Best Cities for First Responders Offer a Balance

BY Courtney Price Davis

Best Cities for First Responders Offer a Balance

Being a first responder is tough. The long nights, high-stress situations, and limited promotion opportunities can take a toll, and it’s often made worse by limited pay.

A recent study by GoodCall® analysts listed the Best Cities for First Responders in 2017, including data for available jobs, salaries, and other metrics that indicate nice places to live for police and sheriff officers, firefighters, and EMTs.

The top 10 cities for first responders were:

1. Bay City, Mich.

2. Portage, Mich.

3. Easton, Pa.

4. Decatur, Ill.

5. Kalamazoo, Mich.

6. Cumberland, Md.

7. Lima, Ohio

8. Parkersburg, W.V.

9. Highland, Ind.

10. Elmhurst, Ill.

According to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, first responders make about $51,000 on average –about 37% higher than the median for all jobs in the 835 cities studied.

But in cities where first responders are paid more than that $51,000 average, the cost of living also is much higher, about 42% greater than the national average. By comparison, in cities where first responders make less than that national average, the cost of living is about 7% below the national average.

So even in cities where pay is high, it might not be enough to justify the workload and stress these jobs can bring.

It’s not just about pay

In Pensacola, Fla., first responders make about $35,300, which ranks in the bottom 10% of cities studied.

Despite its low pay rate, Pensacola ranked 78th out of 835 cities – or in the top 10%.

That has a lot to do with all the other factors considered, since finding a good place to work is about much more than the pay.

Cost of living there is 13% below the national average. Residents are fairly well educated, and unemployment is about average. Plus, restaurants and amenities are abundant. It’s a generally nice place to live.

Conversely, first responders in San Jose, Calif., make more than $81,000 annually, but that city ranked 826 out of 835, largely because of the high cost of living and relatively few amenities per capita.

Finding a happy medium

Of course, it’s best to find a place in the middle, where pay is decent and the city is nice.

Pay is at least $51,000 in all of the top 10 cities on the GoodCall® list. But additionally, most also are affordable, have plenty of restaurants and other amenities, have relatively low unemployment and crime, and boast a well-educated populace.

When considering moving to a new city for any job, it’s good to look for a well-rounded option. A very nice area tends to come with a high price tag, usually in the form of housing costs. On the other hand, areas that are more affordable often have higher crime rates or might be rural with nothing to do.

The best places are those right in the middle. Most of the highest ranked cities on the GoodCall® list were relatively small, with fewer than 100,000 residents. In fact, only 10 cities in the top 100 were larger than 100,000 people.

And of course, it’s important to factor in other qualities that will make your life easier or happier, such as being close to family or near places that support your hobbies.