Last month, Indeed honored the veterans who’ve served our country, but they aren’t our only heroes. For a countless number of brave civilians, protecting and serving others every day is part of their job. They put themselves in harm’s way to fight fires, they treat us when we are sick, or stop crime. They save lives, educate children and care for the elderly — and we wanted to show our deep appreciation for the work they do.

In this post, we’ll share recent Indeed data on eight jobs with a strong public service ethos: doctors, nurses, paramedics, social workers, police officers, firefighters, elementary school teachers and environmental engineers. We’ll outline the metro areas where these “heroic” civilian jobs are in the greatest demand, as well as the median and mean annual salaries these jobs command. 

Where are the heroic jobs in the U.S.?

As with any profession, the demand for these jobs can vary by region, and the biggest demand is in the largest metro areas. Not only do these areas have the most people, but they may also offer unique opportunities at prestigious workplaces.

According to 2018 U.S. Census Bureau data, New York City, Los Angeles and Chicago are the three most populated metro areas. They also offer the largest overall percentages of these jobs nationwide: New York leads with 5.62%, followed closely by Los Angeles (2.81%) and Chicago (2.48%).

The top 10 cities where heroic jobs are most in demand.
According to Indeed data, heroic jobs are most in demand in these cities: (1) New York, NY, (2) Los Angeles, CA, (3) Chicago, IL, (4) Philadelphia, PA, (5) Boston, MA, (6) Dallas, TX, (7) Atlanta, GA, (8) Washington, DC, (9) Houston, TX, (10) Miami, FL.

However, beyond the top three, the rankings differ. There is higher demand and less competition for public service jobs in Philadelphia and Boston, making these good destinations for job seekers, if a little tougher for employers. Houston, on the other hand, may reverse that dynamic, with fewer of these job openings and a larger overall population.

Certain metro areas offer better opportunities for certain types of heroic jobs. For example, firefighters should focus on Chicago and doctors on Durham. Here are three examples:

Chicago and firefighters. Firefighters are heroes who put themselves at risk every day to save property and lives. While Chicago is third in the national rankings of heroic jobs, it ranks first for firefighter positions, with 10.75% of these jobs located here. This is much greater than second-place Dallas, at just 1.88%. 

Ever since the Great Fire of 1871, Chicago has been committed to maintaining a strong firefighting force — even during the latest economic downturn, when other large cities reduced fire-protection spending.

New York and social workers. Social workers perform heroic deeds every day, helping people in mental health clinics, schools, hospitals, elder-care facilities and child-welfare programs. For these workers, the New York metro area has the most opportunities, with 12.67% of jobs in the field located here. (The next-closest contender is Chicago, at 4.14%.) New York state even employs the second-largest number of social workers in the country — just behind much-larger California. 

Durham-Chapel Hill and doctors. Doctors treat the sick and injured, often under stressful conditions. They’re in high demand in New York, which is home to 7.81% of U.S. job openings. However, Durham, North Carolina, is a close second at 5.50% — despite failing to crack the Census Bureau’s top 10. Durham is home to Duke University and the University of North Carolina, both of which have respected medical schools that may boost the area’s rankings. 

Doctors earn the most money, but nurses do well, too

Next, we looked at the median and mean annual salaries for our eight heroic jobs. Not surprisingly, doctors — who spend years in post-graduate education and internships — earn the most, with a median salary of $185,000 and a mean of $157,154.

Five heroic jobs ranked by median annual pay.
In this table, Indeed data ranks these five heroic jobs by median annual pay. The top ranking job title is "Doctor" with a salary of $185,000, followed by "Environmental engineer" with a salary of $85,000. "Nurse" ranks third with a salary of $80,000, followed by "Social worker" with a salary of $60,500 and "Police officer" with a salary of $50,000.

Nurses are heroes in their own right for their nurturing, hands-on care of patients. They can make good money, too, with fewer years of education; either an associate’s or bachelor’s degree is the typical requirement. Registered nurses earn a median salary of $80,000. 

While it can be a challenging job, these are good times to be a nurse: It’s among the fastest-growing jobs in the U.S. with the highest pay, due to an aging population, demand that far outpaces supply and the growth of the health care industry. The number of nursing jobs is expected to increase 12% by 2028: much faster than the average growth rate for all jobs, which is 5%.

Environmental engineers: heroes of the climate change era

Environmental engineers are high earners, as well, with a median annual salary of $85,000. While you might not immediately think of environmental engineers as heroes, they’re on the front lines of developing solutions to large-scale, increasingly significant environmental problems. The number of environmental engineering jobs is expected to increase 5% by 2028, matching the average for all jobs. 

Social workers make more than firefighters and police officers

Three of the other professions we analyzed — police officers, firefighters and paramedics — earn comparatively low salaries to others on our list. Police officers make $50,000 each year, followed by firefighters ($47,500) and paramedics ($47,500). 

In addition to health care and environmental workers, social workers make more than all three of these roles ($60,500), despite being in a relatively safer field. Why? Educational requirements may be a factor; social workers typically need a bachelor’s degree, while police officers, firefighters and paramedics do not.

Where teachers can make higher salaries

Elementary school teachers are heroes who provide future generations with the education they need to succeed. Even though the job usually requires a bachelor’s degree, elementary school teachers earn $45,000 a year (median). This comparatively low pay clearly doesn’t reflect the high importance of their work — and too often, they have to spend their own money on school supplies. Fortunately, some metro areas offer above-average teacher salaries, such as Seattle ($62,557); Richmond, Virginia ($53,477); and Atlanta ($51,539).

Of course, those who perform heroic jobs deserve more than decent salaries. In this highly competitive talent market, they could choose safer, easier and higher-paying jobs. 

Instead, these everyday heroes choose to serve us — and for that, they deserve our heartfelt gratitude.