Asking how much a firefighter salary is, is a bit like asking how much money someone will make if they get a job. There are so many different levels of firefighter salary around the U.S. Still, a recent MoneyNation analysis does give a pretty good picture of the ranges of annual pay that any given firefighter can expect to occupy. The “typical” firefighter in the U.S. makes $45,970 per year, or $23 per hour, but that’s like quoting the salary for the “typical videographer.” Some videographers make very little money shooting low-end weddings while some shoot documentaries for national TV. It’s possible for a firefighter to make as much as $400,000 per year and retire with a gigantic pension in certain situations. New Jersey’s typical firefighter pay comes out to over $80,000 per year, with 10% of firefighters there making over $116,000. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) there are about 320,000 firefighters in America. Data from the National Fire Protection Association disputes this, putting the number at a much higher 1.1 million. The BLS data only counts career firefighters while the NFPA includes volunteer firefighters in their numbers.
Typical Firefighter Salary in America: $45,970
The median firefighter salary in the United States is $45,970 a year, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. That means half the firefighters in the country make more than that amount and half make less. BLS data compiles info on firefighter pay by state, city and county around the country, including upper, middle and lower ranges. “Typical” and “average” aren’t the same thing. Averages are often bent out of shape by extremely high or extremely low numbers at either end of the range. In terms of what real life firefighters actually make, “typical” doesn’t even mean that much, since so many real world firefighters make so much more or so much less. Really it depends heavily where a firefighter lives, what kind of job they get and where they ultimately end up in the organization.
Top Firefighter Salary:
Some firefighters can make as much as $400,000 per year. For example, the City of San Francisco publishes their public salary list each year and firefighters dominate the top of it. On it is a Battalion Chief who makes $393,000 per year. That firefighter is the #1 highest paid employee on the San Francisco public payroll. In fact, 31 of the top 50 employees on the list are firefighters. Three other firefighters on the list are a Lieutenant and two more Battalion Chiefs, each making well over $300,000 per year. It’s true that San Francisco is the city with the highest paid firefighters in the country and that all the city employees mentioned above are officers. But there’s one non-officer in the top ten, an EMT/Paramedic/firefighter who makes a salary of $326,140.
Ten States with the Highest Firefighter Salary
What states have the highest firefighter salary? New Jersey, California, Washington, New York, Oregon, Nevada, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Alaska and Maryland. The list below gives the details on those states. All data comes from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
1. New Jersey: $81,590
New Jersey has the highest typical firefighter salary in the country, according to the BLS. The state’s typical firefighter salary is $81,590, but the top 10% of firefighters in the state make over $116,000. The top 25% make over $99,400 and the top 45% make over $85,000. Most firefighters in New Jersey make over $40 an hour. There are 5,300 firefighters total in the state, and 1.3 out of every 1,000 employees in the state is a firefighter. Jersey City has one of the highest concentrations of firefighters in the country.
2. California: $67,270
California is #2 on our list of states with the top firefighter salary. Half of all California firefighters make more than $67,270 per year. The top 10% make over $100,500. Some firefighters in the bigger metropolitan areas make $300,000 to $400,000. The top 25% in the state make more than $84,700. The bottom 10% can make as little as $36,860. Firefighters in California generally work ten 24 hour shifts each month. Some California firefighter shifts can last as long as 48 hours, with 96 hours off.
3. Washington: $67,270
Washington has the #3 firefighter salary in the U.S. with a median of $67,270. The bottom 10% make less than $26,000, while the top 10% make over $97,000. 25% of all firefighters in the state make over $86,600. There are 8,000 firefighters in the state, and 3 of every 1,000 Washington State employees has chosen to fight fires as a career. The Seattle area has the greatest concentration of firefighters in the state, with more than 30% of all fire professionals in the state working in that region.
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All Top Ten States for Highest Firefighter Salary
The table below lists all top ten states for the highest firefighter pay in the United States. The pay listed is the median pay. 50% of all fire professionals in the listed state make more than that salary and the other 50% make less. The range for firefighter pay in each state is very wide, with the bottom 10% often earning $25,000 to $35,000 per year and the top 10% often making over $100,000.
Ten States with the Highest Median Firefighter Salary
4. New York: $66,930
The typical firefighter salary in New York State is $66,930. The top 10% make $81,170 and the top 25% make over $76,000. The bottom 10% make less than $45,000, so New York State doesn’t have as low a bottom range as many of the other states on our list. There are 11,000 firefighters in the State of New York, with the highest concentration in New York City. During the events of 9/11, many New York City firefighters had no idea how grave the danger was or that the World Trade Center buildings were in danger of collapse. A 2005 report from the office of Mayor Michael Bloomberg outlined the full extent to which rescue workers remained uninformed.
5. Oregon: $62,180
In Oregon, the median firefighter salary is $62,180. The top 10% make over $86,000 and the top 25% make at least $75,500. Employees in the bottom 10% can expect to make $31,000 or less, though the top 75% make over $55,000 a year. There are 3,280 firefighters in the state and one in every 500 employees is a firefighter. According to the state of Oregon, 66% of all emergencies that firefighters respond to aren’t fires, but medical emergencies.
6. Nevada: $60,020
The typical Nevada firefighter salary of $60,020 makes that state #6 in the country for the occupation’s pay. That may be lower than some states, but the top 10% of all workers in that field make over $86,000 and the other brackets aren’t so far behind. The top 25% make at least $75,000 and the top two thirds of all firefighters in the state make over $47,000. Even the bottom 10% make close to $40,000. There are less than 2,000 firefighters in the entire state, but that’s still not bad compared to the general population, since 1.6 in every 1,000 employees in the state is a firefighter.
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7. Connecticut: $59,400
Connecticut is the first state on our top 10 list with a median firefighter salary less than $60,000. The top 1/10th of all firefighters in the state make over $77,500 and the top 25% make over $72,000. Fully three quarters of all fire professionals in the state make over $52,000 while the bottom 10% do slightly worse with $36,000 per year. There are 3,200 firefighters in the state and one in every 500 employees makes their living in that occupation.
8. Massachusetts: $57,600
#8 on our list of states with the highest firefighter salary is Massachusetts with a median salary of $57,600. The top 10% of all employees in that sector make over $86,000, while the bottom 10% make $33,000. 3/4ths of all firefighters in the state make at least $52,000. There are 12,000 firefighters in Mass, which makes for one of the highest concentrations in the country. Nearly one of every 250 employees in the state makes a living fighting fires.
9. Alaska: $57,440
Alaska’s median firefighter salary of $57,400 makes it #9 on our list of states with the highest pay for firefighters. The bottom 10% of all employees in this occupation earn $35,000 per year, while the top 25% make $70,000 or more. The top 10% earn at least $70,000. There are only about 770 firefighters in Alaska. Outside of populated areas, fires in Alaska are actually encouraged. They’re seen as a natural part of the life cycle in the wilderness and actually help many ecosystems to flourish.
10. Maryland: $56,530
Maryland barely squeaks into the top ten list with a median firefighter salary of $56,530. The upper 10% make over $78,000, the upper 25% make over $64,000 and the bottom 10% make about $38,000. There are 3,800 firefighters in the state, which is low compared to states like New York and Massachusetts. In 2016 in Maryland a firefighter was shot to death by a homeowner but was never convicted of a crime. The firefighter had been responding to a call for help inside the house, then forced entry into the home. The homeowner mistakenly thought the firefighter was a criminal intruder.