Can Firefighters Make 100k Per Year?

Remember when you were a kid, and in school they would ask everyone what they wanted to be when they grew up? The odds are that there were at least one or two kids who wanted to be firemen. Perhaps you were one of them.

The Real Salaries of Firefighters - Can a Firefighter Make 100k a Year

Firefighters are brave, strong, and more than anything else, they are heroic. These emergency workers spend much of their time helping others, and even saving lives in certain instances.

As a kid, we just assume they put out house fires with hoses, but in reality, there is so much more to the occupation than meets the eye.

It is also pretty hard to become a firefighter with all the regulations that must be met: before you even get the job, there are several tests and exams that must be completed in order to prove that you are more than capable for the job.

Firefighters really are heroes, and we imagine being one must be a huge honor.

Perhaps you are just curious, or you are actually looking into what it takes to become a fireman (or firewoman) for future reference: what does the job require from the average person? What does it really mean to join a fire department?

There may be another question burning on your mind, and it is one that we often think of when we consider a new career. It is a sensible question to ask. In this instance, you may be wondering: how much money does a firefighter make?

Some say that these heroic workers make up to $100,000 a year. Is that really true? The thought of making 100k yearly makes this career seem much more appealing, if it wasn’t already before.

If these questions are on your mind, look no further. You are in the right place. Continue reading this article to find out how much firefighters really earn on a yearly basis.

What Does A Firefighter Do?

So, when we were kids, all we really knew about firefighters were from the illustrations we’d find in picture books or cartoons: they put out fires with big hosepipes. 

While this is technically true, this is not the only task that firefighters are required to do. In fact, putting out blazing fires is actually a pretty infrequent task for firefighters: it really doesn’t happen often.

In 2013, on average, American firefighters only had to respond to one fire every 22 days. This equals to, roughly, only one fire a month.

So, what else does a firefighter do?

Members of the fire department often perform as EMTs, which is the abbreviation term for Emergency Medical Technicians.

EMTs sometimes get confused as paramedics due to both having to perform similar skills and tasks: they both provide life saving treatments during emergency situations. EMT training is a very important, essential part of becoming a firefighter.

They often work alongside ambulance crews, assessing and assisting medical care to those who are seriously injured. 

Firefighters are sometimes known as ‘first responders’: this is because they are, usually, the first ones to arrive at the scene of an emergency (if they are needed).

They assist ambulances and police officers alike, having the knowledge and physical ability to help both parties during emergency situations. If they are first responding at the scene of an accident, they will assist the injured until the police and ambulances arrive.

In the case of a natural disaster, such as a tornado or an earthquake, firefighters will go out and rescue those who are hurt or trapped, and search for the missing or deceased. Like we said previously, this career is not for the faint hearted. 

In the case of an actual fire, firefighters must put on their appropriate safety gear and travel in a fire engine to the location of the incident.

While on the scene, and depending on which task they are given, the firemen may use hoses to attempt to put out the flames, guide ladders onto the building for people to enter or leave, or, most scarily, run into the burning building to rescue those who are trapped inside.

If any of the victims are unconscious or seriously injured after being brought outside, the firefighters will use their EMT skills to aid them. 

The least life threatening task that firefighters are often given is to educate the public, giving speeches and talks to schools, local businesses, and other public areas.

They will also be expected to carry out inspections, checking that each of these public buildings meet health and safety codes: this means checking that each fire alarm, fire escape, and sprinkler system is in immaculate, functioning condition.

It is much easier for a fireman to help prevent a fire rather than to have to extinguish one.

It is pretty clear that a firefighter’s job is an extremely important and dangerous one. They risk their lives every day to aid the public, putting others before themselves.

If you ask us, whatever their yearly salary is - don’t worry, we’re getting to that part - they should probably get paid double that amount.

What Is The Highest Salary A Firefighter Can Receive A Year?

The positions and ranks at your local fire department may vary depending on where you are from, but here is a list of the typical positions a firefighter can, and may, achieve throughout their career, starting at entry level.

  1. Volunteer firefighter
  2. Probationary firefighter
  3. Firefighter/EMT
  4. Firefighter/Paramedic
  5. Driver Engineer
  6. Lieutenant
  7. Captain
  8. Battalion Chief
  9. Assistant Chief
  10. Fire Chief

Of course, the same rules apply to the firefighting career as any other career: the higher up the position you achieve, the more money you get paid. It also takes a lot of time and perseverance to make your way to the top.

The yearly salary of a firefighter, again, varies from whichever area they work from. The average pay per year for a fireman is, roughly, around $48,200, but this number may be significantly higher or lower depending where you are from. 

The highest paying states and districts for firefighters are:

  • California ($84k per year)
  • New Jersey ($80k per year)
  • Washington ($76k per year)
  • New York (75k per year)
  • Nevada ($69k per year)

Once again, these numbers are not permanent or completely accurate: these are rough estimated yearly salaries that may change if you were to actually join a career at a fire department in any of these states. 

You may notice that, despite the titular question of this article, none of these states pay anywhere close to 100k a year. 

Firefighters can earn up to 100k a year, but this is extremely rare.

If you want to become a firefighter just on the basis that you could earn up to six figures annually, you probably shouldn’t bother: the likelihood is that you will not get paid that amount, and your salary will be considerably lower than your expectations.

Why You Shouldn’t Become A Firefighter Just For The Money

If the numbers in the section above have put you off wanting to become a firefighter, that is probably for the best.

We said previously in this article that whatever amount of money firefighters earn in a year, they should probably earn double that wage. This is a statement we stand by: after all, how can you put a price on a person’s life?

Many firefighters have husbands and wives, children, families that they hope to return to after a long, difficult shift, and in some cases, they do not get that privilege.

Think about those who just happened to be working their shift at the FDNY on September 11th, 2001, and imagine the overwhelming terror that they experienced when they saw the news for the first time.

9/11, of course, is an extreme example of an emergency incident, but the courage that those firefighters demonstrated on that day, as well as the following weeks and months, was nothing but inspiring.

Hundreds of firefighters who were not required to work that day made their own conscious decisions to join their co-workers, not knowing if they would ever return home.

Hundreds of people volunteered to help, and, ultimately, 344 firefighters lost their lives during the 9/11 attacks.

Do you really think that those firemen were thinking about their annual wage when they made the decision to leave their families that morning?

Joining the fire department is not for everyone. While some tasks, such as educating the public and making inspections, may not be too exciting, there is always the possibility that something bigger could happen: something that could put your own life at risk, as well as the lives of others.

As a firefighter, it would be your responsibility to do whatever you can to ensure a limited risk of injury, and those situations can be terrifying, or even, potentially, traumatising.

Yes, of course it is always wise to check how much a job pays before you accept the position. We have to make money somehow, and after all, many of us have our own families to feed.

However, if you are only truly interested in applying for the firefighting career on the basis that you may earn up to six figures a year someday, you may need to re-question your morals.

At the end of the day, firefighting is not about becoming rich. It is about putting others before yourself, and making the world a safer and better place to live. 

No amount of money will ever make you feel as good as becoming a real-life superhero who holds the ability to save the world.