Captain Lester Fuzell, Sr.

Invest in your Success…”you gotta’ pay the cost to be the Nozzleman!”

No one talks about the fact that to begin to compete for today’s firefighter jobs “you’ve got to pay to play”, meaning that to realize your goal of becoming a professional firefighter requires that you shell out some cash. This time and place are different than years ago, but consider that the money you spend now is an investment to your future. Considering that at entry level, you will start off making well over $50,000 per year as a trainee, the small amount you invest now will pay dividends later on. This fact alone should be major selling point you can use to help you in your financial plan.

Now, the issue of having to spend money to gain employment as a professional firefighter is probably more of an issue for younger candidates who may or may not be working. Even those that are, will find that the initial expenses aren’t too unreasonable but as they look to seek ways to increase their “hiring potential” by complimenting their skills and experience, the expenses for such training and education increase markedly. In today’s economy a candidate simply wanting to get his CPAT certification could spend $215 for the day considering the cost of the examination and certification, money for fuel and lunch (if they didn’t bring their own). And this is just one day!

The initial investment for a person trying to gain employment as a professional firefighter is usually spent in their preparation and gaining certifications that 1) are often required as a minimum standard for the job and 2) those that give you an edge over your competition. Some of the costs you may have to shell out include:
• Candidate Physical Agility/Ability testing and certification $ 20 – $ 150
o Some of these certifications require annual recertification)
• Firefighter examination study guides ie Arco, Barrons or Hall $ 10 – $ 75

If you don’t have a great deal of time for researching job listings on a website like GovernmentJobs. com, calling local cities and counties or placing survey interest cards, it is may be in your best interest to subscribe to an online firefighter employment notification service, like, that will provide you with up-to-date and regular postings of firefighter employment opportunities.
• Annual subscription to firefighter employment notification service $ 110
o $10 monthly if you want to get a feel for the service

Some additional costs you can incur are those that will enhance your selection probability in getting a job in that you will have more specific skills that many departments now want of their candidates:
• Emergency Medical Technician (EMT-1) training and certification $ 100 – $1500
• Paramedic (EMT-P) training and certification $1500 – $6500
• Firefighter 1 academy and/or certification $1200 – $7500

Some costs that can’t be calculated but you should take into consideration are:
• Fuel costs driving to and from written, physical agility or oral interviews
• Meals while taking examinations
• Motel fees for overnight stays taking distant examinations
• Sitter fees if you’re a parent and need to get away to test
• Public transportation fees or cab rental

Some classes are offered through community colleges and are specialized and recognized by local, county, state or federal agencies as being necessary to satisfy one or more requirements for a recognized fire service related certification. These classes also have fees which often include the study material and certification or registration:
• Price for specialized fire service related classes $250 – $500 per class

Now how you pay for these costs is your next consideration. If you have a job you can expect that you are going to have to budget and set aside for the costs you will incur. If you have been responsible with your finances, you will make some adjustments and all you will have to do is set goals and spend wisely.

For some of you, all too often the money you might have isn’t being spent constructively. You may be wasting a lot of cash that you now need to think about putting into your future. Spending money on expensive shoes and clothes to look the part you really aren’t. How much more money are you going to dump into that car on expensive tires and rims and “bling” when all you need the car for is to get from point A to point B? Eating out regularly at fast food restaurants is costing you big in the wallet and possibly big in the gut! How much are you spending going out drinking? Do you spend more time hanging out on the corner than in a classroom? I bring this out to let you know that the time and money you waste is the time someone else is taking your job!

Let’s be realistic money isn’t falling off trees these days. I know times are tough. But put things into perspective. If you don’t have a job you can seek out financial assistance or a short term loan from some of these sources:
• A family member (your mom or dad if you are still living at home),
• A friend
• A mentor

The most important thing you’ll have to sell to get anyone’s help is yourself. Now is a good time to begin to hone those oral interview techniques when it comes to selling yourself and your goals to becoming a professional firefighter. Convince others about your sincerity and why their investment is a worthwhile one. Describe to them your knowledge as well share your preparations and plans.

You can also take on the entrepreneurial spirit and think of quick ways to fund your success. Why don’t you get some friends together for a day and hold a car wash. Offer your friends food and fun for the day. Tell them you’ll spring for a day for them at a local sporting event, in the future, for their help when you get hired. A simpler one…aluminum cans and bottles. Tell your friends you’re on a roll and you need every aluminum can and plastic bottle they are throwing away. Become your own recycling center. I will guarantee, you will smile when you get a check handed to you or cash money bill after bill is placed in your hand to total a tidy sum!

I knew a kid that met a gardener who was so impressed with him that he took him on jobs to help him and the kid was getting paid! This kid had done nothing more than strike up a conversation and said he’d like to make a little money. I call that gumption…resourcefulness and initiative. What’s to keep you from looking for a similar opportunity? It bothers me to no end seeing young men stick out their chest demanding respect with little more than a pot to pee in. I will tell you straight up…don’t expect respect simply on looks alone from people who will walk into a burning building with no hesitation!

If you aren’t working, now would be a good time to look for and get a job if you don’t have one. Something that gets you motivated will spill over into the efforts you will put into seeing your dream of becoming a firefighter realized. Being employed has a big benefit when you appear before your oral interview board also. Being employed demonstrates to the board that you are responsible enough to seek out and keep employment.

So what’s out there? Everyone can attest to the fact that the current economy is in a rut. And opportunities are not as available, yet there is work. I just read where McDonald’s is planning on hiring 50,000 new employees nationwide in beginning and management positions. There are some people who think that working minimum wage is beneath them or that it’s not worth their effort. I will say that that in interviews I have participated in, I have listened to that person explain how they prepared and what they were willing to do and invest to get the badge and I have been more impressed with their tenacity and want than the person who sat around and did nothing.

I again like to stress the community colleges as an avenue for opportunity. You may find that you are able to register for an Emergency Medical Technician class at your local college and have the costs covered by scholarships or BOG (Board of Governors) grants. As well the tuition for many classes in the community colleges is much less than private sector educational institutions. But no opportunity is going to fall into your lap. You have to make the call, visit the office or seek out those things you need to do to succeed. School part time and a paying job for a time and within six months to a year you may have accomplished padding your qualifications as well your wallet.

Where there’s a will, there opportunity.©

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