About the job

Nature of work:

In addition to fighting fires, firefighters assist in other emergencies and conduct fire prevention activities. They are employed by municipal, provincial and federal governments and by large industrial establishments that have internal firefighting services.

Job duties:
Firefighters perform some or all of the following duties:
  • Respond to fire alarms and other calls for assistance, such as automobile and industrial accidents, bomb threats and other emergencies.
  • Rescue victims from burning buildings and accident sites.
  • Control and extinguish fires using manual and power equipment, such as axes, water hoses, aerial ladders and hydraulic equipment and various firefighting chemicals.
  • Administer first aid and other assistance.
  • Ensure proper operation and maintenance of firefighting equipment.
  • Prepare written reports on fire incidents.
  • Inform and educate the public on fire prevention.
  • Train to maintain high level of physical fitness.
  • Assist the public, the police and emergency organizations during times of major disasters.
  • May participate as members of a trauma or emergency response team and provide paramedical aid to accident victims or ill persons.
  • May supervise and coordinate the work of other firefighters.
  • May conduct building inspections to ensure compliance with fire code.
Fire chiefs and senior firefighting officers perform some or all of the following duties:
  • Develop, implement and evaluate policies and procedures for the operation of a municipal fire department, a district fire region or an industrial firefighting service.
  • Plan, direct and coordinate firefighting strategies for fire departments.
  • Evaluate the type of fire, the extent of damage to buildings and the danger to nearby establishments.
  • Direct activities at the scene of a fire.
  • Determine damage estimates and investigate the potential causes of a fire after extinguished.
  • Develop and oversee the implementation of security and fire prevention campaigns.
  • Represent the fire department in communications with government, the media and the public.
  • Direct the training of personnel in firefighting methods.
  • Coordinate and monitor budget and departmental resources.
Sample job titles:
  • fire captain
  • fire chief
  • fire department duty officer
  • fire inspector
  • fire lieutenant
  • fire prevention officer
  • fire safety inspection firefighter
  • firefighter
  • firefighter apprentice
  • firefighter lieutenant

To work as a firefighter, you must be in excellent health and physical condition. Mental alertness, courage, and mechanical aptitude are necessary. You must be able to perform under stress, react quickly, and be willing to take risks. Leadership and problem-solving skills are needed, as well as the ability to cooperate in a team effort.

Job requirements:
  • Completion of secondary school is required.
  • Completion of a college program in fire protection technology, fire science or a related field is usually required.
  • Completion of a provincial or municipal firefighters training course is required.
  • Firefighting and emergency medical care training courses are provided and vary in length depending on the requirements of different fire departments or services.
Other considerations:

Firefighting is one of the most hazardous jobs, involving risk of injury and death. Most paid employment exists in the more heavily populated areas of the province, while smaller communities rely more upon volunteer firefighters. Experience as a volunteer firefighter may be an advantage for entry to paid positions. Progression to senior officer positions such as fire chief is possible with additional training and several years of experience.

Labour Market Information

Work Prospects:Limited

The employment outlook over the next few years for this occupational group is “limited”, which indicates the chances of a qualified individual finding work is below average when compared with other occupations in Nova Scotia. This is a moderate sized occupation in Nova Scotia so some job opportunities may occur through turnover. However, jobseekers may face some competition for those positions. The number employed in this occupation is expected to remain largely the same over the next few years. With a large percent of workers being 55 years of age and older, retirements are expected to be a key contributor to employment opportunities over the coming years. Firefighters most commonly work full-time hours. Furthermore, the jobs are typically temporary positions (such as a term, contract, or casual work).

The median employment income for 81% of Firefighters who worked full-time, year-round in 2015 was $81,933. Across all occupations in Nova Scotia, 59% of those who worked full-time year round had a median employment income of $43,600.
(Source: 2016 Census)

OccupationEstimated employment in 2018Estimated change in employment between 2017 and 2019Estimated openings due to growth and retirements, 2017-2019Estimated rate of unemployment in 2018 Estimated hourly earnings in 2015 (learn more)Estimated annual earnings in 2015
Minimum: $19.60
Median: $39.26
Maximum: $44.41
Minimum: $36,167
Median: $76,422
Maximum: $115,001
All NS Occupations427,305Weak growth33,315Moderate
Minimum: $11.00
Median: $19.89
Maximum: $40.00
Minimum: $2,872
Median: $29,983
Maximum: $83,126
FirefightersCompared to: All NS Occupations
Percent employed full-time96%78%
Percent self-employed3%10%
Where will I likely work?
Area of EmploymentFirefightersCompared to: All NS Occupations
% EmployedMedian Annual Income% EmployedMedian Annual Income
Cape Breton11%x13%$32,974
Annapolis Valley14%x13%$32,958
What are the workers like?
AgeFirefightersCompared to: All Education, Law, Government, Social and Community Services
% Employed% Employed
Median Agex44
GenderFirefightersCompared to: All NS Occupations
% Employed% Employed
EducationFirefightersCompared to: All Education, Law, Government, Social and Community Services
% EmployedMedian Annual Income% EmployedMedian Annual Income
Less than high school1.4%x2.8%$11,346
High school25.4%x14.3%$25,801
Trades certificate16.5%x4.2%$35,678
College certificate or diploma37.8%x21.5%$28,183
University certificate or diploma3.8%x2.6%$35,967
Bachelor's degree14.1%x29.2%$43,533
University advanced certificate or diploma1.1%x3.4%$47,801
Master's degreeN/Ax17.2%$35,978
Medicine, dentistry, veterinary, optometryN/Ax0.2%$83,456
Wage Disclaimer

Hourly earnings data are from the Labour Force Survey by Statistics Canada. Data are not available for all occupations. Hourly earnings are calculated based on usual hours worked per week. This is how an annual salary, for instance, gets converted to an hourly rate. The data include full and part-time workers along with new and experienced workers. Self-employed workers are excluded.

Annual employment income data reported in the Work Prospects section, are from the 2011 National Household Survey by Statistics Canada. Much of the data (around 70%) came directly from tax records. The data relates to the year 2010 and includes total wages and salaries and net income from self-employment.


Employment Requirements & Contacts

No regulating bodies were found under this occupation profile
Useful contacts:
Halifax Regional Fire & Emergency Service
40 Alderney Drive, Suite 302
Dartmouth, NS B2Y 2N5
Tel: (902) 490-5530
Fax: (902) 490-5528
Nova Scotia Firefighters School
48 Powder Mill Road
Waverley, NS B2R 1E9
Tel: (866) 861-3823
Fax: (866) 399-3473

Training Paths & Education

Program Name:Crisis/emergency/disaster management
Education Level:This program may be offered at the college, trades, or university level.
Program Description:
This instructional program class comprises any program focusing on the application of the incident command system model to formulating and implementing effective response to natural and man-made disasters. These programs include courses in contingency planning, hazard and risk assessment, joint operations, law and ethics, emergency response and recovery, event mitigation, emergency rescue and medical operations, incident command, terrorism and national security issues, law enforcement, relief administration, volunteer and citizen coordination, public relations and applications to specific types of incidents.
See all institutions providing this program+
Cape Breton University
PO Box 5300 1250 Grand Lake Road
Sydney, NS B1P 6L2
(888) 959-9995
Program Name:Fire science/firefighting
Education Level:This program is typically offered at the trades/college level.
Program Description:
This instructional program class comprises any program that prepares individuals to perform the duties of firefighters. These programs include courses in firefighting equipment operation and maintenance, principles of fire science and combustible substances, methods of controlling different types of fires, hazardous material handling and control, fire rescue procedures, public relations and applicable laws and regulations.
See all institutions providing this program+
Nova Scotia Firefighters School
48 Powder Mill Road
Waverley, NS B2R 1E9
(902) 861-3823
Program Name:Fire services administration
Education Level:This program may be offered at the college, trades, or university level.
Program Description:
This instructional program class comprises any program that prepares individuals to structure, manage, direct and control fire departments, fire prevention services, fire inspection and investigation offices and ancillary rescue services.
See all institutions providing this program+
Dalhousie University
Office of the Registrar
Halifax, NS B3H 4R2
(902) 494-2450
Additional resources:

There are no additional resources for this occupation.

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