How much do firefighters get paid

How Much Do Firefighter’s Get Paid In Australia?

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Firefighting is one of the most competitive and sought after professions in the nation. Most are driven to the job because of the adventure, the challenge or the opportunity to serve the community rather than the pay. However if you’ve ever thought about making firefighting your career, or you’re just curious, you will at some point wonder how much firefighters actually earn. Let’s find out a bit more about a firefighter’s annual salary.

In Australia, the average firefighter’s annual salary is between $61,678 and $95,649 based on the state in which they are employed, their rank and the length of time they have been employed.

We’ve broken these figures down for you to give you an idea of the wage spread across the country and provided some more detail on some of the other benefits afforded to firefighters.

Firefighter’s annual salary by state

We’ve done some research and taken a look at each of the primary state based firefighting services in the country to give you a run down of firefighter salaries by state and territory and what the average firefighter’s annual salary actually is.

To overcome different rank and progression structures across states we included annual salaries paid to firefighters at the recruit or initial training level (firefighters in Australia get a full time salary during recruit training), during the 1st year of service after recruit training, in the 5th year of service and at the first year at station officer level or equivalent.

The annual salary received by Australian firefighters varies slightly from state to state, but starts at around $60,000 per year at recruit or entry level and rises to $100,000 or more at the station officer level.

The figures below show a breakdown of the annual salaries paid to firefighters, in each of the 8 states and territories in Australia, in 2019.

State
Agency
Recruit
Training
1st Year
Service
5th Year
Service
Station
Officer
New South Wales
Fire & Rescue NSW
$64,341$74,622$82,914$105,301Source
Australian Capital Territory
ACT Fire & Rescue
$69,301$74,614$89,841$102,025Source
Victoria
Metropolitan Fire Brigade &
Country Fire Authority
(Soon to be Fire & Rescue Victoria)
$55,117$76,846$93,841$111,894Source
Tasmania
Tasmania Fire Service
$57,823$61,678$80,952$92516Source
South Australia
Metropolitan Fire Service
$50,868$74,923$86,978$107,221Source
Western Australia
Dept of Fire & Emergency Services
$72,893$79,393$95,649$111,906Source
Northern Territory
Northern Territory Fire & Rescue
Service
$67,566$73,628$86,621$103,946Source
Queensland
Queensland Fire & Rescue
$60,119$70,640$83,993$100,211Source

If you’re not from Australia, or new to firefighting, you should know that each state and territory Government operates 1 fire service made up of paid firefighters (with the exception of Victoria which operates 2 but is soon to be amalgamated into 1 paid service), who provide fire and rescue coverage in the major population centres. These services are supplemented by a plethora of volunteer, private, defence, aviation and land management fire authorities.

A firefighter's gear - Simon Lamb
A firefighter’s gear – Simon Lamb

How do firefighters progress in pay grades

Australian firefighters receive incremental increases in annual pay based on how long they have been employed. There is often also a training or qualification component associated with many of the rank and pay progression levels.

In New South Wales, for example, new recruit firefighters commence at the base rate of pay on their first day of recruit training. Subsequent promotions and pay rises are awarded after 2 and 6 years employment, provided a firefighter has completed the requisite self paced training, after which time firefighters become eligible to apply for junior officer or front line management positions.

The length of time served and training requirements are slightly different from state to state but all Australian fire services in the table above use a model that is similar to the one used in NSW.

How are firefighters pay rates determined in Australia

Firefighting salaries for all the state based firefighting agencies in Australia are determined through an award or enterprise agreement between the relevant firefighter’s trade union in the state and corresponding state or territory government.

A trade union is a voluntary organisation that represents the views of workers (firefighters) in negotiations with the employer, or fire department, on industrial relation matters, including pay.

Awards are renegotiated about every 3 years. Firefighters, in conjunction with unions, propose employment condition changes and pay increases, which must be endorsed through a popular vote by union members. The union then negotiates with the fire department on behalf of its members for these changes to be brought into effect.

There is little to no opportunity for individual firefighters to negotiate for pay increases or rank progression outside of this system in Australia.

MFB CFA Fire – Blair Dellemijn

What other remuneration and benefits are firefighters entitled to

Most firefighters would say that being able to work as a firefighter is a benefit in itself, but if you’re looking for more than just getting paid to do a job you love then here’s a list of other benefits that firefighters receive.

  • Lots of time off
    • Every full time state based fire service operates on some variation of 10, 12, 14 or 24 hour shift arrangement. This might be 2 day shifts followed by 2 night shifts followed by 4 days off, or two 24 hour shifts followed by 5 days, or some other variation. Either way, it equates to plenty of time at home between shifts.
  • Annual leave
    • Australian workers enjoy some of the most generous paid annual leave entitlements in the world. Most Aussies receive about 4 weeks of paid leave each year. This can be even higher in some fire services. Western Australian firefighters, for example, receive up to 56 days paid leave every year!
  • Other leave
    • On top of paid annual leave, some of the other paid leave entitlements available to firefighters to include sick leave, maternity leave and family or carers leave. In some services firefighters also accrue several extra days of paid leave per year, to compensate for working weekends and nights, which they can take at their discretion.
  • Superannuation
    • All employees in Australia, including firefighters, receive compulsory superannuation, which is an additional payment on top of the annual salary, that is paid directly into an investment account and can be accessed upon retirement.
  • Respect
    • Every firefighter knows the feeling when they drive past a kid in the street and see their eyes light up at the sight of the truck or the look of relief in a persons face when you arrive on the scene to pick up the pieces of whatever dilemma they find themselves in. While respect doesn’t technically fall under the same category as a monetary benefit, upholding the values of what it means to be a firefighter and being seen as a dependable and valuable member of a community makes the job of being a firefighter that much more rewarding.

The amazing featured image was taken by the wonderful Lurline Byles.