Wages and Benefits
Most firefighter candidates are only concerned with how much they are going to be paid, and do not research the fire department’s employee benefit package. In my opinion, the benefit package is the #1 reason why a firefighter will stay with their respective fire department. Here are common benefits for fire department employees:
- Health Insurance
- Dental Insurance
- Vision Plans
- Flexible Spending Accounts
- Life Insurance
- Short and Long Term Disability
- Pension Plan
- Employee Assistance Program
- Deferred Compensation
- Annual Leave
- Kelly Days
- Disability Leave
- Educational Assistance
- Direct Deposit
- Credit Union
- Educational Pay
- Longevity pay
- Sick Leave
- Accidental Health Insurance
When you consider these benefits, a firefighter candidate needs to focus on the pension, Kelly day, health insurance plans, and educational reimbursement benefits. For the most part, the other benefits are uniformed across the fire service industry.
A firefighter’s pension, also known as a firefighter’s retirement benefits, differ from department to department. A firefighter candidate must ask:
- What percentage of a firefighter’s pay do they receive after 20, 25, and 30 years of service?
- At what age does a firefighter have to work before retiring?
- Is there a cost of living benefit?
- Is there a drop plan? And how many years?
- What percentage of salary applies to disability?
- What percentage of salary does a firefighter contribute to their pension?
- How many years does a firefighter have to work before they are vested?
- Does overtime, sick leave, and vacation leave count towards calculation of a firefighter’s pension?
- Is there a health insurance retirement benefit?
When applying for a firefighter job, a candidate must know these answers. At the oral interview is not the time to ask because the interview panel may not know exactly and a candidate does not want to show that they are only interested in the job based on the job benefits. Besides this is all public record and Human Resources is more equipped to answer these pension questions.
Lastly, if you think that pension benefits are not important, then think about this. My decision to work for my current employer has cost me approximately $500,000 over a 20 year career. Yeah, that one hurt a lot. Don’t make the same mistake I did. Get educated on pension benefits.