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Career Profile: Firefighters

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.

Salary and Outlook

According to the US Department of Labor, there are 326,100 people employed as firefighters in the United States. The median annual salary is $50,700. Entry level employees earn approximately $29,030 per year and senior employees earn approximately $81,640 per year.

Estimates do not include other potential benefits such as health insurance, overtime pay, or retirement benefits that may be offered by employers.

Job Duties

  • Select and attach hose nozzles, depending on fire type, and direct streams of water or chemicals onto fires.
  • Maintain contact with fire dispatchers at all times to notify them of the need for additional firefighters and supplies, or to detail any difficulties encountered.
  • Inspect buildings for fire hazards and compliance with fire prevention ordinances, testing and checking smoke alarms and fire suppression equipment as necessary.
  • Take action to contain any hazardous chemicals that could catch fire, leak, or spill.
  • Extinguish flames and embers to suppress fires, using shovels or engine- or hand-driven water or chemical pumps.
  • 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.
  • Move toward the source of a fire, using knowledge of types of fires, construction design, building materials, and physical layout of properties.
  • Respond to fire alarms and other calls for assistance, such as automobile and industrial accidents.
  • Create openings in buildings for ventilation or entrance, using axes, chisels, crowbars, electric saws, or core cutters.
  • Drive and operate fire fighting vehicles and equipment.
  • Inspect fire sites after flames have been extinguished to ensure that there is no further danger.
  • Position and climb ladders to gain access to upper levels of buildings, or to rescue individuals from burning structures.
  • Orient self in relation to fire, using compass and map, and collect supplies and equipment dropped by parachute.
  • Clean and maintain fire stations and fire fighting equipment and apparatus.
  • Collaborate with other firefighters as a member of a firefighting crew.
  • Patrol burned areas after fires to locate and eliminate hot spots that may restart fires.
  • Collaborate with police to respond to accidents, disasters, and arson investigation calls.
  • Participate in fire drills and demonstrations of fire fighting techniques.
  • Maintain knowledge of current firefighting practices by participating in drills and by attending seminars, conventions, and conferences.
  • Prepare written reports that detail specifics of fire incidents.
  • Participate in physical training activities to maintain a high level of physical fitness.
  • Protect property from water and smoke, using waterproof salvage covers, smoke ejectors, and deodorants.
  • Inform and educate the public on fire prevention.
  • Salvage property by removing broken glass, pumping out water, and ventilating buildings to remove smoke.

Career List

Job Outlook


Total Current Jobs:
326,100
Annual Openings:
28,000
Increase in Openings by 2031:
4%
Annual Salary Range:
$29,030 - $81,640
Education Requirements:
Some college