If you’ve always dreamed of being a firefighter, then you need to start planning on how exactly you’re going to get there, because unfortunately, it takes a little more than passion to land your dream job.
Becoming a firefighter isn’t always easy, and there are a few steps you need to take in order to get there and become one.
There are a few different routes you can go down in order to get the appropriate training and qualifications necessary for the job, but it’s pretty much a given that you’re going to need money to get there.
Money to cover the education, the training, the living expenses while you prepare...basically, becoming a firefighter isn’t free, as there are a lot of expenses involved.
If you’re wanting to know more about how much money it takes to become a firefighter, then we’re going to break down all of the main costs, depending on the route you go down to become a firefighter.
Let’s get right into it!
The average cost of becoming a firefighter:
There are two main routes you can go down in order to become a firefighter: you can go to college or university, or you can go to a fire academy. And once you have the right training, qualifications, and certification, then you can be considered for the job.
But the process of getting there will inevitably cost you money, for the education and training expenses, and more.
The exact cost of becoming a firefighter will depend on many different factors, with the most significant one being the route you go down, as that determines the amount of time it will take and the type of education or training you will be receiving.
However, if we were to estimate an average cost of how expensive it is to become a firefighter, we would say it is anywhere between $5000 and $25000. Some courses and programs are more expensive than others, and it also depends on your own personal living costs or the items you need to purchase in order to complete your training!
Let’s take a more detailed look at the two main routes you can go down.
Becoming a firefighter through college or university:
Becoming a firefighter through a college or university involves you getting a degree or certificate, and the main cost that this entails is paying for tuition, which covers all of the classes and teachers.
The cost will vary depending on the institution that you choose, as not all universities and colleges are the same, the reputation that they have will usually be a big factor that determines whether they are cheaper or more expensive.
You also have to consider the type of course, as the longer it takes, the more money it will cost over time.
However, longer courses will be way more detailed, and you will therefore obtain more in-depth qualifications. It’s all about finding the right balance that works for you, between the outcome and the cost.
Most certificate programs, as a general rule, will last around a year. Meanwhile, associate degrees will usually take two years to complete. You could also do a bachelor’s degree which would take four years, and overall it will depend on what different institutions offer.
So, how much does this route cost, on average? Well, for public education it will usually cost around £25.620, and for a private university, it will be slightly more expensive, at around $34.740. It also depends if you study within your state, or elsewhere.
Many stats show that public education for in-state students is a lot cheaper than studying to become a firefighter away from your home state.
You will then also have to consider other costs, apart from the overall tuition. All of the living expenses, as well as the equipment needed to perform well in your studies.
The degree required for becoming a firefighter is known as the Fire Science degree program, and in universities, it will take up to four years.
This is the most in-depth way to study to become a firefighter, and you will come out of it incredibly prepared, with high chances of getting hired instantly.
Having a university or college degree also improves your chances of climbing up the ranks of the fire department in the future, and you might be able to end up in charge, instead of being a basic firefighter.
The cost of becoming a firefighter through college or university is higher, but is it worth it? Let’s take a look at some of the main pros and cons of going down this route:
- The quality of the courses implanted by colleges and universities is a lot higher than that of other training programs.
- You gain extra life experience as you’re going to university or college, much like you would have with other degrees. (You get to live the proper student life.)
- By the end of it, you will be a lot more prepared and qualified to become a firefighter, and therefore have better chances of getting hired and doing well.
- It opens up the option to aim for higher-ranking positions within the fire department, so you hold more responsibility and are in charge of how it operates, along with better pay.
- There are plenty of student loan options available to help you deal with the expense of becoming a firefighter.
- This route is a lot more expensive than going through a fire academy or training school.
- It might be more expensive if you study away from home.
- It takes a longer amount of time to complete your studies.
Becoming a firefighter through a fire academy:
Becoming a firefighter through a fire academy or training program is the other main route you can go down, and it is equally as respectable. The main difference is that it takes less time to complete, and it is overall less expensive.
There are plenty of different fire academies, as well as training departments, which can be found in each state, and it is through these that you can complete your Firefighter 1 and Firefighter 2 certifications, in order to be qualified and become a firefighter.
These courses and programs essentially give you intense training on all the qualifications you need and all the basics, and then you need to pass an exam to receive the appropriate certification.
One of the best things about fire academies and similar is that they often also provide other types of training and courses, which relate to the world of firefighting.
For example, EMT training, or higher ranking courses for those that want to end up being somewhat in charge within the fire department. These different courses can all last a different amount of time, depending on how they’ve been organized.
Some can last a few months, and some are intense and only take a few weeks.
The thing about these academies as well is that fully-fledged firefighters that are already working, can return to them to get extra qualifications and add-on courses, in order to move their firefighting career in certain directions, or simply to improve their capabilities.
For example, sometimes firefighters that are posted in locations where they get certain types of fires or emergencies will be asked to have more specialized courses and training in order to be capable of the role.
The actual cost of becoming a firefighter through a fire academy or training program will depend on the type, of course, you go for, and the academy itself. There is a lot of flexibility, and overall the costs are a lot cheaper than that of a university or college degree.
However, it is important to take into account that most of these courses will need to be paid up-front and that if you take additional courses they will incur an additional fee.
But despite these courses being cheaper, and a lot shorter, are they better? Here are some pros and cons to help you make up your mind about this specific route:
- The courses are short and intense, meaning you become employed a lot sooner. (This also means fewer overall living costs).
- Fire academies and training programs are a lot cheaper than colleges and universities.
- There is higher flexibility on how and what you study, with multiple specialized courses that you can take to focus your training on a specific area of firefighting, or simply to have a well-rounded capability in more specialties.
- This route tends to be a lot more practical and hands-on, as it will be more about doing, rather than memorizing theory.
- There are upfront costs and fees, and fewer resources such as student loans to cover these. This means you have to have the money beforehand.
- In most courses, you will have to pay for your own equipment and gear, which means quite a few additional costs.
- The courses and training are a lot more basic than what is covered in longer university and college courses.
Other costs to becoming a firefighter:
We’ve now gone over the two main routes you can go down in order to become a firefighter: a degree or course through college or university, or a course through a fire academy or training program.
Whichever one you choose, the tuition will be the main and most significant cost and expense that you have to deal with.
However, tuition is not the only thing you need to pay for, on your journey to becoming a firefighter. Let’s look at a few of the more significant ones:
- Living expenses:
Sadly, the world doesn’t stop turning while you study, so you will have to take into account all of the expenses related to accommodation, transport, food, and other costs of living day by day. These will be higher or lower depending on your living arrangements.
For example, if you’re living at home while you study and train to become a firefighter, the cost will be significantly lower. But if you have to move away from home, then you’ll have to pay for accommodation and transport, and it will all add up to be more expensive.
Sometimes, some fire academy facilities have on-site accommodation, which is a great option as you will not require any transport, and the accommodation itself is usually offered at cheap rates as they are for practical reasons, and not for profit. This is something well worth looking into!
- Personal equipment:
While some of the basic gear and equipment might be provided by your course, you will often have to pay for your own personal protective gear, which isn’t always cheap.
There are options to rent this equipment throughout the duration of your training, but you’ll have to balance out whether it’s worth it, or whether you should just get your own.
You might also have to buy certain books or study materials, as well as other pieces of gear or equipment. Everything adds up, and in the end, things can become pretty expensive!
- Additional courses or costs:
There are always additional costs that will appear throughout the course of your studies and training, such as necessary trips or training events, or others.
You should always have a small buffer within your budget to affront these, or you might find yourself caught without the necessary funds halfway through your firefighting journey!
The good news is that, sometimes, there are reimbursements available for some firefighting students, so that you get some of your money back after having spent it on all of these additional expenses.
You might also be able to get private funding or bursaries, so it’s worth checking out all the options and talking with your institution to double-check what your options for funding are.
Firefighter exams and certifications:
There is one last cost of becoming a firefighter that we still haven’t covered, and that is pretty important: exams and certifications.
It doesn’t matter which route you go down to become a firefighter, you will have to take nationally accredited exams in order to gain the proper certification for the job.
And yup, this exam costs money, with a flat rate that all firefighters must pay, regardless of whether they come from a fire academy or a university.
The exact cost of the exams will depend on the location and the facility, so it’s a good idea to do some research beforehand, as taking the exam in the right place could save you some money.
As a general rule, Firefighter 1 and Firefighter 2 certificates will cost around $50 each. The EMT exam will also cost around $50, and it’s a pretty standard certificate that most fire departments require.
There is also a CPAT test that takes place during the hiring process, and this can cost roughly up to $150.