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Firefighter: Salary and conditions

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  • There is a nationally agreed salary structure for firefighters. The starting salary for a trainee firefighter is £21,157. When full competence is achieved, this rises to £28,199. Higher rates apply for overtime.
  • Crew manager salaries range from £29,971 (development) to £31,263 (competent) and watch manger salaries range from £31,940-£34,961.
  • A station manager's earning potential is between £36,365 and £40,109 plus overtime rates, subject to the officer's level of competence.
  • Further advancement to the role of group manager and then area manager attracts salaries of between £41,881 and £53,934, depending on the level of competence.
  • There are two types of firefighter: whole-time and retained. Whole-time members generally work in urban areas, whereas retained firefighters tend to cover rural areas, responding to pagers when an emergency call is received. A retained firefighter must live or work within five minutes of the fire station. Most brigades offer several types of retained contract based on different levels of commitment.
  • Working hours typically include regular unsocial hours. Firefighters usually work in shifts - most work two day shifts followed by two night shifts and then have four days off. However, different services employ different duty systems, depending on their needs. When necessary, paid overtime is worked.
  • The work often takes place in dangerous and unpleasant conditions: heat, cold, at heights, in enclosed spaces, in smoke-filled buildings, and in all kinds of weather conditions. You may be exposed to danger from collapsing buildings or vehicles, explosions and fumes. You need to be physically fit, as firefighters carry heavy equipment and breathing apparatus.
  • Job-sharing and part-time work are possible.
  • Self-employment/freelance work may be possible, depending on shift patterns, but is more likely to occur after retirement. Opportunities might include consultancy or training.
  • Retained firefighters are usually either self-employed or have an employer willing to allow them to leave work immediately to attend an emergency.
  • Women are currently underrepresented in the profession. However, the fire service is working to recruit more female and black and minority ethnic firefighters through positive recruitment strategies. Contact your local fire and rescue service for details.
  • Jobs are available throughout the UK. Chief Fire Officers Association  has an alphabetical list of fire and rescue services, searchable by region.
  • Smart appearance is important. Firefighters wearing breathing apparatus are required to be clean shaven to ensure the equipment can work effectively.
  • Travel within a working day is frequent. Absence from home overnight (other than rostered duty) and overseas work or travel are generally uncommon.

Salary data from the Fire Brigades Union (FBU) . Figures are intended as a guide only.

Written by AGCAS editors
August 2012

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