A fireman's job can be hazardous. He frequently enters dangerous environments that include the risk of smoke inhalation, collapsing buildings, explosions and extreme heat. All firefighters confront these risks to protect the public -- a reward that makes the job worthwhile for many who enter this line of work. Before pursuing a career as a firefighter, consider some facts about the job and think about whether it's right for you.
As of 2010 there were 310,400 firefighters in the United States. By 2020 this number is expected to increase to 336,900 -- an increase of 9 percent. While the number of positions is expected to rise, this rate of growth is lower than the 14 percent expected across all occupations. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, fire departments can receive hundreds, or even thousands, of applications for each available position, so you should expect stiff competition if you plan to become a firefighter.
Firefighting remains a male dominated profession. The number of females numbers in the thousands, but they make up a very small minority overall. The percentage of female firefighters in the U.S. has fluctuated over the years, making up 3.6 percent of all firefighters as of 2010. From 2006 to 2010 the average annual percent of female firefighters was 4.2 percent. The number of female firefighters peaked at 5.2 percent of the workforce in the years 2007 and 2004.
The median wage for firefighters was $45,250 a year as of 2010. This compares favorably to all occupations which had an average annual wage of $33,840 in 2010. It also pays better than other protective service occupations which had a median annual salary of $36,660 as of 2010.
Firefighters often work long hours and have irregular schedules. According to the BLS, firefighters are on duty for about 50 hours each week. This usually involves 24-hour shifts followed by a 48- or 72-hour break. At all times while on duty, firefighters must be prepared to respond to emergencies and put themselves at risk of physical harm. Ninety-one percent of paid firefighters work for local governments with the remaining 9 percent work for other levels of government.
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