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Firefighter: Salary and career prospects

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During a career as a firefighter promotion is earned on individual merit, so every new recruit has the chance to make it to even the most senior posts


There is a nationally agreed salary structure for firefighters.

  • The starting salary for a trainee firefighter is £21,583. When full competence is achieved, this rises to £28,766. Higher rates apply for overtime.
  • Crew manager salaries range from £30,574 (development) to £31,892 (competent) and watch manger salaries range from £32,096 to £35,664.
  • A station manager's earning potential is between £37,096 and £40,915 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 £50,156 and £55,018, depending on the level of competence.

Retained firefighters are paid an annual retainer, dependent on their role in the service, plus a turn-out fee for each incident they attend. Retainers start at £2,158 for a trainee while a competent retained firefighter receives £2,887. London firefighters are paid more.

Income data from Royal Berkshire Fire and Rescue Service . Figures are intended as a guide only.

Professional training

Initial firefighter training takes an intensive 12 and 18 weeks to complete. It's usually held at a specially equipped training centre where you will be taught basic firefighting skills such as ladder safety, hose laying and how to use breathing apparatus. Training involves learning about fire safety and the importance of getting the fire safety message across to the local community.

You'll be required to undertake regular study, both in the training centre and out of hours, and your progress will be regularly assessed. Once you've attained your first aid certificate and got to grips with the basic skills, you'll get experience of a simulated fire, including the heat, humidity, flames and thick smoke.

On successful completion of the initial training, you'll join a fire station on probation and your performance will be continuously assessed. This development programme typically takes around two years and focuses on learning about the community and the risks surrounding your station, and showing competence in the areas covered at the training centre. Visit individual fire and rescue service websites for details of their training programme.

Continuing professional development (CPD)

You'll be expected to undertake a CPD programme throughout your career, which includes attending lectures, exercises, practical training sessions and other forms of training to maintain your competence levels. You'll be responsible for developing your own skills and maintaining fitness.

A range of specialist courses are run by the Fire Service College , covering areas such as:

  • specialist operations;
  • hazardous materials;
  • prevention and protection;
  • rope, water and associated rescue skills;
  • leadership and management courses aimed at middle and senior managers.

Relevant courses are also run by:

Career development

Promotion is earned on individual merit subject to demonstrating competence in each role and showing evidence of potential through attendance at assessment and development centres.

There's a well-structured career path, which gives real responsibility at an early stage. From the role of firefighter, career development typically runs as follows:

  • crew manager responsible for the fire appliance and crew, takes charge of smaller incidents and provides support to the watch manager;
  • watch manager leads a number of smaller teams at larger incidents and may have duties as a fire safety inspector;
  • station manager ensures the service's delivery at one or more fire stations and may take charge of larger incidents;
  • group manager responsible for the service across a geographical area (e.g. London) or a specialist department, such as training;
  • area manager responsible for a larger geographical area or for heading a directorate;
  • brigade manager strategically responsible for departments and supports the chief fire officer;
  • chief fire officer responsible for ensuring effective delivery of all fire and rescue service duties.

Beyond the level of station manager, it's often necessary to move between services to get promoted.

It's possible to specialise in a particular area of the fire and rescue service and there are opportunities to study for a foundation, undergraduate or postgraduate degree in areas such as:

  • fire and risk management;
  • fire engineering;
  • fire safety engineering;
  • fire and leadership;
  • disaster management.

Other possible opportunities include study for membership of the Institution of Fire Engineers (IFE) for those involved in fire safety and prevention work, or study for a general postgraduate management qualification.

Written by AGCAS editors
July 2014

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