescue people from hazardous situations.
Select tools, equipment, or technologies for use in operations or projects.
Assess characteristics of fires.
Relay information about incidents or emergencies to personnel using phones or two-way radios.
Locate fires or fire danger areas.
Respond to emergencies to provide assistance.
Operate firefighting equipment.
Operate firefighting equipment.
Examine debris to obtain information about causes of fires.
Operate firefighting equipment.
Rescue people from hazardous situations.
Prepare hoses or water supplies to fight fires.
Request emergency personnel.
Communicate with other workers to coordinate activities.
Locate fires or fire danger areas.
Patrol natural areas to ensure safety or enforce regulations.
Collaborate with law enforcement or security agencies to respond to incidents.
Demonstrate activity techniques or equipment use.
Attend training to learn new skills or update knowledge.
Maintain professional knowledge or certifications.
Prepare investigation or incident reports.
Participate in physical training to maintain fitness.
Protect property from fire or water damage.
Educate the public about fire safety or prevention.
Protect property from fire or water damage.
Locate fires or fire danger areas.
Maintain fire fighting tools or equipment.
Inspect facilities to ensure compliance with fire regulations.
Inspect equipment to ensure safety or proper functioning.
Protect property from fire or water damage.
Operate firefighting equipment.
Provide first aid or rescue assistance in emergencies.
Treat medical emergencies.
Implement advanced life support techniques.
Operate firefighting equipment.
Rescue people from hazardous situations.
Train personnel on proper operational procedures.
A3 Your Strengths Importance

Attributes & Percentage of Time Spent

96% Face-to-Face Discussions  -  How often do you have to have face-to-face discussions with individuals or teams in this job?
93% Contact With Others  -  How much does this job require the worker to be in contact with others (face-to-face, by telephone, or otherwise) in order to perform it?
93% Work With Work Group or Team  -  How important is it to work with others in a group or team in this job?
91% Physical Proximity  -  To what extent does this job require the worker to perform job tasks in close physical proximity to other people?
90% Wear Common Protective or Safety Equipment such as Safety Shoes, Glasses, Gloves, Hearing Protection, Hard Hats, or Life Jackets  -  How much does this job require wearing common protective or safety equipment such as safety shoes, glasses, gloves, hard hats or life jackets?
88% Deal With External Customers  -  How important is it to work with external customers or the public in this job?
87% Responsible for Others' Health and Safety  -  How much responsibility is there for the health and safety of others in this job?
87% Outdoors, Exposed to Weather  -  How often does this job require working outdoors, exposed to all weather conditions?
82% Exposed to Contaminants  -  How often does this job require working exposed to contaminants (such as pollutants, gases, dust or odors)?
82% Sounds, Noise Levels Are Distracting or Uncomfortable  -  How often does this job require working exposed to sounds and noise levels that are distracting or uncomfortable?
82% Importance of Being Exact or Accurate  -  How important is being very exact or highly accurate in performing this job?
82% Impact of Decisions on Co-workers or Company Results  -  What results do your decisions usually have on other people or the image or reputation or financial resources of your employer?
82% In an Enclosed Vehicle or Equipment  -  How often does this job require working in a closed vehicle or equipment (e.g., car)?
81% Telephone  -  How often do you have telephone conversations in this job?
80% Exposed to Hazardous Equipment  -  How often does this job require exposure to hazardous equipment?
80% Consequence of Error  -  How serious would the result usually be if the worker made a mistake that was not readily correctable?
79% Coordinate or Lead Others  -  How important is it to coordinate or lead others in accomplishing work activities in this job?
78% Frequency of Decision Making  -  How frequently is the worker required to make decisions that affect other people, the financial resources, and/or the image and reputation of the organization?
77% Extremely Bright or Inadequate Lighting  -  How often does this job require working in extremely bright or inadequate lighting conditions?
77% Exposed to Disease or Infections  -  How often does this job require exposure to disease/infections?
74% Responsibility for Outcomes and Results  -  How responsible is the worker for work outcomes and results of other workers?
74% Electronic Mail  -  How often do you use electronic mail in this job?
74% Freedom to Make Decisions  -  How much decision making freedom, without supervision, does the job offer?
72% Structured versus Unstructured Work  -  To what extent is this job structured for the worker, rather than allowing the worker to determine tasks, priorities, and goals?
71% Wear Specialized Protective or Safety Equipment such as Breathing Apparatus, Safety Harness, Full Protection Suits, or Radiation Protection  -  How much does this job require wearing specialized protective or safety equipment such as breathing apparatus, safety harness, full protection suits, or radiation protection?
70% Exposed to Hazardous Conditions  -  How often does this job require exposure to hazardous conditions?
68% Very Hot or Cold Temperatures  -  How often does this job require working in very hot (above 90 F degrees) or very cold (below 32 F degrees) temperatures?
66% Indoors, Not Environmentally Controlled  -  How often does this job require working indoors in non-controlled environmental conditions (e.g., warehouse without heat)?
66% Spend Time Using Your Hands to Handle, Control, or Feel Objects, Tools, or Controls  -  How much does this job require using your hands to handle, control, or feel objects, tools or controls?
66% Cramped Work Space, Awkward Positions  -  How often does this job require working in cramped work spaces that requires getting into awkward positions?
65% Level of Competition  -  To what extent does this job require the worker to compete or to be aware of competitive pressures?
65% Time Pressure  -  How often does this job require the worker to meet strict deadlines?
70% Duration of Typical Work Week  -  Number of hours typically worked in one week.
A3 Your Strengths Importance

Tasks & Values

89% Inspecting Equipment, Structures, or Materials  -  Inspecting equipment, structures, or materials to identify the cause of errors or other problems or defects.
87% Operating Vehicles, Mechanized Devices, or Equipment  -  Running, maneuvering, navigating, or driving vehicles or mechanized equipment, such as forklifts, passenger vehicles, aircraft, or watercraft.
87% Assisting and Caring for Others  -  Providing personal assistance, medical attention, emotional support, or other personal care to others such as coworkers, customers, or patients.
85% Making Decisions and Solving Problems  -  Analyzing information and evaluating results to choose the best solution and solve problems.
83% Performing General Physical Activities  -  Performing physical activities that require considerable use of your arms and legs and moving your whole body, such as climbing, lifting, balancing, walking, stooping, and handling materials.
81% Getting Information  -  Observing, receiving, and otherwise obtaining information from all relevant sources.
80% Performing for or Working Directly with the Public  -  Performing for people or dealing directly with the public. This includes serving customers in restaurants and stores, and receiving clients or guests.
80% Identifying Objects, Actions, and Events  -  Identifying information by categorizing, estimating, recognizing differences or similarities, and detecting changes in circumstances or events.
80% Monitoring Processes, Materials, or Surroundings  -  Monitoring and reviewing information from materials, events, or the environment, to detect or assess problems.
80% Handling and Moving Objects  -  Using hands and arms in handling, installing, positioning, and moving materials, and manipulating things.
80% Documenting/Recording Information  -  Entering, transcribing, recording, storing, or maintaining information in written or electronic/magnetic form.
77% Updating and Using Relevant Knowledge  -  Keeping up-to-date technically and applying new knowledge to your job.
76% Communicating with Supervisors, Peers, or Subordinates  -  Providing information to supervisors, co-workers, and subordinates by telephone, in written form, e-mail, or in person.
76% Controlling Machines and Processes  -  Using either control mechanisms or direct physical activity to operate machines or processes (not including computers or vehicles).
71% Training and Teaching Others  -  Identifying the educational needs of others, developing formal educational or training programs or classes, and teaching or instructing others.
71% Establishing and Maintaining Interpersonal Relationships  -  Developing constructive and cooperative working relationships with others, and maintaining them over time.
69% Repairing and Maintaining Mechanical Equipment  -  Servicing, repairing, adjusting, and testing machines, devices, moving parts, and equipment that operate primarily on the basis of mechanical (not electronic) principles.
68% Judging the Qualities of Objects, Services, or People  -  Assessing the value, importance, or quality of things or people.
67% Developing and Building Teams  -  Encouraging and building mutual trust, respect, and cooperation among team members.
67% Communicating with People Outside the Organization  -  Communicating with people outside the organization, representing the organization to customers, the public, government, and other external sources. This information can be exchanged in person, in writing, or by telephone or e-mail.
67% Processing Information  -  Compiling, coding, categorizing, calculating, tabulating, auditing, or verifying information or data.

What Firefighters Do

Firefighters
Many firefighters are responsible for providing medical attention.

Firefighters control and put out fires and respond to emergencies involving life, property, or the environment.

Duties

Firefighters typically do the following:

  • Respond to emergencies
  • Drive firetrucks and other emergency vehicles
  • Put out fires using water hoses, fire extinguishers, and water pumps
  • Find and rescue occupants of burning buildings or other emergency situations
  • Treat sick or injured people
  • Prepare written reports about emergency incidents
  • Clean and maintain equipment
  • Conduct and participate in drills related to rescue tactics, equipment use, and treatment of victims in emergency medical situations

When responding to a fire, firefighters are responsible for connecting hoses to hydrants, operating the pumps that power the hoses, climbing ladders, and using other tools to break through debris. Firefighters also enter burning buildings to extinguish fires, rescue any occupants inside, and give medical treatment as needed. 

Firefighters provide medical attention in a variety of situations. In fact, most calls to firefighters are for medical emergencies, not fires, according to the National Fire Protection Association. Other types of emergency calls that firefighters respond to include disaster aid, search-and-rescue operations, and traffic accidents.

Some firefighters also work in hazardous materials (hazmat) units and are specially trained in controlling and cleaning up oil spills, chemical accidents, and other potentially harmful substances. They work with hazardous materials removal workers in these cases.

When firefighters are not responding to an emergency, they often participate in other activities related to their work. For example, they must maintain a high level of physical fitness. On call at a fire station, firefighters regularly inspect equipment and practice drills. They also eat and sleep at the station, as their shifts usually last 24 hours. Some firefighters make presentations about fire safety to educate the public, such as at a school.

Wildland firefighters are specially trained to control forest fires. Wildland firefighters frequently create fire lines—a swath of cut-down trees and dug-up grass in the path of a fire—to deprive a fire of fuel. They also use prescribed fires to burn potential fire fuel under controlled conditions. Some wildland firefighters, known as smoke jumpers, parachute from airplanes to reach otherwise inaccessible areas.

Work Environment

Firefighters held about 334,200 jobs in 2022. The largest employers of firefighters were as follows:

Local government, excluding education and hospitals 86%
State government, excluding education and hospitals 4
Federal government, excluding postal service 2

These employment numbers exclude volunteer firefighters, who share the same duties as paid firefighters.

Volunteer firefighters account for the largest share of firefighters nationwide, especially in communities of fewer than 25,000, according to the National Fire Protection Association.

When responding to an emergency, firefighters often wear protective gear, which can be very heavy and hot. On call at fire stations, firefighters sleep, eat, and do other nonemergency tasks, such as work on equipment. 

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 and overexposure to flames and smoke. Workers must wear protective gear to help lower these risks.

Work Schedules

Firefighters typically work long periods; overtime is common, and their hours vary. For example, firefighters may work 24-hour shifts on duty, followed by 48 or 72 hours off duty.

When combating forest and wildland fires, firefighters may work for extended periods. For example, wildland firefighters may have to stay in a fire camp, a temporary site set up to provide shelter and support for days or weeks when a wildland fire breaks out.

Work for wildland firefighters may be seasonal. During certain times of the year, wildland firefighters might not work or might have limited hours.

Getting Started

Education:
36%
High School Diploma - or the equivalent (for example, GED)
25%
Post-Secondary Certificate - awarded for training completed after high school (for example, in agriculture or natural resources, computer services, personal or culinary services, engineering technologies, healthcare, construction trades, mechanic and repair technologies, or precision production)

How to Become a Firefighter

Firefighters
Firefighters begin their careers by attending fire academy training.

Firefighters typically need a high school diploma and training in emergency medical services. Prospective firefighters must pass written and physical tests, complete interviews, and train at a fire academy. Additionally, fire departments may require firefighters to have other credentials, such as emergency medical technician (EMT) certification. Firefighters must complete continuing education to obtain or maintain these credentials.

Applicants for firefighter jobs typically must be at least 18 years old and have a valid driver’s license. They must also pass a medical exam and drug screening to be hired. After being hired, firefighters may be subject to random drug tests and also need to complete routine physical fitness assessments.

Education

The entry-level education typically required to become a firefighter is a high school diploma or equivalent. However, some postsecondary instruction, such as in assessing patients’ conditions, dealing with trauma, and clearing obstructed airways, is usually needed to obtain the emergency medical technician (EMT) certification. EMT requirements vary by city and state.

Training

Entry-level firefighters receive a few months of training at fire academies run by the fire department or by the state. Recruits learn firefighting and fire-prevention techniques, local building codes, and emergency medical procedures. They also learn how to fight fires with standard equipment, including axes, chain saws, fire extinguishers, and ladders. After attending a fire academy, firefighters usually must complete a probationary period.

Those wishing to become wildland firefighters may attend apprenticeship programs that last up to 4 years. These programs combine instruction with on-the-job-training under the supervision of experienced firefighters.

In addition to participating in training programs conducted by local or state fire departments and agencies, some firefighters attend federal training sessions sponsored by the National Fire Academy. These sessions cover topics including anti-arson techniques, disaster preparedness, hazardous materials control, and public fire safety and education.

Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations

Requirements for licensure or certification vary by state or locality. Check with your local state licensing agency or local fire department for more information.

Firefighters may need certain credentials, such as emergency medical technician (EMT) and paramedic certifications. The National Registry of Emergency Medical Technicians (NREMT) certifies EMTs and paramedics who have completed a formal program and passed the national exam. More information about EMTs and paramedics is available in a separate profile.

Continuing education is required to maintain these credentials.

Depending on the state or locality, some firefighters are required to have a commercial driver’s license (CDL) or driver’s license with firefighter endorsement to operate a firetruck.

Other Experience

Working as a volunteer firefighter may be helpful in getting a job as a career firefighter.

Advancement

Firefighters may be promoted to engineer, then to lieutenant, captain, battalion chief, assistant chief, deputy chief, and chief. For promotion to positions beyond battalion chief, many fire departments require candidates to have a bachelor's degree, preferably in fire science, public administration, or a related field. Some firefighters eventually become fire inspectors or investigators after gaining enough experience.

Job Outlook

Employment of firefighters is projected to grow 4 percent from 2022 to 2032, about as fast as the average for all occupations.

About 26,400 openings for firefighters are projected each year, on average, over the decade. Many of those openings are expected to result from the need to replace workers who transfer to different occupations or exit the labor force, such as to retire.

Employment

Although improved building materials and building codes have resulted in a long-term decrease in fires and fire fatalities, firefighters will still be needed to respond to fires. Wildland firefighters will still be needed to combat active fires and manage the environment to reduce the impact of fires. Firefighters will also continue to respond to medical emergencies.

Contacts for More Information

For information about a career as a firefighter, contact your local fire department or visit

International Association of Fire Fighters

International Association of Women in Fire & Emergency Services

U.S. Fire Administration

National Fire Protection Association

For information about a career as a wildland firefighter, visit

National Wildfire Coordinating Group

For information about professional qualifications and a list of colleges and universities offering 2- or 4-year degree programs in fire science and fire prevention, visit

National Fire Academy, U.S. Fire Administration

For more information about emergency medical technicians and paramedics, visit

National Registry of Emergency Medical Technicians

Similar Occupations

This table shows a list of occupations with job duties that are similar to those of firefighters.

Occupation Job Duties Entry-Level Education Median Annual Pay, May 2022
EMTs and paramedics EMTs and Paramedics

Emergency medical technicians (EMTs) and paramedics assess injuries and illnesses, provide emergency medical care, and may transport patients to medical facilities.

Postsecondary nondegree award $39,410
Fire inspectors and investigators Fire Inspectors

Fire inspectors detect fire hazards, recommend prevention measures, ensure compliance with state and local fire regulations, and investigate causes of fires.

See How to Become One $65,800
Forest and conservation workers Forest and Conservation Workers

Forest and conservation workers perform physical labor to improve the quality of natural areas such as forests, rangelands, and wetlands.

High school diploma or equivalent $32,270
Hazardous materials removal workers Hazardous Materials Removal Workers

Hazardous materials removal workers identify and dispose of harmful substances such as asbestos, lead, and radioactive waste.

High school diploma or equivalent $46,690
Police and detectives Police and Detectives

Police officers protect lives and property. Detectives and criminal investigators gather facts and collect evidence of possible crimes.

See How to Become One $69,160

Information provided by CareerFitter, LLC and other sources.

Sections of this page includes information from the O*NET 27.3 Database by the U.S. Department of Labor, Employment and Training Administration (USDOL/ETA). Used under the CC BY 4.0 license.

CareerFitter, LLC has modified all or some of this information. USDOL/ETA has not approved, endorsed, or tested these modifications.