The Blogfather asked, I answered. I am the 75%

The Blogfather has issued a challenge of sorts.


“Nobody in EMS is paid what they’re worth. 25% are paid far less than what they’re worth, and 75% are paid far more than what they’re worth.”

~ Kelly Grayson



I’m not 100% with you on this one KG.  I’d add a sliver of 10% in the middle who are right where they should be.  But I’m not there.

I am most certainly in that 75% and have been for some time.  But I wasn’t always that way.

<sepia toned early motion picture footage> Back when I got started in EMS (Angry Captain rolls eyes) I got on as a volunteer firefighter.  When I got my first paying gig I was jocking a 1,000 gallon water tender half an hour south of Albuquerque and making the king’s ransom of $4.35 an hour.  For a 19 year old that meant turning on the long distance on the telephone, scaling back the second job to 5 days a week and moving out of the 2 bedroom apartment I shared with 3 other guys.

The point of memory lane was to set the starting point and how, if you are properly motivated, you can change what happens to you instead of standing still and complaining that everyone else gets to do fun stuff somewhere else.

I had been dissatisfied with the politics of my organization in New Mexico and sought other employment.  In Albuquerque you had 3 choices.  AFD, Bernalillo County or where I was.  That left 2 and I didn’t want to work for either one.  Neither transported and that was a big deal breaker for me.  However, there was a growing need for secondary education to land some of the higher ranking jobs open around the country at the time and I was just finishing my Bachelor’s in EMS when the 5 day window for the SFFD position opened up.  I had been a Paramedic less than 2 years and they wanted 5 years experience, but college credits would be considered.  Perfect.

The starting salary was $82,600.  Day1, walking in the door.  Was I overpaid?  Most surely, but I was so busy those first few years I barely noticed.  It was in this time frame I hit my personal best 32 calls for service in 24 hours, did a 48 on little sleep and also hit all 13 hospitals in the area in one shift.  We were run ragged and in the morning would get calls from the Assignment Office begging us to pick up an overtime.

We were Firefighter/Paramedics in name only, turnouts safely tucked into the side compartment of the ambulance.  And we were still expected to participate in all the engine and truck drills between calls for service and long drives back to district.


Overpaid?  Compared to West Corn Row Iowa, sure, but this was the salary they needed to get people in the door willing to work in that environment.  If they were paying $4.35 an hour the line would be around the block, with a high turnover and the phrase “They don’t pay me enough to deal with this crap” more common than “Medic to follow.”


Want a high paying EMS job?  They’re out there, you just have to go find it.

At recent Firefighter seminars I’ve spoken at candidates approach me and ask what they can do to better their chances on getting hired with the SFFD.  My #1 response is “Get out of California.”  They usually respond with a shocked look and wonder if my famous sarcasm is showing.  Nope.  Get out of your comfort zone.  Go somewhere new.  If a paycheck is all you want, go get it, it’s waiting for you somewhere busier, louder, dirtier and likely smellier.

The old line that we need to raise our pay in EMS is a somewhat flawed argument.  Why should we pay you more when you seem fine making $4.35?  When we can’t keep bodies in the seats, we’ll offer $5, then $6.50 and so on and so on.

Imagine the kid that mows your lawn starts whining that he doesn’t get paid enough.  Will you give him a raise or ask him what he’s willing to do for it?  Now imagine your neighbor’s yard is bigger, but he pays more.  What will the kid do?  Work more for more money or stay with you?


The real argument is whether paying a Firefighter/Paramedic $25/hr to sit around eating ice cream while the single role medic sits on post making $8 is a good idea.  I don’t know for sure, but the only reason they make $8 is because the company knows they can keep you in the seat.  If enough of you left, they’d have to raise the salary to stay in business.


75% and fine about it,


Agree? Disagree? Have something to add? Why not leave a comment or subscribe to the RSS feed to have future articles delivered to your feed reader?

10 thoughts on “The Blogfather asked, I answered. I am the 75%”

  1. Personally I don’t think they can pay any of you enough for what you do. Saving lives is a big deal that many people never thank those of you that really care about it to do it and put up with all the bs that goes with it and sleepless nights and stuff none of the rest of us can stomach. Unfortunately people out there are going to complain because that’s the nature of the beast. Some people are never happy even with millions. It’s like everything else out there with the fact that many people are just working for a paycheck and aren’t happy where they are. What a crazy concept to get paid for what you love and feel some type of fulfillment for doing it as well.

    1. Kathie, thanks for your comments.  I get paid just fine for what I do and like one of my 101 Things your Fire Department wishes you knew says: “Don’t tell the mayor, but I’d probably do this for free.”  It’s an aquired taste for sure, but wasn’t it said that if you find a job you love you’ll never work a day in your life?
      Thanks for reading, HM

  2. In my area (a little ways north of you), I don’t think that any of the paramedics are overpaid.  Certainly we don’t make anywhere near what fire medics get (which is a rant for another time); but we can make a living as a paramedic.

    EMTs on private ambulances here, OTOH, are disgracefully underpaid.  Some are paid less per hour than fast food pays around here.  Probably a function of having a huge batch of new EMTs ready for work at the end of every semester (too many schools in a small area).

  3. Blogfather. I like that. As you are my Blogfather, I will throw in my 2cents.

    You hit the nail on the head when you spoke of the salary being what it is to get people to do the job. There is a universal truth there.

    No matter where you are or what you do, your employer is only going to pay what they have to for your services. If they can get by cheaper, they will.

    The pay is very low in a lot of places, and supply is a big reason. We train far more people than we need to in a lot of places for the number of jobs available.

  4. I work in the east bay as a private medic and it’s decent, most are making 70-90k depending on how much time they have in.

    Each unit covers about 4-5 engine companies or more, we we work 4 to 5 times as much on medicals (fires are rare these days) we deserve what we get if not more. Tons of politics and unsteady jobs in private induatry

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>