Ministry of Business and Innovation - Occupation Outlook

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Fire Fighters

Job Prospects

Job Prospects... At a glance

The chances of getting a job as a firefighter are limited, due to the large number of applicants for the relatively small number of vacancies. The New Zealand Fire Service (NZFS) recruits twice a year, filling 48 positions each time. NZFS receives up to 600 applications each intake.

Many firefighters have had a previous career before being accepted for training, so prospects are particularly limited for school leavers.

How to become a firefighter

What they do

Firefighters work to reduce the number and consequences of fires. They educate the public about fire safety and prevention. They also respond to emergency calls, controlling and putting out fires to protect life and property.

They may also respond to vehicle crashes and hazardous substance spills, and urban search and rescue callouts.

Firefighters do not only work for the New Zealand Fire Service. They also work for the New Zealand Defence Force, the Department of Conservation, the Rural Fire Force, the Airport Fire Brigade, and the Industrial Fire Brigade.

Their tasks may include:

  • attending the scene of fires and other emergencies reported to authorities
  • rescuing and evacuating people stranded or trapped in dangerous situations
  • operating pumps, spraying water, foam and chemicals from hoses, portable extinguishers and other appliances to extinguish fires and to disperse or neutralise dangerous substances
  • cutting openings in buildings and crashed vehicles to free occupants
  • maintaining site security systems
  • administering first aid
  • attending and participating in training activities, rescue classes, drills, demonstrations and courses in emergency and fire-fighting techniques
  • training recruits in emergency procedures and practices
  • visiting buildings and potential fire hazards to study access points and locations of hydrants
  • maintaining tools and equipment.

Qualifications needed

For entry into the New Zealand Fire Service, NCEA Level 1 English and Mathematics may be helpful to pass pre-entry testing to become a firefighter. Applicants will also need to pass:

  • literacy, numeracy, and abstract reasoning assessments
  • fitness tests
  • a medical exam
  • a practical skills test.

They must also undergo an interview, and reference and Police background checks.

Once accepted into the New Zealand Fire Service, entrants complete a 12-week training course, which involves theory and practical training. Regular training sessions are provided for fire fighters, and many Fire Service courses are linked to NZQA unit standards. Qualifications that have been available through EMQUAL – the Emergency Management Qualifications Industry Training Organisation are now available through The Skills Organisation. The Royal NZ Air Force also provides training as a firefighter, which requires you to enter basic military training before being accepted onto their firefighter-training programme.

See The Skills Organisation:

Income and employment prospects


Firefighters' pay varies with experience, responsibilities and performance. New firefighters usually earn about $43,000 a year. Firefighters with more than two years' experience can earn from $52,000 to $61,000. Senior station officers can earn from $62,000 to $77,000 per year. Firefighters also receive allowances for doing overtime.


In 2019, the average income for fire and emergency workers was estimated to be around $78,800.

Estimated Average Income

Source: MBIE estimates based on Statistics NZ Census and Labour Cost Index

Employment and skill shortages

The number of New Zealand Fire Service firefighters is maintained at around 1,700, as retired or promoted personnel get replaced by new fire-fighters.

The total number of firefighters in New Zealand was 2,088 at the time of the 2013 census.

Where to find job vacancies

Usually, firefighter positions are not advertised. Applicants must register online and are notified when vacancies are being filled. The New Zealand Fire Service accepts applications through their website ( and has two intakes each year (March and September).

Career path

There are good prospects for career progression. Firefighters have opportunities to move into managerial positions.

Related occupations

The following occupations are related roles or alternative titles. Some of the roles may require a higher level of skill than entry-level firefighters.

  • Fire Engineer
  • Fire Prevention Officer
  • Health and Safety Inspector
  • Paramedic
  • Police Officer

Other information


More information on firefighters is available on the Careers New Zealand website, through the "Just the Job" videos and through the New Zealand Fire Service.

Careers New Zealand:
New Zealand Fire Service:
Just the Job video clip: A Career as a Fire Investigator
Just the Job video clip: A Career in Fire Protection
Just the Job video clip: A Career in Fire Risk Management
Just the Job video clip: A Career in Firefighting with the NZ Fire Service
Just the Job video clip: A Career as a Volunteer Firefighter
Just the Job video clip: A Career as a Volunteer Rural Firefighter
Just the Job video clip: A Career in Emergency Response


The Australian New Zealand Standard Classification of Occupations (ANZSCO) is the official classification of occupations in New Zealand.

The occupation of firefighters has been coded to the following ANZSCO code for the purpose of this report:

441212 – Fire Fighter