Heroes in Our Own Backyards: Midwest First Responders

Can you imagine how rewarding it would be to save lives on a daily basis? Can you imagine being a point of hope when someone in your community is in dire need? In this article, we will share about the incredible work of police officers, sheriffs, EMTs, paramedics, firefighters, nurses, doctors, physician assistants, National Guard workers, and utility workers. We’ll discuss the background, requirements, education, testing, and general pay for Midwest first responders.

Our nation is currently experiencing a shortage of first-response professionals, especially EMTs. We need more heroes to protect communities in the Midwest. In a world filled with bad actors, natural disasters, everyday vehicle wrecks, and medical emergencies, we are all thankful that these men and women are there for us.

Police Officers and Sheriffs

Police officers and sheriffs respond to emergencies such as crime, trespassing, burglary, and assault. They help to save lives in other emergencies, such as vehicle accidents. Some officers may focus on an area of specialization such as child protection, counter-surveillance, and investigations.


The hiring process for police officers and sheriffs varies per state. However, most states require an application, psychological testing, physical testing, as well as reading and writing assessments. Once hired, you’ll enter an academy and field training which prepares an officer for the various calls they will respond to.


The salary for police officers and sheriffs varies based on their geographic location, experience, and area of specialty. The average national pay for an officer is $55,064 per year. Additionally, after 30 years of service, police officers and sheriffs can usually claim a pension.

Emergency Medical Technicians and Paramedics

Both emergency medical technicians (EMTs) and paramedics respond to urgent and life-threatening medical calls. Both roles are often the first contact in a medical emergency. EMTs and paramedics provide life-saving support such as CPR and first aid. Both roles transport patients to an emergency department and document the services provided.

However, EMTs and paramedics have different training requirements, different degrees of responsibility, and different levels of pay. For example, paramedics can:

  • Make a diagnosis
  • Administer medication
  • Deliver babies
  • Use specialized medical equipment


To become an EMT, you must be 18 years old and have a high school diploma or GED certificate. You must train in CPR and enroll in a local EMT Program. These programs vary in length and can take six months to three years to complete. To receive your certification, you must pass a cognitive and psychomotor exam.

Although the requirements vary by state, to become a paramedic, you’ll need to enroll in a two-year program at a community college with an advanced EMT associate degree. Additionally, you’ll need to complete all the requirements mentioned above for an EMT.


The average national pay for EMTs is $45,099 per year. Pay may vary depending on your geographic location, as well as where you work as an EMT. For example, there is a difference in pay between working in hospitals or with ambulance services. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the overall pay for EMTs and paramedics is projected to grow by 5% by 2032.

Volunteer and Paid Firefighters

Firefighters respond to fire and other emergencies and are also trained as EMTs and paramedics. They provide rescue operations and respond to hazardous situations such as fire, chemical spills, and gas leaks. They focus on community education and fire prevention. Firefighters are pillars of their community and their bravery is an inspiration.


To become a volunteer firefighter, you must be 18 years old, have a high school diploma or GED, have a valid driver’s license, and pass a background check. Each fire department may have specific requirements for its volunteers. If you are interested in becoming a volunteer firefighter, contact your local departments to learn about their specific requirements.

Specific requirements for paid firefighters vary by state, but most require you to be 21 years old, have no physical or mental impairments, obtain EMT certification, and pass a physical agility test.


Although the average firefighter pay depends upon your geographic location, the national median pay for firefighters is $51,680. If you are to become a leader in the department, the national average pay for fire chiefs is $95,650 per year.


Nurses have a critical role in patient care. They assess, create care plans, administer medication, educate patients and their families, act as advocates, and provide emotional support. Nurses provide compassion and nurturing that is fundamental to patient recovery. There are many areas to specialize in nursing; however, if you are interested in nursing as a first responder, you can work in the following areas:

  • Emergency room nursing
  • Trauma nursing
  • Flight and transport nursing
  • Paramedic nursing
  • Disaster response nursing
  • Search and rescue nursing
  • Forensic nursing


To become a nurse, you will need to complete a nursing program and become licensed as a registered nurse (RN) or licensed practical nurse (LPN). Depending upon which type of license you pursue, your nursing program can take between two to four years. After obtaining a license, continuing education requirements vary per state, with a specified amount of continuing education units required every two to three years.


Pay varies widely for nurses depending on the degree you obtain, your license, and your area of specialty. The pay for nurses can range from $50,000 to $150,000 annually. The national pay average for nurses stands at $81,898 per year.

Doctors and Physician Assistants

Doctors and physician assistants (PAs) are central in first-response medicine. There is a vast array of specialties that you can pursue in both professions including:

  • Emergency medicine
  • Urgent care
  • Trauma surgery
  • Anesthesiology
  • Disaster response
  • Search and rescue
  • Military medicine


To become a doctor, you must complete four years of undergrad and four years of graduate school in medicine. You’ll then complete an internship, generally lasting one year, and a residency lasting between two to five years. You’ll need a medical license administered by your state, and you will also need board certifications to demonstrate your area of specialization.

To become a PA, you’ll need a bachelor’s degree in a scientific field related to medicine. You’ll also need work experience in the medical field, at which point you can apply to PA school, which takes two to three years to complete. You’ll then take the Physician Assistant National Certifying Examination (PANCE). The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics predicted a 27% increase in available PA jobs between 2022 to 2032.


The pay for both doctors and PAs depends on your geographic location, area of specialization, training, and the setting you work in. The national average pay for doctors is $215,865 annually, while the national average pay for PAs is $115,733.

National Guard

The motto of the National Guard is “Always Ready, Always There.” The National Guard is a part of the United States military in which members serve both the state and federal government. At the state level, members may be called to assist in natural disasters and civil disturbances. At the federal level, members may be deployed overseas to assist in combat.


To join the National Guard, you need to:

  • Be between the ages of 17 and 35
  • Meet physical fitness requirements before attending basic combat training
  • Have a high school diploma, a GED, or have completed 15 credit hours of college
  • Take the Armed Service Vocational Aptitude Battery (ASVAB) to assess your knowledge and identify your areas of strength


The pay for National Guard members is determined by rank and years of service. Members receive basic pay and drill pay. There is specialty and incentive pay available for work in hazardous positions or areas of specialization. If deployed, there is additional pay available for extended duty.

Utility Workers

Without properly functioning utilities, many of the first responders mentioned in this article could not perform their jobs. First-response utility workers include electrical lineworkers, water utility workers, gas technicians, telecom repair technicians, and sewage maintenance crews.


Most of these jobs require a high school diploma or a GED. Additionally, you may need to attend a trade school or apprenticeship. You’ll need safety training and physical stamina to do these jobs. Depending on your position in a company, you may need a license or certification from a state licensing board. Some companies may require a background check, a current driver’s license, and customer service skills.


The pay for these jobs can vary widely depending on your geographic location, experience, and position in the company. Entry-level positions generally start around $40,000 yearly, and senior positions may exceed $70,000 yearly.

Thank You for Your Service

We are grateful to our Midwest first responders. You are the heroes who dedicate your time and your life to protecting the public. You provide life-changing and life-saving services to support people you may never see again. Your service, bravery, and compassion make a difference to us all. And we need more of you. If you find one of these positions of interest, reach out to agencies and organizations in your local community to learn more about how to get started.



  • Chris Kane

    Chris Kane is a military veteran and former business owner currently living in the Des Moines, Iowa, metro. Chris is an inveterate entrepreneur and avid web developer who is not shy about sharing his opinions.

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