California Occupational Guides

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Summary Guide for

Fire Fighters in California

May also be called: Fire Engineers; Firefighters/EMTs; Firefighters/Paramedics; Forest Fire Fighters; Forest Ranger Technicians; and Foresters

Specialties within this occupation include: Fire Inspectors; Fire Investigators; Forest Fire Fighters; Forest Fire Inspectors; and Prevention Specialists

What Would I Do?

Fire Fighters control and extinguish fires or respond to emergency situations where life, property, or the environment is at risk. Duties may include fire prevention, emergency medical service, hazardous material response, search and rescue, and disaster management.

Fire Fighters must work in conditions that are highly stressful and very physically demanding. They risk death or injury from sudden floor cave-ins, falling walls, or traffic accidents when responding to calls. Fire Fighters may also come into contact with poisonous, flammable, or explosive gases, and chemicals or other hazardous materials. However, the risk of injury is reduced by wearing protective gear.

Will This Job Fit Me?

The job of a Fire Fighter may appeal to those who enjoy activities that involve practical, hands-on problems and solutions.

What Wages and Benefits Can I Expect?

The median wage in 2021 for Fire Fighters in California was $82,674 annually, or $39.75 hourly. The median is the point at which half of the workers earn more and half earn less.

Change to Hourly Wages
Annual Wages for 2021Low
(25th percentile)
(50th percentile)
(75th percentile)
Source: EDD/LMID Occupational Employment Statistics Survey, 2021 Wages do not reflect self-employment.
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Fire Fighters can expect to receive a benefit package that includes paid vacation, holidays, sick leave, group health insurance, and retirement programs.

What is the Job Outlook?

Most job openings will be created by the need to replace Fire Fighters who retire, transfer to supervisory positions, or leave the field for other reasons. Applicants can improve their employment opportunities by completing a Fire Fighting program at a community college, and by obtaining emergency medical technician (EMT) certification.

How Do I Qualify?

Employers require a minimum of a high school diploma or equivalent. The majority of hiring agencies require Fire Fighters to obtain an emergency medical technician (EMT) certification. Therefore, it is advisable to enroll in fire fighting technology and EMT courses through a local community college to enhance employment opportunities.

Finding a Job

Direct application to employers remains one of the most effective job search methods. Since local government employs the largest number of Fire Fighters, it is a good idea to check the city or county government personnel department listings in your local white pages. Also, local government Web sites are an excellent resource for employment information and current exam announcements. Refer to “Other Sources.”  Online job opening systems include JobCentral at and CalJOBSSM at

To find your nearest One-Stop Career Center, go to Service Locator. View the helpful job search tips for more resources. (requires Adobe Reader).

Learn More About Fire Fighters