Is a Fire Science Degree for You?

An online bachelor’s degree in fire science is good fit for people who work as firefighters, emergency management personnel, or in fire analysis and investigation. An interest in the natural sciences is a must, as fire science students study the chemical properties of fire and the chemical process of combustion.

This discipline goes beyond proven methods of putting out fires and crisis control to incorporate fire prevention techniques. Since not all positions in firefighting, fire protection, and fire prevention require a degree, a bachelor’s is best suited for those who plan to pursue high-level careers as first-line supervisors or who wish to prepare for graduate study in pursuit of a career in academia.

Advice for Earning Your Fire Science Degree Online

When selecting an online bachelor’s in fire science, prospective students should first look into the program’s faculty. Look for professors and instructors with proven experience in fire service leadership as well as terminal degrees in their fields. Working firefighters and other emergency management personnel should look for programs that can be taken on a part-time basis so that they can more easily further their education without disrupting their work schedule. While most programs are delivered 100% online, some will require proctored exams or field experiences, so be prepared to secure a proctor and participate in site-based learning if your program calls for it.

Required Courses

In addition to mandatory general study course work, most fire science programs require students to take classes in fire protection, prevention, administration, investigation, and working with hazardous materials. However, specific course will vary depending on if the degree is geared more toward fire services in general or administration and leadership. Possible courses might include:

  • Fire Emergency Services Management
  • Industrial Processes and Fire Protection
  • Multi-Agency Incident Command
  • Legal and Regulatory Issues in Fire Services
  • Arson Prevention and Control

Common Career Paths

Fire science graduates can choose from a number of career opportunities, with salaries varying significantly based on your experience, rank, the size and type of your employer, and the region of the country you live in. Possible careers in the fire science field include:

Firefighter

  • Expected Growth: 9%
  • Average Annual Salary: $47,850

Firefighters are best known for responding to industrial and house fires, but are also among the first to respond to the scenes of car accidents and natural disasters. They work to expand public awareness of personal fire safety by visiting schools and community centers. Certain firefighters train to deal with hazardous waste emergencies and forest blazes.

While a degree isn’t always required to become a firefighter, a bachelor’s degree is increasingly required for firefighters who wish to advance beyond the rank of battalion chief, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). The above job outlook and salary average were provided by the BLS.

Fire Inspector

  • Expected Growth: 9%
  • Average Annual Salary: $57,400

Fire inspectors travel around the areas of their jurisdiction to examine buildings to ensure that they are up to local and state fire code standards as well as evaluate and approve plans for new buildings to ensure any new construction is up to code. They check exits and entrances, test fire extinguishers and other preventive systems, and make sure proper procedures are implemented during drills.

While a high school diploma and experience in a fire and police department may be all that’s required for some jobs, some employers prefer to hire fire inspectors with a degree in a relevant area, like fire science, the BLS explained. The employment growth projection and salary figure provided above are available through the BLS.

Fire Investigator

  • Expected Growth: 9%
  • Average Annual Salary: $57,400

Fire investigators determine the source and cause of fires by interviewing witnesses, examining and cataloging evidence, and issuing reports on their findings. They are especially useful in cases where arson, insurance fraud, or other criminal activity is suspected. Like fire inspectors, fire investigators also generally earn a high school diploma before taking the job; however, they can often improve their chances of receiving an offer if they have studied fire science and earned a bachelor’s degree. Fire investigators are grouped with inspectors in terms of job growth and salary.

Forest Fire Inspectors and Prevention Specialists

  • Expected Growth: N/A
  • Average Annual Salary: $41,860

Forest fire inspectors and prevention specialists look for potential hazards in forests and make recommendation on preventive measures that can be taken against forest fires. They report on active forest fires, relay information on the spread of forest fires and the location of firefighting crews, and take stock of equipment needed to respond to forest fires. As with other jobs in the field, a bachelor’s degree isn’t always required, but may help you get hired or prove beneficial for advancement. The salary average provided above was drawn from the BLS.

Fire Safety Director

  • Expected Growth: N/A
  • Average Annual Salary: $52,000

Fire safety directors patrol a specified area and remain on the lookout for anything out of the ordinary that would pose a fire or safety risk. They may also perform fire safety assessments, respond to fire alarm activations, conduct inspections to ensure facilities meet local fire codes, conduct routine fire drills, or train other emergency management personnel in fire evacuation and emergency procedures.

Job postings reveal that a high school diploma is often all that is required, but some specialist positions prefer a bachelor’s degree in a relevant area, like fire science or environmental health and safety. The BLS does not track salaries and employment projections for fire safety directors, but the above salary average was drawn from job site SimplyHired.com based on salaries posted to the site and was current as of May 2013.

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