How Much Do Firefighters ACTUALLY Make?


man counting money

Working as a firefighter is a noble profession, as you’re saving lives and doing important work every day that you’re on the job. Before you decide if becoming a firefighter is the right career move for you, you need to know what kind of income you can expect. 

As a general rule, average median pay for firefighters is $52,500 a year or $25.24 an hour. Yet like any career path, the state and city you call home has a huge bearing on your earnings potential.

In this extensive guide, we’re going state by state, covering firefighting salaries in the Northeast, South, Midwest, and Western United States. We’ll then compare this firefighting salary information to jobs like a nurse or EMT to see where the money really is. 

All numbers are from reputable salary resources such as Bureau of Labor Statistics, Glassdoor, ZipRecruiter, and Salary.com and are current as of this writing. 

Firefighting Salary in the Northeast

  • Maine: $24,000 to $68,000 (average salary – $37,033)
  • Vermont: $24,000 to $68,000 (average salary – $39,712)
  • Massachusetts: $27,000 to $69,000 (average salary – $45,500)
  • New York: $27,000 to $130,000 (average salary – $52,902) 
  • Rhode Island: $26,000 to $75,000 (average salary – $42,633)
  • New Hampshire: $27,000 to $70,000 (average salary – $51,372)
  • New Jersey: $27,000 to $78,000 (average salary – $43,757)
  • Connecticut: $27,000 to $77,000 (average salary – $43,578)
  • Pennsylvania: $25,000 to $71,000 (average salary – $45,740)
  • Delaware: $24,000 to $74,000 (average salary – $38,782)
  • Maryland: $26,000 to $73,000 (average salary – $41,487)

Using the average pay data, we can see that New York is the most profitable state to be a firefighter in the Northeast. That’s followed by New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, New Jersey, and Connecticut. 

According to World Population Review, in 2021, New York is the third most expensive state in the US to live in, Massachusetts is the fifth, and New Jersey is the ninth. Although your earnings are higher in these states, the cost of living is as well. 

Firefighting Salary in the Midwest

  • North Dakota: $23,000 to $66,000 (average salary – $41,976)
  • South Dakota: $21,000 to $66,000 (average salary – $40,750)
  • Minnesota: $18,000 to $74,000 (average salary – $41,954)
  • Nebraska: $23,000 to $68,000 (average salary – $40,796)
  • Wisconsin: $25,000 to $70,000 (average salary – $42,097)
  • Iowa: $23,000 to $68,000 (average salary – $39,820) 
  • Missouri: $22,000 to $72,000 (average salary – $35,713)
  • Illinois: $25,000 to $76,000 (average salary – $36,400) 
  • Ohio: $24,000 to $69,000 (average salary – $41,720) 
  • Indiana: $23,000 to $69,000 (average salary – $43,730) 
  • Kansas: $24,000 to $67,000 (average salary – $39,658)
  • Michigan: $25,000 to $71,000 (average salary – $36,529)
  • Arkansas: $22,000 to $65,000 (average salary – $36,599)

If you live in the Midwest, your highest firefighting earnings will come from working in Indiana, followed by Wisconsin, North Dakota, Minnesota, and Ohio. Midwestern states are also within the bottom half of the most expensive 50 states to live in. The money you make, although it may not be as much as other states, may go a lot further. 

Firefighting Salary in the West

  • Arizona: $25,000 to $77,000 (average salary – $44,013) 
  • Washington: $27,000 to $83,000 (average salary – $43,787)
  • Montana: $23,000 to $67,000 (average salary – $44,471)
  • Oregon: $21,000 to $79,000 (average salary – $40,176)
  • Idaho: $24,000 to $67,000 (average salary – $37,181) 
  • Wyoming: $22,000 to $63,000 (average salary – $47,153) 
  • Colorado: $25,000 to $91,000 (average salary – $38,935)
  • Utah: $24,000 to $75,000 (average salary – $41,004) 
  • Nevada: $26,000 to $90,000 (average salary – $41,810) 
  • California: $26,000 to $110,000 (average salary – $39,714)
  • Alaska: $28,000 to $87,000 (average salary – $42,142) 
  • Hawaii: $26,000 to $140,000 (average salary – $44,382)
  • New Mexico: $23,000 to $120,000 (average salary – $40,023)

Now here is where things get interesting. Most of the states in the West pay some of the highest firefighting salaries in the country, but that’s also because these states are very costly to live in. Hawaii tops the World Population Review list of the most expensive states for 2021. Second on the list is California, fourth is Oregon, and sixth is Alaska.

Other states with great salaries in the West are Montana, Washington, Nevada, and Utah. Some of these states are a little less expensive to live in so you can save more money.   

Firefighting Salary in the South

  • Oklahoma: $20,000 to $100,000 (average salary – $37,916) 
  • Texas: $23,000 to $82,000 (average salary – $35,890)
  • Louisiana: $24,000 to $68,000 (average salary – $40,687)
  • Florida: $24,000 to $67,000 (average salary – $40,016)
  • Georgia: $25,000 to $70,000 (average salary – $42,458)
  • North Carolina: $23,000 to $68,000 (average salary – $41,976)
  • South Carolina: $23,000 to $66,000 (average salary – $40,750)
  • West Virginia: $22,000 to $63,000 (average salary – $45,962)
  • Virginia: $25,000 to $70,000 (average salary – $40,261) 
  • Kentucky: $24,000 to $67,000 (average salary – $39,958) 
  • Tennessee: $23,000 to $79,000 (average salary – $42,027)
  • Mississippi: $22,000 to $62,000 (average salary – $37,161) 
  • Alabama: $23,000 to $74,000 (average salary – $41,465)

That brings us to the Southern states, of which there are many. The firefighting salaries are exceptional no matter which of these states you decide to call home, with West Virginia the state with the highest earnings potential using average salary data as a comparison. That’s followed by Georgia, North Carolina, and Maryland. 

Many Southeastern states do not rank very high as expensive places to live. Since your cost of living is lower, the earnings are commensurate. In other words, the dollars you make here will stretch a lot further! 

How Much Do Firefighters Earn Compared to Other Jobs?

Now that we’ve gone state by state and made clearer what the earnings potential of a firefighter looks like, we want to contrast those numbers to other related occupations. We’ll look at the salaries of nurses, paramedics, and police officers. This will help make your career decision clearer!

Firefighters Salary vs. Nurse Salary

The first career path we’ll look at is nursing. The Bureau of Labor Statistics states that registered nurses make $36.22 an hour and $75,330 a year. Earlier, we mentioned that according to BLS data, firefighters earn on average $25.24 an hour and $52,500 a year.

That’s an hourly difference of $10.98 an hour and an annual salary of $22,830. Both fields are growing similarly. BLS says that nursing has expanded at a rate of seven percent between 2019 and 2029, with 3,096,700 jobs as of 2019. Firefighting as a field is growing by six percent in the same period. Only 335,500 firefighting jobs were added in 2019.

If you’re a nurse practitioner, a nurse-midwife, or a nurse anesthetist, your income is higher. BLS data states that you’ll make $56.57 an hour and $117,670 per year. This is about double a firefighter’s salary. Working as a nurse practitioner requires at least a master’s degree. Despite that, the field is growing at an astonishing rate of 45 percent between 2019 and 2029. In 2019, 263,400 jobs were added. 

Firefighters Salary vs. Paramedic Salary

What if you’re thinking of becoming an emergency medical technician or an EMT or perhaps a paramedic? Although the job responsibilities of a paramedic are greater than that of an EMT, BLS combines both jobs for their salary data. Thus, you might expect to make even more working as a paramedic than what’s listed.

BLS says that an EMT or paramedic would bring home $17.62 an hour and $36,650 a year. This is less than BLS’s firefighting salary data. A firefighter would earn $7.62 more an hour and $15,850 more per year. The career growth rate for paramedics and EMTs is also six percent, with 265,200 more EMT/paramedic jobs added in 2019. 

Firefighter Salary vs. Police Salary

Last but not least, let’s compare the earnings of a police officer against that of firefighters. We’ll again rely on BLS data. As a detective or police officer, BLS states that you’d make $32.35 per hour and $67,290 per year. This is more money than the average firefighter’s income, with an hourly difference of $7.11 and a yearly difference of $14,790.

The growth in this field is somewhat slower than in firefighting, with an expected growth rate of only five percent between 2019 and 2029. The BLS says that 813,500 police/detective jobs were added in 2019. 

Firefighters make about $26 an hour and $52,500 per year. Although they’re out-earned by police officers and nurses, firefighters might rake in more money than an EMT and paramedic if you use BLS data as the standard. 

At the end of the day, money is important, but it isn’t everything. If you think you can make a livable wage as a firefighter and you genuinely want to help people, then a career in firefighting could be right for you!  

FirefighterNOW

I’m Mike, I’m a full time firefighter/paramedic/diver for a department just west of Cleveland, Ohio and the founder of FirefighterNOW. I’m also a columnist for FireRescue1. If you’re reading this blog my guess is you are interested in the fire service. There's information on fitness, gear, interviews, tests and more. I hope you find what you're looking for.

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