Fire Science Degree

Why a Fire Science BS Degree?

Firefighting is much more than turning on a hose. Prevention is playing a more central role thanks to advances in technology and research. Since the amount of risk that fires pose may grow along with urbanization, the new equipment and techniques are right on time. Climate change-induced drought is also likely to increase the threat of wildfires. These circumstances are opening up numerous opportunities in fire services, including prevention. Professionals in this field work as firefighters, investigators, managers, product engineers, and more. Fire science is an exciting career path that helps save lives, buildings, and property.

Fire Science Online Bachelors Programs

Undergraduate programs offer a more immersive experience that develops the skills needed for higher-level management positions. In fact, many fire-related bachelor's degrees are granted as degrees in fire administration. Student take a wide variety of general education courses, in addition to courses in the major area. Completing a full bachelor's degree in fire science signals employers that you're ready for the next step in your career.

What are the education costs associated with earning a BS degree in fire science?

The cost of your degree will depend heavily on the school you choose. In-state students pay an average of $9,139 per year in tuition and fees at public colleges and universities, while out-of-state students pay nearly $23,000. A bachelor's degree in fire science from a private college costs approximately $31,231 per year. Some schools may charge higher fees to support specialized fire labs and firefighting equipment. These figures do not include the cost of room and board. If you already hold a fire service certificate or have taken National Fire Academy courses, some schools will count them towards your degree.

What are the entry requirements for undergraduate bachelor's programs in fire science?

At a minimum, applicants to bachelor's programs in fire science must be high school graduates, or have completed a GED. As with fire science programs at other levels, some schools require proof of EMT certification, prior experience in emergency response, or a passing score on a physical fitness test.

What coursework is required for a BS degree in fire science?

Bachelor's programs include foundational courses on fire science, fire chemistry, fire science technology, fire investigation, fire prevention, building construction, and hazardous materials. Students take a wide variety of general education courses, in addition to courses in the major area.

What are my employment options with an undergraduate degree in fire science?

Graduates work as fire fighters, fire investigators, fire protection engineers, loss prevention specialists, and forest fire inspectors. They are also qualified for higher-level supervisory positions.

School Spotlight

University of New Haven - Connecticut

The University of New Haven in New Haven, Connecticut has one of the largest fire science programs in the country. The department offers a bachelor's degree in Fire Science that prepares students for a wide range of future careers. In addition to serving as firefighters, graduates are also qualified to design fire protection safeguards, investigate fires, develop codes, and help businesses and industry prevent loss from fire. By adding this fire-related credential to their resumes, graduates who already have engineering degrees will be qualified to enter the field of fire protection technology.

Undergraduates can choose from concentrations in Fire Administration, Fire Investigation/Arson, and Fire Technology. They practice for real-life situations in the university's four fire labs, and test their knowledge of arson investigation, fire alarm systems, sprinkler systems, and fire dynamics in these facilities. The faculty are active practitioners of fire science who make field trips and internships as volunteer firefighters available to students. The department also hosts a Fire Science Club that holds weekly meetings and demonstrations.

University of Cincinnati

The University of Cincinnati offers a Bachelor of Science in Fire & Safety Engineering Technology that allows working firefighters to upgrade their skills and obtain the college degree needed to move into positions of leadership. Its flexible, open-learning format is comprised of distance learning courses, optional one-week residencies, and telephone consultations with faculty. This format allows working professionals to schedule learning around their duty assignments.

In addition to foundational fire science concepts, program coursework also includes associated legal and social issues, emergency operations planning, human resources, and other high-level topics intended to develop managerial and decision-making skills. The program is offered in conjunction with National Fire Academy's Fire & Emergency Services Higher Education Program. While fire service courses must be taken through the university, students have the option to complete general education courses at local colleges. Students may receive college credit for prior learning experiences, such as academy training, EMT training, and related certifications.

Fire Science Certificate Programs

Certificates in fire science offered by colleges, universities, and fire academies provide basic training for new recruits to the field. The credential can help students gain a foothold in the profession while completing a more robust associate's or bachelor's degree. On its own, it can also advance the careers of long-time practitioners. Certificate programs typically cover firefighting operations, wildland fires, code enforcement, investigations, hazmat response, and legal issues. They usually take less than a year to complete.

No matter what level of education you'd like to attain, be sure to attend programs that are accredited by recognized agencies, such as the International Fire Service Accreditation Congress (IFSAC), as well as interdisciplinary regional and national college accreditation bodies. A certificate or degree from an accredited school shows that you've received sufficient training to qualify for a variety of jobs.

What are the education costs associated with earning an undergraduate certificate in fire science?

The cost of a fire science undergraduate certificate varies by school and program length. Certificate programs may require anywhere from 3-9 courses. Four-year colleges and private colleges may be more expensive. You could spend anywhere from about $800 for a three-course certificate at a local community college to $9,000 or more for an extensive program offered through a private college.

What are the entry requirements for undergraduate certificate programs in fire science?

Completion of a high school degree or GED is required for acceptance. Some programs also require proof of EMT certification. At some schools, applicants must pass a physical fitness test.

What coursework is required by undergraduate certificate programs in fire science?

Certificate programs typically cover firefighting operations, wildland fires, code enforcement, investigations, hazardous materials (hazmat) response, and legal issues. They usually take less than a year to complete.

What are my employment options with an undergraduate certificate in fire science?

Many programs are designed to help graduates meet state certification requirements for entry-level fire fighter and hazmat response positions.

School Spotlight

Pima Community College - Arizona

Pima Community College in Tucson, Arizona administers a Fire Science Academy Track Certificate that meets the state's certification requirements for Firefighter I and II positions. The program focuses on fire service, wildland fire management, and hazmat training. Students must provide proof of EMT certification to be accepted to the certificate program. Once accepted, participants attend classes on the principles of emergency services, rope rescue, strength and fitness for the fire service, fire operations, hazardous materials, wildland firefighting, rescue practices, and maintaining records and reports. Upon completion, students will be qualified for International Fire Service Accreditation Congress (IFSAC) certification as a Hazmat First Responder. Graduates are also awarded a certificate of completion for wildland firefighting training for the National Wildfire Coordination Group.

Colorado Mountain College

Colorado Mountain College offers affordable Fire Academy I and II certifications. Fire Academy I is offered at the Edwards, Leadville, and Rifle campuses. Fire Academy II is offered at the Edwards, Colorado location only.

Fire Academy I prepares students for entry-level fire service positions through two courses: Firefighter I and Hazardous Materials Operations (Level I). Firefighter I aligns with the initial level of the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA)'s Firefighter Professional Qualifications. The class covers methods for responding to fires as well as medical, fire-related, and hazardous materials incidents. Applicants must pass the Colorado Mountain College Fire Science Physical Ability Test, or prove that they've passed a similar test within the last year as a prerequisite for the course. The Hazardous Materials Operations course encompasses recognizing and identifying hazardous materials, planning response activities, implementing response procedures, decision making, and continued evaluation of fire services. Graduates receive a Certificate of Occupational Proficiency in Fire Academy I.

Fire Academy II builds on the first credential to teach new firefighting and hazardous materials response skills. This more advanced, six credit certificate program also consists of two courses: Firefighter II and Hazardous Materials Technician Level. Firefighter II is a lecture and lab course designed to help students meet the second level of the National Fire Protection Association's Firefighter Professional Qualifications. Hazardous Materials Technician Level encompasses hazardous materials mitigation techniques, using monitoring devices, organization of mitigation teams, and how to command hazardous materials response. Graduates of the program will receive a Certificate of Occupational Proficiency in Fire Academy II. All certificate credits can be applied to the college's full Associate of Applied Science Degree in Fire Science Technology.

Fire Science Associate Degrees

Associate's programs in fire science provide a well-rounded education by including introductory general education courses in the arts, sciences, and social sciences, in addition to the highly focused fire science curriculum offered by certificate programs. A career-enhancing associate's degree can stand on its own, or serve as a “stepping stone” credential on the way to a four-year degree.

What are the education costs associated with earning an associate's degree in fire science?

You will need about 60 credits to earn an associate's degree in fire science. Since in-district students at community colleges pay about $110 in tuition and fees per credit hour, the average degree will cost approximately $6,600. The cost may be higher at private two-year colleges.

What are the entry requirements for associate's degree programs in fire science?

Applicants to two-year programs in fire science must have a high school diploma or GED. Some programs require applicants to provide proof of EMT certification, or pass a physical fitness test.

What coursework is required for a fire science associate's degree?

Students typically take courses in firefighting techniques, fire investigation, fire codes, emergency care/first response, wildland firefighting, building construction and inspection, rescue practices, and fire services management.

What are my employment options with an associate's degree in fire science?

Graduates find employment as fire fighters, and working professionals use the credential to advance in the field. The A.S. degree can also be applied towards a full bachelor's program.

School Spotlight

Casper College - Wyoming

Casper College in Casper, Wyoming issues an Associate of Applied Science degree in Fire Science Technology that prepares students to work as firefighters. Curriculum in the major area includes fire science, firefighting tactics, investigations, fire prevention, codes and ordinances, building construction, basic emergency care and first response, wildland fire behavior, rescue, apparatus, and supervisory management. Students also take general education classes in science and math, communication, human behavior, civics, and other disciplines. The A.S. credential can help practicing firefighters qualify for promotions. Students can also transfer the credits to a bachelor's degree program.

Master's Degrees in Fire Science

Because fire science is primarily addressed at the undergraduate level, there are very few master's programs in fire science. However, a handful of schools offer advanced degrees that either develop the skills necessary for managerial and administrative positions in depth, or specialize in specific areas of fire services.

What are the education costs associated with earning a fire science master's degree?

A master's degree in fire science can cost $11,000 per year at a public college ($916 per credit hour), up to $25,000 per year ($2,083 per credit hour) at a private college.

What are the entry requirements for graduate programs in fire science?

A bachelor's degree is required for admission to a master's program. The bachelor's degree should be in a related area, such as fire science, engineering, or chemistry. However, while graduate programs in most fields focus on preparing students for doctoral programs and research positions, fire science departments typically offer professional programs designed to prepare students for applied work. For this reason, GRE scores may not be required.

What coursework is required for a fire science master's degree?

Graduate-level coursework includes fire science, fire dynamics, flammability assessment, fire modeling, fire detection and alarm systems, structural fire suppression, fire investigation, and wildland fire management. Master's programs typically culminate in a final, comprehensive exam; a thesis is usually not required.

What are my employment options with a master's degree in fire science?

Graduates find employment at state and local government agencies, as well as engineering, consulting, contracting, and insurance firms.

School Spotlight

California Polytechnic

California Polytechnic State University in San Luis Obispo offers a Master of Science in Fire Protection Engineering. In addition to gaining a broad knowledge of fire codes and regulations, students explore the science of fire, and how fire can be controlled through scientific approaches. The program teaches students to assess the flammability of materials under a variety of conditions, interpret the results of fire tests, and use computerized fire simulation models and evacuation models. Graduates will be prepared to design fire and smoke control systems, as well as structural fire protection features in buildings. They'll also have the skills to assess and mitigate the risk of fires in buildings.

Doctoral Programs in Fire Science

The vast majority of fire science positions do not require a doctorate. This is even true of faculty positions at most colleges and universities, which are usually taught by current or former practitioners. While the options for Ph.D. programs in fire science are very limited, a few institutions offer doctoral degrees that verify graduates' ability to conduct research in the discipline. A Ph.D. is advantageous for jobs in academia, research laboratories, and policy analysis.

What are the education costs associated with earning a doctorate in fire science?

Most Ph.D. programs require 60 credits, which can amount to a total of $55,000 at a public college and $125,000 at a private university. If you enter a Ph.D. program with only a bachelor's degree, you may need to complete 90 credits. This path can cost nearly $83,000 at a public institution and $187,500 at a private, for-profit college.

What are the entry requirements for Ph.D. programs in fire science?

Applicants need at least a bachelor's degree. At some schools, candidates without a graduate degree can earn both the master's and Ph.D. upon acceptance. GRE scores are typically required for doctoral-level programs.

What coursework is required for a doctorate in fire science?

Candidates take about 15 semester hours of advanced coursework in fire science, fire protection engineering, and research methods. They must also complete about 30 hours of dissertation research, successfully defend the dissertation, and pass a final, comprehensive exam.

What are my employment options with a doctoral degree in fire science?

A Ph.D. is advantageous for careers in academia, research centers, and policy analysis.

School Spotlight

Worcester Polytechnic Institute - Massachusetts

Worcester Polytechnic Institute in Worcester, Massachusetts grants a Ph.D. in Fire Protection Engineering. The program's interdisciplinary coursework explores regulatory reform, marine safety, fire modeling, and explosion events. Students have the opportunity to conduct original research in the high-tech Fire Science Laboratory, Combustion Laboratory, Fire Modeling Laboratory, and Wet Lab. Candidates can also gain valuable work experience through paid internships.

Fire Science Online Schools

Since most online programs have fewer overhead costs than traditional brick-and-mortar environments, distance programs may be a more affordable choice. They're also more convenient, allowing you to complete your certificate or degree while fulfilling your work and family commitments.

School Spotlight

Butte College offers an Associate of Science in Fire Science that encompasses municipal and wildland firefighting, as well as building construction and inspection. Students must meet general education requirements and take 24 credits in fire science, including classes in Fire Behavior and Control, Personal Fire Safety, Building Construction and Fire Protection, fire equipment and systems, and Fire Company Organization and Management. The college also offers an online Certificate of Achievement in Fire Science.

Waldorf College in Forest City, Iowa offers an online Bachelor of Applied Science in Fire Science Administration. The program emphasizes organizational theory and behavior, management techniques, professional communications, and problem solving. Coursework includes legal aspects of fire services, personnel management, terrorism, fire-related human behavior, analytical approaches, disaster management, and human resources and managerial issues. Many of the courses included in the program have been based on the recommendations of the National Fire Academy, U.S. Fire Administration and the National Fire Protection Association.

The University of Cincinnati offers a Bachelor of Science in Fire & Safety Engineering Technology that allows working firefighters to upgrade their skills and obtain the college degree needed to move into positions of leadership. Its flexible, open-learning format is comprised of distance learning courses, optional one-week residencies, and telephone consultations with faculty. This format allows working professionals to schedule learning around their duty assignments.
In addition to foundational fire science concepts, program coursework also includes associated legal and social issues, emergency operations planning, human resources, and other high-level topics intended to develop managerial and decision-making skills. The program is offered in conjunction with National Fire Academy's Fire & Emergency Services Higher Education Program. While fire service courses must be taken through the university, students have the option to complete general education courses at local colleges. Students may receive college credit for prior learning experiences, such as academy training, EMT training, and related certifications.

Fire Science Certification

You will likely need to pass a written firefighter exam prior to employment. There are also several professional certification options. For example, the National Fire Protection Association offers multiple credentials, including Certified Fire Protection Specialist (CFPS), Certified Fire Inspector I (CFI), Certified Fire Inspector II (CFI-II), and Certified Fire Plan Examiner I (CFPE). The National Wildfire Suppression Association also offers an optional Professional Certified Emergency Services Contractor training program.

Employment

Fire science professionals work as firefighters and fire service managers for municipalities and public agencies. Some enforce codes or develop government policy. In the private sector, they find jobs at insurance companies, engineering firms, equipment manufacturing companies, and research labs. Other work for private contracting or consulting firms. Regardless of the setting, the crucial services that fire science professionals provide help keep people, buildings, and property safe.

Skills You'll Learn Studying Fire Science

  • Critical Thinking - Fire professionals must use logic and reasoning to identify the strengths and weaknesses of alternative solutions or approaches to problems.
  • Decision Making -Fire professionals must use good judgement to make appropriate decisions regarding the alternatives they've identified.
  • Problem Sensitivity - Knowing when something is wrong, or when a situation will likely get out of hand, is critical to this line of work.

Related Fire Science Degree Career Paths

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