Best Online Fire Science Programs

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If you’re ready to attend college and want to save lives while keeping your community safe, consider earning an online degree in fire science. Firefighters are vital to thriving communities and you can prepare for a future in the field by pursuing an online degree in the field.

The bachelor’s degree sequence begins with basic fire and emergency services coursework, eventually progressing to fire behavior, fire strategy and tactics, arson, environmental science, HAZMAT regulations and more. When you’re evaluating colleges, be sure to pick a school accredited by the Fire and Emergency Services Higher Education (FESHE) board, the primary accrediting body for fire science programs. Also, keep in mind that many agencies will require employees to hold EMT-certifications; check with your target schools to see whether they allow you to pursue certification during the program.

Below, you’ll find our list of the best online fire science degree programs in the country. These programs provide students with practical knowledge of the field, preparing them for firefighting positions upon graduation. If you’re considering studying fire science, start your research by taking a look at these top schools.

2016 Online Education Trends Report: Learn how online programs are changing the face of higher education.

Rank School Name Ranking Score Relative Cost Graduation Rate Location Description

University of Florida

 2/587.51%Gainesville, FL


Florida's online fire and emergency services program prepares graduates to seek certification as firefighters or EMS personnel, and to pursue a range of careers in fire departments, emergency response organizations, and the government.

Classes cover a range of subject matter applicable across the fire science and emergency services industries, emphasizing leadership and organizational study. Courses examine the technology used in fire and EMS while covering current research in the field, ambulance best practices, risk reduction, and large-scale crisis management.

The FES bachelor's degree is a traditional four-year program that accepts students at the beginning of their junior year. Applicants must have either completed their associate degree or taken 60 credit hours of instruction at an accredited school. They should also have formal training in a second language and have earned a 2.3 cumulative GPA or better.

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Colorado State University – Fort Collins

 2/565.25%Fort Collins, CO


CSU’s BS in fire and emergency services administration degree is geared toward the managerial aspects of fire service. The core curriculum is delivered online beginning in each student's junior year and is designed to be completed in two years. Many distance learners, however, take longer to complete the program.

Core classes cover material on industrial processes, tactics and strategy, and current technology used in the field. Aspiring leaders also benefit from formal instruction in human resources allocation and organizational theory. Electives can be customized to focus on public finance, public policy, training programs, or international security.

Applicants should have some experience in the field. Of the 120 credit hours required to graduate, students must earn at least 30 upper-division and 31 general education credits from Colorado State. There are no experiential learning credits available, but students are encouraged to apply their professional skills toward new learning opportunities in the program's independent study seminars.

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University of North Carolina at Charlotte

 2/554.53%Charlotte, NC


UNC Charlotte's “engineering technology: fire safety” program focuses on professional development. The degree is targeted towards students who have completed an associate degree in the field. Transfer students with two-year degrees in related disciplines may be admitted, provided that they have earned at least 24 transferable semester hours at an accredited school and have a 2.0 cumulative GPA. . Students must earn 61 credits at UNC Charlotte to graduate.

Over the course of four semesters, students explore advanced fire behavior, risk management, disaster management, and industrial hazards. The program emphasizes leadership competencies with courses on organizational psychology, research investigation, and administrative processes.

Students may start the program in either the fall, spring, or summer semesters. Classes are generally taught asynchronously, though some lectures are delivered in real time. Students are expected to log in during live lectures or view taped recordings within a week.

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Eastern Kentucky University

 2/541.86%Richmond, KY


EKU provides several options for students seeking an online degree in fire science. In addition to a certificate program in industrial fire protection, through the BS in Occupational Safety program, students can focus on one of the following areas:

  • Fire Protection Administration
  • Fire, Arson & Explosion Investigation
  • Fire Protection and Safety Engineering Technology

The fire protection administration degree helps students develop professional firefighting skills, and offers courses in hydraulics and water supply, advanced emergency services, and on-scene operations. Students in the fire, arson & explosion investigation program learn specialized knowledge in processing crime scenes and explosion investigations. In the fire protection and safety engineering technology program, students take courses on structure and system design, fire dynamics, industrial safety, and human behavior in a fire.

All courses are delivered online, although students in the fire, arson & explosion investigation program are required to attend a two-week lab on campus. Courses are taught asynchronously and delivered in eight-week sessions. Many students take two classes per session and are able to quickly complete their degree. If you believe you deserve credit for previous work experience, you can submit a portfolio evaluation assessment request to the department as part of your application.

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University of Wisconsin – Oshkosh

 2/554.34%Oshkosh, WI


At UW-Oshkosh, fire service professionals can earn a bachelor of applied studies in fire and emergency response management (FERM). The program prepares graduates for leadership positions in public health and safety organizations. Classes are taught asynchronously, and enrollees are never required to attend campus. Most students who enter as juniors are able to finish the degree in two years.

Classes emphasize organizational theory, leadership and management skills, human resources, occupational safety and health, emergency planning, and public sector finance.

For admission, applicants must hold an associate degree in fire protection, fire science, paramedicine, wildland firefighting, or emergency management. Applicants should also have earned a 2.50 GPA or better in their previous coursework.

Enrollees can pursue a partial scholarship specifically intended for FERM students. Applications are due on April 1 of each year.

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University of Cincinnati

 3/559.56%Cincinnati, OH

Cincinnati offers an online fire science degree through an open learning program. This degree is targeted towards company- or chief officer-level firefighters looking to advance in their career. The curriculum is delivered through a combination of online courses and one-week on-campus residencies. Core coursework delivers training in advanced fire services and emergency response technique, exploring hazardous materials, structural analysis, safety management, and common administrative tasks.

The program is equivalent to a typical third-year curriculum in a four-year baccalaureate program. An applicant’s transfer credits are reviewed on an individual basis; the university requires graduates to earn at least 60 credit hours at UC. Incoming students may receive credit for EMT, paramedic, fire inspection, or related certifications.

All classes are taught on the university’s 14-week semester schedule. On-campus residencies are voluntary, but are encouraged, as they offer students an opportunity to earn three credit hours over five days. Most students who attend residencies are able to shorten their time to degree completion considerably.

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Fayetteville State University

 1/534.6%Fayetteville, NC

Located in the central mountains of North Carolina, Fayetteville State offers several online degree completion programs targeted towards students who have earned an associate degree or its equivalent. The BS in Fire and Emergency Services Administration program focuses on leadership and management roles in fire and emergency services. The program was originally developed as an initiative to help local women and minorities earn positions in fire science, and that goal remains a priority at FSU. This is a Fire and Emergency Services Higher Education (FESHE) recognized program.

The core curriculum explores management and organizational theory within fire science, including classes on human resources, administration, political and legal applications, and current research. Advanced courses cover fire prevention management, risk reduction, investigations, hazardous materials, and fire-related human behavior.

Applicants should hold an associate in applied science in fire protection technology from an accredited school (83 credits). Those with a different educational background must contact the school's program director for additional information about applying. Applications are accepted on a rolling basis and students may begin the program in the fall, spring, or summer semester.

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Salem State University

 2/545.98%Salem, MA

Salem State offers an online degree in fire science administration. The upper-level program focuses on the administrative and research tasks required in public fire protection, and is well-suited for working professionals who aspire to advance in their careers. The curriculum helps students develop practical skills and prepares them to assume leadership roles in the field. Classwork covers management theory, leadership and time management, community-based prevention programs, arson detection, scene management, and more.

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Anna Maria College

 5/540%Paxton, MA

Anna Maria’s online fire science degree program offering is designed for professional firefighters. This program delivers advanced material in the technical aspects of firefighting, training working firefighters to assume leadership positions in the field. All classes are asynchronous; courses are taught during six eight-week sessions per year. Most students complete the program in three years.

The curriculum is grounded in current industry issues and trends. Coursework explores regulatory standards in the field, communications skills, human resources management, risk reduction, disaster planning, and fire scene interpretation. Students who complete this program may also opt to pursue Anna Maria’s master of public administration with a fire and emergency services specialization, which requires an additional year of study.

For admission, all applicants must have already earned 60 credit hours at an accredited school. Applicants are welcome from every state except Alabama, Arkansas, Maryland, Minnesota, Mississippi, and Wisconsin.

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Eastern Oregon University


Eastern Oregon’s BS in Fire Services Administration is targeted towards fire services personnel aspiring to land leadership roles. The program is designed for working students, and classes can be taken completely online or through a hybrid online and campus-based curriculum. The program accepts first-time freshmen and students with some college experience alike.

Upper-division core classes emphasize leadership skills, focusing on human resources management, organizational theory, fiscal management, political and legal aspects of fire protection, and fire investigation and analysis. For admission, transfer students must have earned at least 30 quarter hours (or 60 semester hours) of transferable credit from an accredited school and a 2.25 GPA or better. 180 credits are required to graduate.

In the fall of 2015, Eastern Oregon began offering an Emergency Medical Services Administration program. With course crossover, students can easily double major in the FSA and EMSA programs.

All online FSA students pay in-state tuition.

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The graying of America’s population offers plenty of job security for firefighters. Because the elderly use emergency services more often than the general population, firefighters will be called into action frequently as the Baby Boomer generation ages: according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), two out of every three emergencies firefighters respond to are medical emergencies.

The median annual wage for firefighters was $46,870 in 2015, and the BLS projects that jobs will grow by about 5% through 2024. Competition for positions in fire departments is strong right now, though many firefighters do not have a college degree. Recent graduates may find that their fire science degree gives them a leg up on the job market.

Once employed, most firefighters enjoy tremendous job security, as more than 90% of them work for city, state or federal government agencies. Other firefighters work privately at chemical plants and industrial sites, positions that come with slightly different responsibilities and possibly higher salaries.

One auxiliary benefit to a career as a firefighter is an unusual work schedule. Firefighters typically work a 24-hour shift, followed by two or three days off. This allows them to spend more time with their families during weekdays, and less time in rush hour traffic.

Below, you’ll find a few resources to help you prepare for an online degree in fire science and a career in the field:

International Association of Fire Fighters (IAFF) – A lobbying group for professional firefighters in the U.S. and Canada. You’ll find job listings, training information and a YouTube channel with lectures.

International Association of Women in Fire & Emergency Service (iWomen) – Over 110,000 women in the U.S. work as career firefighters and officers; iWomen provides education, support and advocacy.

U.S. Fire Administration – Here, you can learn more about the National Fire Academy and the Fire and Emergency Services Higher Education (FESHE) accreditation. You can also get a feel for the kind of professional development courses taken by firefighters.

FireRescue Magazine – Read the magazine firefighters read. FireRescue is a monthly publication presenting news and skills for firefighters and officers.

Bureau of Labor Statistics – From the U.S. Department of Labor, you can research job and pay statistics pertaining to firefighters.