How Much Does It Cost To Become A Firefighter? Firefighter Answers

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If you’re dreaming of becoming a firefighter, then you’re not alone. It’s a fantastic job that lets you serve your community and save lives. However, you may be wondering, how much it’s going to cost to learn what you need to start your career?

Becoming a firefighter will usually cost anywhere from about $1000 (for just an EMT certification and a CPAT test) all the way up to $25,000 or more (if you get a college degree, fire academy certification, and go to paramedic school).

There are advantages to spending more and taking longer to join the service. Let’s take a look at this in more detail. 

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Also read: How Much Do Firefighters Make? Average Salaries By State 2022

How Much Does It Cost To Become A Firefighter?

cost to become a firefighter

You should be prepared to spend at least $5,000 to become a firefighter and you could spend $25,000 or more depending on which courses you opt to study and which school you choose to attend. 

It’s possible to become a firefighter with a basic EMT qualification and a 10-week basic certification program that qualifies you in basic firefighting. 

It’s also possible to become a fully qualified paramedic and pick up a bachelor’s degree in fire science and emergency management. 

As you might expect, the latter path is going to cost a lot more than the former.

It’s important to note though that if you were to follow the latter path, you would expect to get hired faster higher, possibly have a higher starting salary, and faster career progression, in general, than someone taking the “easier” route. 

Also read: How Long Does it Take to Become a Firefighter? Expert Weighs In

How Much Would It Cost To Go To College or University?

Many people going into the fire service these days will have a degree in fire science or in emergency management. While this isn’t usually required to apply, it can make it easier to get hired in this competitive job field.

Nationally, the average cost for a year of college is around $35,000 for private colleges and around $26,000 for public colleges.

It’s cheaper if you study in-state and you can spend as little as $10,000 a year as an in-state student. 

If, on the other hand, you opt for a four-year out-of-state course, then you could spend over $130,000 in that time. 

Also read: What Should Firefighters Major In? Firefighter College Degrees

Does this investment get paid back? 

There are no guarantees. It’s entirely possible for someone to undertake a four-year degree in fire science and then not be accepted to the fire service for a variety of reasons. 

It’s also possible for someone with a fire science degree to join the service, perform badly, be passed over for promotion, etc.

However, in general terms, it’s reasonable to assume that you would, over time, earn the value of your degree back and see a healthy return on it.

In particular, it is much easier to rise up through the ranks in the service when you have a degree.

If you make it to Captain or Chief, you could reasonably expect to see a much higher salary than the average firefighter and thus, you’d get a healthy return on your investment. 

It is sometimes required to have a bachelor’s or higher-level degree to promote to battalion chief of higher.

Also read: How Much Does It Cost To Become An EMT or Paramedic?

The Pros And Cons Of Going To College To Become A Firefighter

To sum this up, there are advantages and disadvantages to going to college to learn to be a firefighter:

The Pros:

  • You will get a high-quality education, which is valued more by the service than basic fire academy training on its own
  • You will, assuming you do well as a firefighter, have a better chance at promotion and career development than a colleague with only basic fire academy training 
  • If you need to keep costs to a minimum, it’s always best to study in-state 
  • Some fire services offer assistance in repaying student loans, so the cost may not be all on you

The Cons:

  • You will have to pay to study, and you are not guaranteed a return on your investment if things don’t work out
  • You will have to wait longer for your first paycheck than someone who opts for basic fire academy training
  • You will spend much more to get into the service than you would if you opted for fire academy training

Also read: Do You Need a College Degree to Be a Firefighter? Real Answer

How Much Would It Cost To Go To Fire Academy? 

Fire academy is much less expensive than going to college and while the costs vary from college to college, we can offer Oxnard College as an example of typical costs.

They say that the cost of the course breakdown as follows:

  • $920 for 20 units of study (at $46 a unit)
  • $21 for student health fees
  • $10 for the basic student fee
  • $675 for State Fire Training Certification costs
  • $400 for books
  • $2,000 for Uniform/Safety Equipment – this fee includes rental costs for your Turnout Gear for training

That’s a total cost of $4,026. 

That’s substantially less than even a single year of an in-state college education is going to set you back. 

Some departments may require a previous fire academy completion (like a Firefighter 1 certification) just to be eligible to apply for an open firefighter position. Though this isn’t always the case, it is becoming more common.

Also read: How To Prepare For The Fire Academy: 14 Insider Tips

The Pros And Cons Of Going To Fire Academy To Become A Firefighter

That means there are also some pros and cons to heading to a fire academy rather than opting for a college degree:


  • These courses are very quick to complete when compared to a degree, they can be finished in as little as 10 weeks in some places
  • They’re much cheaper than college degrees
  • You might be able to reclaim some of the cost of the course from the department you work for


  • You have to pay these fees upfront and they don’t provide a loan for them – which can make them unaffordable to some recruits, whereas a college degree is provided on a loan basis
  • You need to make an additional allowance for costs associated with eating, housing, etc. 

Also read: Fire Academy vs Fire Science Degree – Compared

This video talks more about the costs of becoming a firefighter:

What Other Costs Are Involved With Becoming A Firefighter?

You will, of course, also have to obtain an EMT or paramedic certification prior to getting hired.

The basic EMT course is fairly cheap, check with a college near you, for the costs but becoming a paramedic is a more involved and expensive commitment.

You will also need to cover the costs of books, equipment, protective gear, food, accommodation, transport, etc. 

Financial Help For Becoming A Firefighter

If you are already involved with a fire department or other emergency management organization, even in a voluntary capacity, you may be able to claim financial help to attend a fire academy.

This can include stipends towards housing and transport, which can make fire academy a very affordable option, indeed. 

Final Thoughts On Fire Academy Vs College

In summary, there are distinct advantages to both routes into the fire service but we’d recommend that you opt for a degree if you want to pursue advancement through the ranks. 

You can keep the costs for this to a minimum by opting for an in-state degree rather than traveling away from home to a much more expensive college.

We’d also recommend that you shop around for any degree qualification as the costs vary dramatically between different colleges too. 

Most importantly, every would-be firefighter should calculate and stick to a budget that encompasses all their costs until the point that they start receiving a paycheck from the service. 

Also read: Can Firefighters Make 100k Per Year? True Salaries

What Are The Costs Of Firefighter Qualifications? 

If you thought that was all, then sadly, we’ve got one more set of costs that you’re going to have to deal with – the cost of the qualifications and tests to become a firefighter.

These costs must be borne whether you opt for a degree or fire academy. The good news is that they’re not that expensive. 

You will pay around $50 for Firefighter 1, another $50 for Firefighter 2 and if the department you work for also has an EMT test, that’s another $50. 

Firefighters must also pass the Candidate Physical Ability Test (CPAT) which costs around $150 during the recruitment process itself. 

The exact costs will depend on the location in the country and the facility providing the test but the good news is that these are the least of your costs to get into the service. 


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