Cop or Firefighter: Which Career Suits You Better? 

  Deciding between being a police officer and becoming a firefighter requires knowing what it takes to be one or the other. While they are both civil servant positions, each role requires specific knowledge, strengths, and skill-sets. Police officers and firefighters both have a prodigious responsibility regarding the welfare of the people in the community they serve. 

Cop or firefighter: which career suits you better? The goal of a cop is to protect the safety of the community’s residents and property. Police officers use skillful communication and negotiation tactics to find solutions and solve cases. Firefighters, on the other hand, are responsible for saving the lives of those residents. They are tasked with battling fires, responding to distress calls, and aiding during disasters. 

Police officers and firefighters are often dispatched to the same emergencies. Each plays an essential role in society. Determining which career suits you best requires understanding the expectations of each role. Choosing the best fit takes knowing the skills needed and the personality traits befitting each job. 

Primary Directives 

At the scene of an automobile accident, firefighters are the ones called upon to check the occupants of the vehicles for injuries. They are the ones with the equipment to extract trapped individuals from unrecognizable wreckage. Firefighters have the responsibility of cleaning up spills and debris after the scene of the accident has been cleared. 

Police officers are on hand to determine what may have caused the accident. They take down the facts to determine if any infractions occurred. The notes that the police officer takes at the scene are transcribed into a police report. This report will often serve as evidence for insurance companies and lawsuits. 

When it comes to responding to a building fire, police officers are entrusted to keep the area clear of onlookers. They often arrive at the scene and strategically place their vehicles to ensure firefighters have access to the fire hydrants they need to battle the blaze. As with every call, a police officer’s primary goal at the scene is keeping people safe. 

In the case of a fire, officers must prevent people from trying to enter the burning building for any reason. Additionally, if the fire trucks haven’t arrived yet, police officers must determine if there is anyone in need of rescue. Cops have to quickly assess the situation and then act accordingly. 

Factors that a police officer must take into consideration before entering a building that’s on fire: 

  • Can the officer see smoke? 
  • Does the officer see flames? 
  • Are there people trapped inside? 
  • How soon will the firefighters arrive? 

Once the firefighters are on the scene, a well-informed police officer will be the greatest asset to helping the firefighters rescue any trapped people and speeding up the firemen’s ability to put out the fire. With a precleared path, firemen can quickly connect hoses to fire hydrants and raise ladders for rescues and fire fighting 

Firefighters are also trained emergency medical technicians (EMTs) which means they can treat people for injuries at the scene of accidents and fires. Only one-third of the emergencies firefighters respond to are structure fires. The majority of emergency calls firefighters answer are medical in nature. 

Neither Career is Your Average Nine-to-Fiver 

Cop or Firefighter: Which Career Suits You Better?

Most patrol officers work a traditional 40 hours a week with the potential for overtime when available. Some departments schedule the standard 8-hour day, five days a week. Others are opting for a compressed schedule of four days a week for 10 hours each day. A few police departments may use a longer 12-hour shift 3 days a week with adjustments made to make up the other four hours. 

Researchers determined through rigorous testing that the ideal work schedule for police officers is a 10-hour day, four days a week. These studies uncovered several positive impacts from working the four-day week. 

  • Police officers reported getting more sleep than those working 8 or 12-hour shifts, resulting in feeling well-rested and ready to perform. 
  • The quality of work-life was found to be highest for those working the 10-hour shift and lowest in those working the 8-hour shift. 
  • Police departments benefit the most from officers working 10-hour shifts due to the reduction in overtime hours. 

Firefighters adhere to a more rigorous work schedule than police officers. In the United States, most fire stations use the 24-on-48-off system. Firefighters work out of the fire station for a straight 24-hour period followed by 48 hours off. A few fire stations choose to use a different schedule where firefighters work 10-to-12-hour shifts 3 to 4 days straight.  

During their shift at the fire station, firefighters are expected to clean and maintain the rescue equipment as well as the fire trucks and emergency vehicles. In addition, they train and practice drills to ensure readiness for emergencies. When not out on a call, firefighters eat, sleep, exercise, and relax during any downtime at the station. How many calls a fire station receives during any given shift varies greatly by location and often fluctuates throughout the year. 

Cop or Firefighter: Which Career Suits You Better?

Qualities, Traits, and Personalities

Police officers and firefighters are a special kind of career that requires a specific type of person to be successful. Jobs in the civil servant sector are held to the highest of standards both on and off the clock. While there are many similarities between police officers and firefighters, there are several traits unique to each profession.  

Curious to know if cops and firefighters get along? Read this article to find out:

Here is a fun little acronym for Police Officer and Firefighter to help you better see what profession would suit you best based on what skills and roles they have: 

Top Cop Traits 

P is for People-Oriented 

  • Individuals with a strong desire to help others will find plenty of opportunities as a police officer. People who are community-minded and enjoy making improvements in the lives of others will find that fulfillment in working for a police department. 

O is for Observant 

  • People who can read the scene, take notice quickly, and pick up subtle clues are vital to police work. Often it’s the tiny details that end up making or breaking a criminal case. 

L is for Leadership 

  • Effective leadership leads to fluidity in the department and getting the job done. Being able to lead a team and delegate assignments based on strengths is key. 

is for Initiative 

  • Cops who are eager to fight crime will take the opportunity to look for criminal activity whenever and wherever they may be. These are the officers who stay up-to-date on trends and patterns of behavior in order to recognize criminal behavior and activity. 

C is for Communication 

  • Detailed storytelling paired with clear and accurate details is essential in police reports where wording can make the difference between admissible and inadmissible in a court case. Patient listeners who can express genuine concern through follow-up questions garner trust and solve problems better. 

E is for Education 

  • A desire to keep learning and staying on top of trends in the community as well as technology in the line-of-work is a necessity of police work. Changes are always occurring which requires continuous education for police officers. 

O is for Open-Minded 

  • Being a police officer requires the ability to see life from other people’s perspectives and remain flexible in their thinking. Great police officers are able to consider all the possibilities. 

F is for Fast Thinker 

  • Mental agility is an important part of police work and aids in problem-solving. Critical thinking skills are often pushed to the max in the fast-paced world of police officers. 

F is for Fast Talker  

  • Negotiation skills include talking people through emotional situations requiring a calm demeanor. Skillful communication tactics that get people to take action are in high demand at police departments.

is for Integrity 

  • Always working hard to get the job done builds trust among fellow officers and the people in the community. Those with integrity can be counted on to follow through with what they have promised to do. 

C is for Compassion 

  • A compassionate person shows civility towards their fellow man and empathy for their condition. Police officers have to find the balance between being professional and being sympathetic to someone in hard times. 

E is for Emotional Intelligence 

  • Police officers must have a greater understanding of and ability to manage their emotions on and off the job. In addition, they should possess the skills to help others manage their emotions, especially in highly charged confrontational situations.

R is for Respect 

  • Great police officers have respect for the community they serve and the other officers in their department. Most importantly, they have the utmost respect for the laws they have been sworn to enforce, 
Cop or Firefighter: Which Career Suits You Better?

Police officers must also possess the knowledge and skills related to doing the job expected of them. Familiarity with the traffic laws and the department’s method of operation are both important parts of policing. Life-saving skills like CPR and community outreach programs are other aspects of being the best police officer you can be. 


First-rate Firefighter Qualities 

F is for Fearless 

  • One of the most important characteristics a firefighter must possess is bravery. Entering a burning building or rescuing someone from the icy waters of a river requires a higher level of courage than your average career. 

is for Integrity 

  • Trust is the most important factor in public safety occupations, especially when one’s life is on the line. Also, in order to work well as a team, firefighters must be able to trust one another. 

R is for Reliable 

  • Firefighters must be able to communicate information accurately and effectively, especially in highly dangerous situations. A reliable firefighter is one who can be counted on to do their job and asks for help when they are struggling. 

E is for Exemplary Strength 

  • Agility and strength are crucial to being a successful firefighter. Firefighting equipment is heavy and saving people’s lives exerts a substantial amount of physical and mental energies. 

F is for Flexible 

  • Life as a firefighter requires flexibility and adaptability in every aspect of the job. One must be able to eat, sleep, and work whenever those opportunities arise. Firefighters must also be able to work well with anyone in any situation. 

is for Image-conscious 

  • The muscular physique of firefighters comes from the labor-intensive activities that come with battling fires and saving lives. How a firefighter looks and how they act makes an enormous impression on how people see them. Image is everything in civil service jobs. 

G is for Getting Along 

  • They may not like everything about one another but firefighters have to learn how to get along with their co-workers on a whole different level. The combination of working together and living together in 24-hour blocks requires more tolerance for others than regular job situations. 

H is for Hard Work 

  • The job of a firefighter is often hard work and requires someone who takes pride in their job. People who always strive to do their best make great firefighters. 

T is for Team Player 

  • The best firefighters have a complete understanding of what it takes to be part of a team and work cohesively. They know the importance of both competency and reliability because lives are what can be lost if the team fails. 

E is for Education 

  • Similar to police officers, firefighters require continuous learning to be informed of changes, new procedures, or advancements in technology. Self-improvement is another aspect of learning that comes with being a firefighter. 

R is for Resourceful 

  • Firefighters must possess mechanical aptitude and be familiar with both hand tools and power tools. It is also important for firefighters to have a basic understanding of how things work including how buildings are built and the materials used to build them. 
Cop or Firefighter: Which Career Suits You Better? 

Firefighters are often revered as heroes, rushing onto the scene in the big red fire engine, that deep resonating horn blast announcing to clear the way. They are known for their self-sacrifice, putting the lives of others before their own. Being a firefighter holds great expectations from co-workers and the highest of standards from the communities they serve. 


Related Questions

Which career is more dangerous, a police officer, or a firefighter? 

In 2019, there were 57 firefighters who died while on duty, down from 64 the previous year. Numbers for firefighter deaths have remained below 70 for the past ten years. Police officers, on the other hand, die in the line-of-duty at more than double the rate of firefighters. Since 2010, roughly 1600 police officers in the United States have died from felonious acts and work-related incidents. 


Who makes more money, firefighters, or police officers? 

On average, police officers generally make about $10,000 more per year than firefighters. The website Indeed lists the median salary of a police officer is $53,267 per year. Firefighters in the United States start at around $25-30k per year with average salaries in the range of $45,000 per year. 

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Please note: This blog post is for educational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. Please consult a legal expert to address your specific needs.