A bachelor's in fire science trains you to detect hazards, manage emergencies, and coordinate responses to fires. Students also learn about the history, theories, and practices of fire prevention, suppression, and investigation. Fire science degrees feature coursework in emergency service response, human and group management, and leadership and resource allocation. With this knowledge, graduates can thrive in several fire-related careers, including firefighting and fire inspection. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects 7% growth in employment for firefighters and 10% growth in employment for fire inspectors and investigators by 2026.
Fire science bachelor's degrees are ideal for students interested in entering the public sector, as well as professionals already working to protect people, property, and the environment. With a four-year fire science degree, you can obtain management and supervisory positions in firefighting, fire investigation, and fire safety.
What are the Best Fire Science Programs of 2020? Here are our top 10:
|1||University of Florida||Gainesville, FL|
|2||Siena Heights University||Adrian, MI|
|3||University of Nebraska at Omaha||Omaha, NE|
|4||University of Cincinnati||Cincinnati, OH|
|5||University of Wisconsin - Oshkosh||Oshkosh, WI|
|6||University of North Carolina at Charlotte||Charlotte, NC|
|7||Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University||Daytona Beach, FL|
|8||New Jersey City University||Jersey City, NJ|
|9||Fayetteville State University||Fayetteville, NC|
|10||Colorado State University - Fort Collins||Fort Collins, CO|
Should I Get a Bachelor's in Fire Science?
A fire science degree helps students understand fire outbreaks, prevention, and safety. Students also learn how to apply various techniques and skills to fire situations. Fire science programs also feature foundational coursework in law enforcement, medical services, legal studies, and ethics. Through these courses, students gain an interdisciplinary education for their future careers.
Online fire science degrees benefit students who cannot attend an on-campus program. They also assist current firefighters that hope to advance their careers, take promotional exams, and transition to supervisory positions. Firefighters often manage 24-hour shifts, call-outs at all hours, and irregular hours, all of which can make on-campus courses difficult or impossible. Online programs, by contrast, allow students to complete coursework whenever and wherever is most convenient.
On-campus fire science programs prepare students to manage and prevent fires through hands-on exercises and rescue scenarios, hazardous materials and water resource training, and procedural and structural safety coursework. If you know that you want to be a firefighter, fire inspector, or other fire professional, an on-campus degree in fire science provides critical in-person training. Local fire science programs may also maintain relationships with local fire departments. This network may help you find an entry-level position when you complete your degree.
What Can I Do With a Bachelor's in Fire Science?
If you earn a fire science bachelor's degree, you can enter a career focused on public service and public safety. Firefighters, fire inspectors, fire and arson investigators, and forest fire prevention specialists with a bachelor's in fire science have the skills and knowledge to combat fires, prevent potential fire threats, and educate the public about safety. Supervisors in firefighting, fire inspecting, and fire education can also benefit from the interdisciplinary coursework of a fire science bachelor's degree program.
Firefighters respond to and put out fires using tools such as fire hoses, chemical flame retardants, and fire extinguishers. Firefighters enter burning buildings and other structures to rescue people and animals. They may provide medical attention as needed. Firefighters also conduct education outreach, inspect equipment, and perform regular drills.
Median Annual Salary: $49,080 *
- Fire Inspector
Fire inspectors conduct safety inspections; offer educational programs; test alarms; assess building plans according to federal, state, and local codes; and work to prevent fires. Fire inspectors also keep records about fire inspections and code violations and issue fire permits. They may oversee controlled burns as well.
Median Annual Salary: $56,670 *
- Forest Fire Inspectors and Prevention Specialists
Forest fire inspectors and prevention specialists enforce forest fire regulations. They often patrol forest and residential areas looking for threats to wildlife, fire risks, and other hazards. They also assess fire conditions based on weather and climate factors. Forest fire inspectors and prevention specialists recommend fire prevention techniques and report on forest fires as they occur.
Median Annual Salary: $37,380 *
- Emergency Medical Technicians (EMTs) and Paramedics
EMTs and paramedics work with firefighters and police officers to respond to life-threatening situations. EMTs and paramedics administer first aid and medical care and transport patients to healthcare facilities. They often respond to accidents, fires, and emergency calls. EMTs and paramedics add to patient records, assess inventories, and maintain cleanliness in ambulances and other emergency vehicles.
Median Annual Salary: $33,380 *
- Fire Investigators
Fire investigators determine causes of fires by examining evidence, interviewing witness, and creating models and diagrams. Fire inspectors may work with chemists, engineers, and other scientists to evaluate explosive or flammable materials. They keep records for legal and public safety purposes. Fire investigators may also testify in civil or criminal court.
Median Annual Salary: $56,670 *
Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics
Best States for Firefighters
Firefighters provide citizens with fundamental services, working to prevent, contain, and recover from fires and other dangerous situations. Firefighters undergo extensive training, during which they learn to extinguish fires while protecting property, the environment, and human life. They must maintain physical strength and mental fortitude to effectively handle disaster situations. Due to their expertise in hazardous material disposal, search and rescue, emergency management, and first aid, firefighters also collaborate with other public service and safety professionals to prevent and manage dangerous scenarios. In addition, the firefighting profession often includes community outreach. Some firefighters instruct both children and adults on fire prevention and safety practices, or work alongside nonprofit and environmental groups.
Many firefighters begin their careers by serving in volunteer positions. Earning a degree in fire science provides volunteers and prospective firefighters alike with the information and skills needed for career advancement. Coursework prepares candidates to serve the public and collaborate with other safety and emergency professionals. Some graduates take on leadership positions and work in public policy, advocating for fire safety and protection regulations and laws. Many firefighters also undergo an apprenticeship and participate in additional training and educational programs throughout their careers.
Firefighters have the skills to work in many different settings. Areas that experience increased fire threats or maintain large populations typically need more firefighters, and tend to offer higher salaries and numerous career opportunities. States with strong public and institutional frameworks may also help firefighting professionals serve their communities more efficiently. In addition, many government organizations and facilities also hire firefighters, and states that are home to large federal bases often experience an increased demand for fire safety professionals. The states included in the following ranking offer exceptional opportunities for firefighters, including high salaries and numerous job openings.
California offers the second-highest salaries for firefighters in the nation, with annual mean wages reaching more than $73,000, which is significantly more than the national annual mean wage of $50,000.
While the state is home to more than 30,000 municipal and forest firefighters, the majority of California's fire safety professionals live in major urban centers. The Oakland-Berkeley and Vallejo-Fairfield metropolitan areas are known for paying firefighters some of the highest wages in the country. Cities like Los Angeles, San Francisco, and San Rafael also rank among the top ten-highest paying metropolitan areas for firefighters.
Demand for both entry-level and supervisory fire safety professionals is expected to remain steady in the coming decade. Projected job growth rates for municipal and forest firefighters in California appear consistent with the national 7% growth rate. Openings for both occupations, as well as jobs for municipal firefighting and prevention supervisors, are projected to increase 5% by 2026.
Despite a predicted decrease in firefighting positions, New Jersey pays its firefighters the highest salaries in the country, with firefighters in the state drawing a median annual wage of just under $76,000. Major metropolitan centers, particularly those close to New York and Pennsylvania, offer exceptionally high wages. Firefighters who work in the Newark area bring in almost $81,000 each year. The New York City - Jersey City metropolitan region employs the second largest number of firefighters in the United States.
Firefighters in New Jersey also enjoy numerous legal protections. Employers cannot discriminate against or penalize volunteer firefighters who miss work to fulfill their firefighting duties.
While job opportunities for firefighters are projected to grow by 7% nationwide by 2026, firefighters in New York state should see their employment options increase by 9%. Other New York fire safety professionals, including municipal firefighting and prevention supervisors, can expect similar job growth rates.
New York firefighters also earn median salaries that fall far above the national figure. While the national median salary for firefighters falls shy of $41,000, those employed in northern cities like Albany earn significantly higher wages than their counterparts in other states. In major urban centers such as New York City and Rochester, firefighters earn more than $70,000 every year.
New York City and the surrounding urban areas provide jobs to over 9,000 firefighters -- the second largest number in any United States metropolitan region. The FDNY is also known for its inclusive hiring practices. A recent graduating class of 291 provisional firefighters included fifteen women.
With a projected 17% rate for both municipal and forest firefighting professionals, job growth in the state far exceeds the projected national rate of 7%. Anticipating an increased need for fire inspectors and investigators, as well as firefighters, Texas offers numerous opportunities for fire safety professionals at every education level and career stage.
Texas housed more than 28,000 firefighters in 2016, with the majority residing in urban areas. In 2017, Houston and Dallas were ranked among the U.S. cities with the largest populations of firefighters, and both cities offered firefighters higher-than-average wages. Professionals earn roughly $55,000 in Houston and $50,000 in Dallas, while those employed in San Antonio, Fort Worth, and Amarillo enjoy even higher salaries.
Almost 25,000 firefighters live and work in Florida, comprising the third largest group in the United States. The annual mean wages are around $51,000 for firefighters in this state. With the annual mean wage across the country not quite reaching $50,000, firefighters in Florida find themselves in a position to earn more than their national colleagues. Firefighters in cities such as Fort Lauderdale, West Palm Beach, and Miami earn more than $60,000 annually.
The projected 14% increase in firefighting positions in Florida further provides advantages and opportunities for firefighting professionals in the state. Both municipal and forest firefighters will see higher than average growth, according to estimates.
With the recent passage of a law to protect Florida firefighters and other first responders from hardships faced on the job, firefighters now can receive workers' compensation benefits for PTSD. Florida joined many other states by adding these supports for firefighting professionals.
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Washington state pays the fourth-highest annual median wage to firefighters at just over $70,000. Northwest and southwest Washington rank among the top paying nonmetropolitan areas for firefighters in the U.S., with average salaries in the region falling between $58,000 and $61,000. In the Tacoma-Lakewood area, firefighters earn almost $89,000 every year. Firefighters in the state's eastern region earn somewhat lower wages, but still regularly exceed the national annual median salary.
With statewide job growth levels that are higher than the 7% national rate, Washington offers numerous opportunities for career advancement. Demand for municipal and forest firefighters is projected to grow by 11% over the next 10 years.
All Washington firefighters must be aged 18 or older and hold a GED or high school diploma. The state provides firefighters with the latest information on carcinogens and health protection innovations. Thanks to a strong union and active advocacy initiatives, firefighters in Washington also enjoy access to an advanced injury reporting system and healthcare support.
With almost 2,000 firefighters statewide, Nevada is home to the country's fifth-largest group of firefighting professionals. Nevada's job growth rates closely follow the national 7% projected increase, and demand for firefighters remains steady across the state. While Las Vegas firefighters enjoy an annual median wage of almost $78,000, professionals employed elsewhere in the state earn more than $65,000 each year, or roughly $15,000 above the national figure.
Firefighters in Nevada must pass a background check, hold a GED or high school diploma and a valid Nevada class C driver's license, and pass several medical and written exams. They must also be at least 18 years of age. Demand for forest firefighters is higher in Nevada than in many other states, and firefighting professionals trained in wildfire prevention and protection may find seasonal work in Nevada. Seasonal positions typically last from May to October.
Illinois firefighters consistently out earn their counterparts in other states. Drawing annual median salaries approaching $52,000, many firefighters in Illinois enjoy lucrative careers, with the state's highest earners bringing in almost $100,000 each year.
More than 10,000 of Illinois' 18,000 firefighters reside in the greater Chicago area, which employs more firefighters than any other metropolitan region in the country. The annual mean salary for Chicagoland firefighters typically exceeds $65,000. Professionals employed in cities such as Springfield and Danville draw salaries in excess of $55,000.
While all firefighters in Illinois are expected to hold a high school diploma or GED and be at least 18 years old, some cities and towns may uphold additional requirements for prospective firefighters. The Office of the Illinois State Fire Marshal provides extensive information and resources regarding job conditions and required qualifications.
Few nonmetropolitan firefighters in the nation earn more than those in central and southern Oregon, who bring in over $68,000 and $58,000 each year, respectively. Elsewhere in the state, firefighters enjoy an above-average annual median wage of roughly $66,000. While Oregon's exceptionally high salaries and growing demand for firefighters are partially driven by periodic wildfires, both forest and municipal firefighter positions are projected to increase by 8% through 2026. At present, the state enlists numerous private contractors to combat wildfire.
Firefighters in Oregon must hold EMT or paramedic credentials. Individuals who want to enter the profession without an EMT or paramedic license should apply to become firefighter trainees. Applicants with or without EMT or paramedic certifications must be at least 18 years old, possess a high school diploma or GED and a driver's license, and meet health and physical fitness standards.
Thanks to recent policy changes, prospective Pennsylvania firefighters enjoy increased access to training and education, providing advancement opportunities for high school students and adult candidates alike. The State Fire Academy offers residential, weekend, and mobile training sessions. While every Pennsylvania firefighter must master competencies defined by the Fire Academy, other requirements vary from city to city. For example, prospective Philadelphia firefighters must reside in the city or township where they work.
With increased professional experience and additional training, firefighters in Pennsylvania may increase their initial annual salary of roughly $52,000 to as much as $73,000 per year. Attracted by the state's lucrative job opportunities, more than 5,000 fire safety professionals live and work in Pennsylvania. Those employed in the New Jersey-Pennsylvania metropolitan region earn over $86,000 annually, which is almost $30,000 more than the national average, and some firefighters in the New Jersey-Pennsylvania area draw salaries in excess of $110,000.
More than 13,000 paid and volunteer firefighters staff 471 fire and rescue departments across Nebraska. Benefitting from above-average wages and a steady 6% job growth rate, Nebraska firefighters consistently out earn their counterparts in many other states. In large cities such as Omaha, some firefighters may bring in annual mean salaries as high as $56,000.
The state government sponsors a wide variety of educational resources for both prospective and current firefighters. The Nebraska State Fire Marshal offers numerous certifications for fire safety professionals in specialized areas such as apparatus and vehicle operation, fire safety instruction, and hazardous material management, while the Nebraska Forest Service provides additional advanced training geared toward forest and wildfire firefighters. Along with state-specific information and certification guidelines, Nebraska's Wildland Fire Academy offers training programs for firefighters nationwide at the local, state, and federal levels.
Thanks to Missouri's reciprocity and equivalency laws, firefighters who hold certifications in other states are permitted to seek positions within Missouri and take advantage of the state's 9% job growth rate. Although certification guidelines and requirements vary by location, the state provides initial training programs for firefighters, fire inspectors, and fire investigators. The Office of the Fire Marshal also grants numerous fire safety certifications.
Earning potential varies significantly across the state. Firefighters who are employed in cities typically draw larger salaries than those in rural areas, and Missouri's highest paid firefighters work in the St. Louis metropolitan area.
Recently, Google's philanthropic division provided Kansas City firefighters with a $1 million grant to support first responders' mental and physical health. In addition to medical and psychiatric care, the grant has funded scholarships, retreats for firefighters' families, and training programs.
With extensive local job opportunities and strong earning potential, it's no surprise that roughly 4,500 firefighters reside in the Washington, D.C. area. Firefighters employed in the region earn an impressive annual mean wage of nearly $69,000, or almost $20,000 above the national average. In other parts of Virginia, firefighters' earnings consistently surpass national figures. The state's projected 10% job growth rate demonstrates a positive outlook for fire safety professionals in Virginia.
While both local and regional fire departments hold different service requirements, the state provides basic certifications and training programs. The Virginia Department of Fire Programs offers specialized training in air rescue, incident management, and technical rescue, which allow firefighters to acquire new skills and advance in the profession. A recent grant from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security has helped Virginia firefighters purchase new equipment, support mobile operations, and pursue further training.
Michigan's strategic location and vast forested areas have led the state to coordinate prevention and protection efforts with fire safety professionals in neighboring states and Canadian agencies. These collaborative initiatives equip forest firefighters with advanced training and setting-specific fire safety methodologies. Despite these efforts, Michigan's continued need for both municipal and wildlife firefighters has led to a projected 7% job growth rate in the field and above-average salary potential. Many firefighters employed in cities such as Battle Creek, or along the Indiana border, draw salaries that fall above the national median wage.
With over 1,000 fire departments located throughout the state, training oversight falls to the Bureau of Fire Services' Fire Fighter Training Division. Along with state standards, candidates in some municipal areas must meet additional requirements to become firefighters. In Troy, firefighters must live or work within three miles of a city fire station.
Colorado's urgent need for qualified fire safety professionals has led to a large number of available positions statewide and a 13% job growth rate -- nearly double the national average for all occupations. In an effort to meet this growing demand, many cities offer increasingly competitive wages. Firefighters in urban centers such as Denver and Boulder draw an annual median wage of $70,000 -- more than $20,000 above the national figure. In other locations like Fort Collins and Greeley, firefighters earn more than $50,000 per year.
Before completing national standard training and obtaining Colorado credentials, wildfire firefighters must find a sponsoring agency. Firefighters may also pursue hazardous materials and medical training. State efforts to support firefighters and promote fire safety include training programs and extensive cooperative efforts between cities.
Regional wildfire outbreaks are a fact of life in Montana, and job growth figures demonstrate the state's steady demand for firefighting professionals. While the projected 8% growth rate for firefighters is slightly higher than the national average, state demand for forest firefighting supervisors and prevention supervisors is also increasing at a comparable rate. Most Montana firefighters earn more than $50,000 a year, with individuals in Billings and Missoula bringing in even higher salaries.
The state's forest firefighters enjoy a wealth of educational resources and opportunities for advancement. Montana State University's Montana Fire Training School provides specialized training programs, while and the trainings offered by the state's Department of National Resources and Conservation offers additional training in fire and incident management. The recent Roundup For Safety Grant provided forest firefighters and lookout volunteers at select sites with new radio devices and first aid kits.
Comparable to nationwide trends, both municipal and forest firefighter positions in Wyoming are projected to see a 5% growth rate in the coming decade. Although Wyoming firefighters earn salaries just under the national median wage, they enjoy numerous benefits, state resources, and advanced training opportunities.
The Wyoming Fire Training Division oversees all local and regional firefighter training, standardizing practice across the state. All entry-level firefighters in Wyoming must be at least 18 years old and hold a high school diploma or GED. State agencies offer numerous training and certificate programs for firefighters who wish to develop specialized skills. The Department of Fire Protection and Electric Safety is home to the Wyoming Fire Agency, which provides courses on structure design, fire safety instruction, and fire investigation. The state government also maintains laws intended to protect firefighters who have experienced job-related injuries or suffer from medical conditions.
With annual median wages above the national average in major cities like Phoenix and Sierra Vista, the 7% projected job growth increase for firefighters in Arizona supports opportunities for career growth. Similar growth rates for fire prevention specialists allow firefighters in the state to advance their careers and increase their earning potential.
In the interest of protecting firefighters and the public, Arizona has an interagency wildfire prevention and information website designed to provide the most up-to-date data on fire risks, weather, and air quality alerts. The state further promotes the safety of its firefighters through the Department of Forestry and Fire Management by providing physical trainings and wildland fire safety courses for firefighters in the state. The Arizona Wildfire and Incident Management Academy awards certificates to firefighters each year that indicate a firefighter's ability to handle dangerous and emergency situations. These credentials and the other programs all allow firefighters to build competencies and thrive in Arizona.
Benefiting from their close proximity to the Washington, D.C. area, many Maryland firefighters earn almost $59,000 a year, with those in Silver Spring and Baltimore drawing similarly high salaries. As a whole, firefighters in Maryland out earn their counterparts elsewhere, enjoying an annual median wage of more than $57,000.
The state of Maryland requires all probationary firefighters to be 18 years old and hold a high school diploma or GED, along with a valid driver's license. In cities like Rockville, individuals who are 16 years old may apply for Junior Firefighter status. While some local and regional fire departments may maintain additional requirements, most firefighters in the state advance from probationary to fully-employed status through on-the-job training.
Maryland experiences a limited number of wildland fires each year, and the state's Department of Natural Resources provides fire prevention and safety support and information for both firefighters and the general public.
Higher than average annual median wages and a projected 8% increase in fire safety jobs make Indiana a lucrative place to start or advance any firefighting career. Fire fighting and fire prevention supervisors in the state enjoy similar advantages. Firefighters working along the Michigan border and in the Indianapolis, Lafayette, and South Bend metropolitan centers draw particularly high salaries.
While the requirements to become a firefighter vary by municipality, the Indiana Department of Homeland Security oversees and approves rules, standards, and training practices for firefighters throughout the state. Prospective Indiana firefighters may pursue official certification or apply for reciprocity if they hold certification from another fire department. Recently, the city of Indianapolis increased eligibility guidelines for military servicemembers and veterans, allowing individuals under 40 who have completed at least 20 years of military service to apply for firefighter positions.
Firefighters across Connecticut benefit from a wealth of state-sponsored resources and a median annual wage that exceeds $65,000. In cities like Danbury, New Haven, and Bridgeport, firefighters earn more than $70,000 annually, which is $15,000 above the national median wage. Many recent upgrades within Connecticut fire departments also provide firefighters with access to state-of-the-art equipment. The New Britain fire department, for example, recently spent almost $2 million on updated vehicles.
Prospective Connecticut firefighters must first apply in an individual town or city before participating in the Commission on Fire Prevention and Control's 70-day Recruit Firefighter program. While all candidates must be affiliated with one of the state's fire departments, the program allows local recruits to take part in state training and resources. All recruits must reside at the Connecticut Fire Academy as they undergo training. The state also sponsors numerous specialized fire service and safety programs, including courses in terrorism prevention and hazardous materials.
Despite a fairly low 2% growth rate for firefighter positions statewide, Alaska offers fire safety professionals unprecedented levels of support and exceptional earning potential. Far exceeding the national median wage for all occupations, firefighters in Alaska draw an annual median wage of over $60,000. Positions in large cities like Anchorage are even more lucrative, with many professionals earning over $70,000 a year.
In addition to high salaries, Alaska firefighters benefit from the state's commitment to standardization and continued government support. The Alaska Department of Public Safety sponsors a certification program for firefighters at every career level, offering high-quality training for basic and apprentice firefighters, airport firefighters, fire investigators, apparatus drivers, and technical crew members. Wildland firefighters receive resources and training through the Bureau of Land Management Alaska Fire Service, which provides oversight for fire support, operations, and management professionals and coordinates fire safety initiatives across the state.
North Carolina offers numerous professional growth opportunities for prospective and established firefighters alike. Available fire safety positions are projected to expand by 9%, leading to an increased demand for qualified firefighters and higher wages, particularly among firefighters in the state's northern region. Professionals employed along the Virginia border typically draw the highest median wages.
Local, regional, and state institutions offer a wealth of training programs, specialized credentials, and career advancement opportunities for both municipal and wildland firefighters. The North Carolina Fire Service provides rural fire departments with the training needed to prevent, manage, and combat wildland fires. The North Carolina Office of the State Fire Marshal sponsors certifications, insurance programs, and fire safety information geared toward fire professionals and the general public alike. The state is also home to numerous agencies, associations, and initiatives like the North Carolina Firefighters Fund to support firefighters and their families through education.
Wisconsin is home to the nation's fifth-highest concentration of firefighters, and this figure is projected to hold steady through 2026, as the state's demand for fire safety professionals remains aligned with national rates. Despite its unusually large number of resident fire safety professionals, Wisconsin offers significant earning potential, particularly in the state's northern and the southern metropolitan areas. In Sheboygan, the annual median income for firefighters exceeds $65,000, while professionals in Kenosha earn more than $56,000 each year.
To become a firefighter in Wisconsin, candidates must hold a high school diploma or GED and a valid driver's license. Cities and metropolitan areas often maintain additional criteria, including written and oral exams. Milwaukee, for example, prepares firefighters and fire cadets for duty through a supportive, comprehensive program that addresses safety intervention, physical health and wellness, life support training, and hazardous response organization. Program graduates may obtain further certifications and through Wisconsin's technical colleges.
Professionals in northeastern Ohio's nonmetropolitan regions constitute one of the country's largest groups of firefighters, and an exceptionally high number of firefighters live and work throughout the state. Employment opportunities and salaries are variable and location dependent, with cities like Cleveland projecting job growth rates above the statewide 3% figure. Cleveland firefighters also command wages above the national median, as do those employed in Columbus and Lima.
In recent years, many Ohio fire departments chose to define separate qualifications for firefighters and paramedics, making it easier for individuals to pursue fire safety positions and presenting new entry-level opportunities in the field.
How to Choose a Bachelor's in Fire Science Program
Fire science bachelor's degree programs typically include 120 credit hours of coursework. Full-time students can usually complete a bachelor's degree in four years, and part-time students usually take longer. Some schools offer accelerated options that allow students to graduate more quickly. As you complete your degree, you may participate in a final project, internship, or seminar course designed to integrate all of your coursework and experiences.
Many on-campus and online programs allow students with an associate degree in fire science or a related field to transfer into a four-year program. Consider whether you want to immediately begin a bachelor's program, or whether you want to finish an associate degree first.
Learners should also decide whether they want to complete their courses online, on campus, or both. Online degrees in fire science provide convenient and flexible options for working fire service professionals and other busy students. Online students often save money on housing, tuition, campus fees, and other expenses. However, some colleges charge an extra technology fee.
On-campus bachelor's in fire science programs usually offer in-person training and networking events. However, since not every school offers a degree in fire science, you may have to travel to a distant our out-of-state college. Out-of-state schools cost significantly more than in-state schools. In addition to tuition, on-campus students must also pay for housing, technology, administrative services, and activities.
If you are interested in a particular field of public service or fire science, look for a school with a related specialization or minor. For instance, many programs offer minors in emergency management and law enforcement. Finally, consider the total cost of each program. Make sure you apply for scholarships, grants, and loans.
Programmatic Accreditation for Bachelor's in Fire Science Programs
Colleges and universities may hold regional or national accreditation. The Council for Higher Education Accreditation and the U.S. Department of Education oversee and approve regional and national accreditation bodies. Academic-based institutions usually receive regional accreditation, while for-profit and vocational schools usually receive national accreditation. Most employers and graduate schools prefer regional accreditation.
Several national and international agencies specifically accredit fire science programs. For instance, the International Fire Service Accreditation Congress reviews higher education programs in emergency-related fields. The IFSAC also accredits bodies that certify fire service professionals. Fire programs offered through a school of engineering may hold accreditation from the Engineering Technology Accreditation Commission of the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology. Fire science programs may also receive recognition, certification, or accreditation through the Fire and Emergency Services Higher Education initiative, National Fire Academy or Society of American Foresters.
All students should take care to attend an accredited school. Accreditation determines your eligibility for financial aid, transfer options, and future employment. Programs that lack appropriate accreditation may restrict your options.
Bachelor's in Fire Science Program Admissions
Admission requirements for fire science bachelor's degrees varies by school. Many programs, especially online degrees, require some previous coursework or an associate degree. Some schools prefer candidates who hold an associate degree, even if candidates do not need one for admission. If you do not meet prerequisites, schools may accept a predetermined amount of experience in the field.
Fire science programs may also request a certain GPA, certification, or letters of support. Many schools require an essay or personal statement describing why you want to enter the program or become a fire science professional.
- Minimum GPA: Many fire science bachelor's degree programs require students to transfer in some previous coursework with a GPA of 2.0 or above. Your GPA allows you to demonstrate your academic ability and success in topics related to fire science.
- Application: Colleges and universities require you to submit a formal application when you apply for admission. Check each of your potential school's application deadlines and submit your applications as early as possible. You may be able to take advantage of resources like CommonApp. CommonApp provides an easy way to apply to multiple schools with one form.
- Transcripts: When you apply to a bachelor's in fire science program, you need to submit your transcripts from high school and any other college you attended. You should talk to your high school guidance counselor and college registrar's office in order to request transcripts. Your previous schools will send the transcripts directly to your college. Many schools charge a small fee.
- Letters of Recommendation: For admission to a fire science bachelor's program, you may need several letters of recommendation. These letters can particularly benefit students who do not meet some admission requirements. You should contact three to five individuals that can attest to your academic and work performance. Give your references as much notice as possible, and make sure you have back-ups in case any problems arise.
- Test Scores: For admission to many college and universities, you need to submit either ACT or SAT scores. You should research which tests your potential schools require and what scores you need for admission. When you take the ACT and SAT, you can request to have your scores sent directly to schools. You can also request scores sent at a later date.
- Application Fee: Application fees vary from $20 to $100, depending on the school. Many colleges and universities offer waivers for applicants with academic merit or financial need. You should ask each of your potential schools about waiver programs.
What Else Can I Expect From a Bachelor's in Fire Science Program?
While most fire science degree programs include similar foundational courses, each school focuses on different subjects, specializations, career paths, and experiences. Programs that concentrate on fire administration and emergency management may offer a very different curriculum than a degree focused on engineering technology or public service. When you choose a school and a program, you should keep in mind what your interests and career goals are and how you can best prepare for your future.
Concentrations Offered for a Bachelor's Degree in Fire Science
|Bachelor's Degree in Fire and Emergency Response Management||A bachelor's degree in fire and emergency response requires students to have a two-year degree in a related field or sufficient work experience. Courses emphasize leadership, human resource management, budgeting, and mentoring. These programs serve fire service professionals that want to move into supervisory and administrative positions in fire services and emergency management.||Fire services administrator, emergency management supervisor, fire chief, fire marshall|
|Bachelor of Science in Fire and Emergency Services Administration||A bachelor of science in fire and emergency services administration focuses on the human and institutional elements of fire and emergency services. Students learn about behavior, ethics, legal and governmental policies, wellness, organizational and personnel management, and community and individual risk assessment. Students also assess fires and emergency events. Learners apply theories, techniques, and skills in an internship or capstone.||Fire chief, fire services manager, emergency services administrator, fire marshall, fire and emergency services personnel supervisor|
|Bachelor of Science in Emergency Management with an emphasis in Fire Services||A bachelor of science in emergency management with an emphasis in fire services focuses on fire codes and inspections, strategies and tactics for emergency response, fire prevention, fire services administration, and public protection. The core curriculum includes theories, techniques, policies, and applications of emergency management strategies and responses.||Emergency services coordinator, fire services supervisor, emergency and fire services administrator, public service or government agency representative|
|Bachelor of Science in Engineering Technology with a concentration in Fire Safety||A bachelor of science in engineering technology with a concentration in fire safety provides students with the knowledge, tools, and research background to investigate fire events. Students also learn how to design, develop, and implement more effective fire protection measures. Engineering technology and fire safety degrees bring together coursework and lab exercises.||Building inspector, fire inspector, fire investigator, fire safety director, fire protection and safety engineer, industrial safety specialist|
|Bachelor of Science in Fire and Emergency Services - Fire Specialization||A bachelor of science in fire and emergency services with a specialization in fire especially benefits fire service workers that want to advance to administration and supervisory positions. Students complete coursework in strategic planning, leadership and ethics, community risk assessment, command and control at catastrophic events, communications, and financial management. The degree also prepares fire service professionals to handle personnel administration, public information management, and community relations.||Fire service manager, emergency response administrator, government agency representative, industry or company liaison|
Courses in a Bachelor's in Fire Science Program
Although each fire science bachelor's degree offers different courses, many classes remain consistent across the curriculum. Fire science programs train administrators and supervisors to best handle the on-the-ground aspects of fire emergencies and fire services management. Most programs offer coursework in leadership in fire and emergency services, legal and ethical aspects of fire prevention and response, and financial administration of fire services.
- Fire Service Leadership
This class provides students with research, theories, and techniques for effective leadership in fire departments and the public sector. Classes emphasize decision-making, problem-solving, and personal and professional ethics. Students participate in case studies, role-playing activities, and analytical exercises. Leadership classes may also emphasize the relationship between fire service professionals and their employees; the community; larger administrative entities; and their family, friends, and associates.
- Trends and Research in Fire Service Technology
Courses that focus on trends and research in fire service technology help students understand changes, advances, and challenges in the field. Students learn how to evaluate and assess fire service technologies. They may design or model their own innovations at the end of the course.
- Fire Prevention and Public Protection
Fire prevention and public protection classes emphasize techniques for preventing loss of life, damage to property, and negative environmental impacts. Students learn about risk assessment, fire and building codes and policies, and active fire suppression techniques.
- Public Personnel Management
This course gives fire science students the chance to study and develop strategies for managing fire and emergency service workers. Students assess management techniques in day-to-day work and in emergency situations. Students also learn effective tactics for motivating, organizing, mentoring, and supervising others while encouraging accountability, diversity efforts, and ethics in the public sector.
- Law and Ethics in Fire Services
Courses on law and ethics cover legal procedures, policies, and codes that relate to fire protection, safety, and incident management. Students learn how to apply laws and concepts ethically and effectively. These classes incorporate case studies and exercises from local, state, and federal sources.
How Long Does It Take to Get a Bachelor's in Fire Science?
A bachelor's in fire science includes approximately 120 hours of coursework. Full-time students can complete both an associate and bachelor's program in four years. Part-time students can take courses at their own pace, but usually take at least an additional year to graduate.
Many online programs require students to transfer in 30-60 hours of prerequisite work, making the bachelor's degree a two- to three-year commitment. Several associate programs maintain articulation agreements with four-year colleges and universities.
Students may graduate early in special circumstances. Accelerated programs offer students the opportunity to complete the last two years of a bachelor's degree in just 18-20 months.
How Much Is a Bachelor's in Fire Science?
Schools usually charge tuition on either a per-semester or per-credit basis. On a semester system, all students pay the same rate whether they take just 12 credits or a hefty 18. Students who take more credits per semester can finish sooner, and thus save more money long term. By contrast, many online programs charge a flat rate per credit.
Tuition can vary significantly for in-state and out-of-state students. Usually, in-state public universities cost much less than other schools. Out-of-state schools usually cost much more. However, a few colleges offer in-state tuition to out-of-state online students. Private institutions charge the same tuition rate for all students, regardless of state residence.
In addition to tuition, make sure to research housing costs and additional fees. On-campus may need to live in on-campus apartments and buy a meal plan. In-person students may also have to pay fees for facilities, technology, transportation, and health services, depending on the school. Online students may have an additional fee for distance learning or technology. Students should also consider textbooks, equipment, and course-specific expenses that will arise during the program.
Because the cost of a fire science degree can vary, it is important to explore financial aid options at each potential school. Some private schools cost more in tuition, but may also offer much larger financial aid packages to offset the price. You should submit a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) as early as possible. Check with the financial aid offices at your potential schools for program-specific funding opportunities.
Certifications and Licenses a Bachelor's in Fire Science Prepares For
- Certified Fire Inspector-I (CFP-I)
Offered through the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), the CFP-I seeks to standardize local, state, and national fire inspection standards and codes. Certification focuses on training fire inspectors to use and apply NFPA codes and standards with professionalism and confidence. Certified fire inspectors can improve their performance and advance their careers with a four-day training course and written exam.
- Certified Fire Investigator
The International Association for Arson Investigators offers a certification for fire investigation training and practice. Fire investigators must provide documentation and pass a comprehensive exam. Certification lasts five years.
- National Wildfire Suppression Agency (NWSA) Instructor
The National Wildfire Suppression Agency offers training, safety, physical fitness testing, and experience to wildland firefighters through its instructor program. Instructors learn about NWSA standards and practices for fighting, managing, and surviving wildfires. Professionals can then transfer that information to thousands of firefighters each year.
- Certified Fire Plan Examiner
The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) offers a certification in fire plan examination for fire service workers that inspect, develop, and approve building plans. A certified fire plan examiner holds knowledge about building codes, sprinkler systems, alarm systems, and life safety codes as developed by the NFPA. Candidates must undertake a three-day training and complete a comprehensive exam.
- Certified Fire Protection Specialist
Certified fire protection specialists must hold either a college degree in a fire-related field or a high school diploma with six years of relevant experience. Candidates learn how to curtail physical and financial loss. The credential requires a three-hour exam.
Resources for Fire Science Students
Students can learn about accredited programs and procedures through IFSAC. IFSAC provides lists of certified programs, standards, bylaws, policies, and procedures. The congress also makes announcements about the latest accreditation news. IFSAC holds an annual conference for institutional and organization members.
A subsidiary of FEMA, USFA offers training; professional development; educational opportunities; and information about safety guidelines, management, and concerns. USFA provides funding to firefighting groups and departments to help them better meet the safety needs of individuals and communities. Students can benefit from USFA's comprehensive resources.
Offered through USFA and its partners, the NFA hosts a series of courses to help emergency and fire service workers better respond to and manage fire events. The NFA offers free classes online, on-campus, and off-campus. The academy also offers stipends and reimbursements for public agencies, departments, and government entities.
NWSA seeks to raise awareness of wildfire-related events and issues by bringing together wildland firefighters, fire industry professionals, and other government agencies. NWSA also provides job listings, equipment purchasing opportunities, fire weather links, and training programs.
IAFF represents more than 310,000 full-time firefighters and emergency service workers around the world. IAFF focuses on issues related to staffing, health and safety, training, and employee protection through its programs and services, departments, affiliates, and foundation funds. Students can obtain career information from entry-level to retirement.
Professional Organizations in Fire Science
Fire science students and recent graduates can join professional organizations in order to network, find out about job opportunities, participate in conferences, and access resources. Professional organizations also help members stay up-to-date on educational, governmental, and organizational developments in safety, prevention, and best practices. Professional organizations represent firefighters, fire inspectors, investigators, forest fire specialists, and other fire-related careers. These organizations can offer information and support as you enter the field and advance your career.