WHAT ARE THE CAREER OPPORTUNITIES AND PATHWAYS IN THIS FIELD?
What is the outlook and pay range from entry-level to high end employment in this field?
Firefighter jobs are seen as very desirable so competition for entry-level positions is stiff. Sacramento Metropolitan Fire Department recently had one thousand applicants for twenty positions. One key to getting hired as a firefighter is to have as many certifications as possible.
Of course, one needs the EMT 1 as a minimum. They should then seek Firefighter 1 through the CRC Firefighter Internship or through another agency’s academy. If they can obtain a paramedic certification on top of this, then they are “ahead of 99% of applicants” according to Professor McHugh. This is because most departments seek to fill their firefighter positions with applicants with the “P card” (paramedic). This way, they do not have to send them to American River College for the paramedic program (a big cost to the department when they do it under contract with ARC).
Professor Gruenberg says that many applicants need help with the oral board preparation. Most boards consist of three to five people ranging from captains to chiefs in rank. He is asked to sit on many boards so is very familiar with the process and covers this preparation in his FT 300 class.
The physical tests and demands of the profession require good upper body strength so students might want to put in some gym time or hire a trainer to help them prepare. Women can and do pass these physical tests. Elk Grove has five or six currently working in the Department.
What are entry-level salaries like and what is the income potential with experience?
Beginning firefighter/EMTs in this part of California earn between $40,000 to $70,000 yearly. Many departments have more resources than others and pay at the higher range. Roseville, El Dorado Hills, Elk Grove (CSD) pay well, but West Sacramento, Woodland and Davis not as well. State-wide, the California Employment Development 2006 wage data showed the average hourly wage to be $27.49 and the top 25% of wages to be $36.34 per hour. If the firefighter has the paramedic card, they will another 6 to 15% bonus over EMT pay and additional education can bring another 2 ½%. Pay for firefighters is based on monthly or yearly because they work 56 hour weeks but only get paid for 40 hours. This is a highly unionized occupation so when a contract results in higher wages elsewhere, other districts are likely going to follow suit.
EMT and Paramedic
The California Employment Development Department salary survey shows the 2006 wage average to be $14.25 per hour and the top 25% of wage earners at $17.14. In Sacramento private companies are paying starting EMTs - $11 – $14 per hour and Paramedics - $ 15 to $18 per hour. The pay varies drastically across the state and county. Private employers generally have weaker benefits then civil service firefighters do with CALPERS.
What other jobs are related to or made possible by experience or training in this field? What is the potential for advancement in this career?
Firefighters can rise through the ranks, lieutenant and captain at the station level and up to the “executive” levels of chief. The executive officers operate from administration buildings rather than fire stations. Promotional opportunities will typically be enhanced through additional education at the Bachelors level. Management coursework would be very helpful and it doesn’t need to be in Fire Administration either.
Other possible occupations made possible by training and experience include those in hazardous materials, building inspection, safety inspection and adjuster positions with the insurance industry and private fire investigation. Firefighters can take classes in fire investigation and law enforcement to enhance such opportunities. Attorneys will sometimes hire experts with this background. Paramedics have many opportunities available to them including Physician’s Assistant.