Towns with populations of less than 100,000 tend to be great places for police and sheriff officers, firefighters, and emergency medical technicians, according to data compiled by GoodCall® analysts.
First responders have difficult jobs. They’re often called to action at odd hours, often to help a resident at the worst possible time.
So for those looking to start a career as an officer, firefighter, or EMT, it’s important to look for a job that pays well in an area that’s affordable. The job is hard enough without worrying about whether the rent is covered. Places with plenty of restaurants and entertainment options and low crime rates can also help alleviate some of the daily stress.
With this in mind, GoodCall® analysts recently crunched the numbers on 835 towns and cities nationwide to determine the Best Cities for First Responders.
The review included several metrics, including pay for first responders, cost of living, the number of jobs available, crime rate, unemployment, and factors that indicate nice places to live, such as amenities and educational attainment.
- The top cities were spread out across the country, though there were fewer in the Southeast, New England, and states in the West other than California.
- Cities at the top of the list tended to be smaller – the top 100 cities averaged about 55,000 residents. All but 10 of the top 100 cities had fewer than 100,000.
View the full rankings here.
Analysts reviewed data from 835 cities on eight metrics:
Places where first responders can get a well-paid job in their field
25% – Job Availability. The number of open, full-time first responder jobs per 10,000 residents available and listed on Indeed.com. We searched for EMT, paramedic, police officer, sheriff officer, and firefighter jobs in each city.
25% – Comparative Salary. We took an average of the median salaries for EMT and paramedics, police and sheriff officers, and firefighters, then we compared that average to the median overall salary for the area. The number is expressed as a percentage of the overall median, so numbers greater than 100% indicate pay is higher than the median for the area, while those less than 100 indicate first responders are paid less than the median for the area. Data comes from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. In cases where city-level data wasn’t available, we used the median for the metropolitan statistical area.
25% – Cost of Living. This data point, from Sperling’s bestplaces.net from 2016, shows whether a city is generally cheaper or more expensive than the national average. The rating covers costs for groceries, health, housing, utilities, transportation, and other common expenses. A score greater than 100 is more expensive than the national average, while a score below 100 is more affordable.
Places that are all-around nice, livable cities
5% – Unemployment. This reflects the percentage of workers age 16 and older who are unemployed from the Census Bureau’s American Community Survey 2015 1-year estimates.
5% – Amenities. We reviewed the number of arts, entertainment, and recreation facilities per 1,000 people. The data came from the Geographic Area Survey 2012 census by economic place. In areas where city-level data was unavailable, we used county-level data instead.
5% – Restaurants and Bars. The number of food and drinking places per 1,000 residents. The data came from the Geographic Area Survey 2012 census by economic place. In areas where city-level data was unavailable, we used county-level data instead.
5% – Crime. Using FBI crime data from 2015, we included the number of violent and property crimes per 1,000 people.
5% – Educational Attainment. This metric includes the percentage of residents age 25 and older who graduated from high school and the percentage who have at least a bachelor’s degree. The data came from the Census Bureau’s American Community Survey 2015 1-year estimates.