Best Online Fire Science Programs

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Fire science is the study of fire and the tools used to contain it. This discipline also covers laws, building codes, and other measures designed to mitigate fire-related threats and damages. Most fire science professionals specialize in urban/structural fires, although many also study forest fire prevention and suppression. The educational requirements for fire science professionals vary, and many positions do not require a college degree. However, many aspiring fire science professionals choose to enhance their career prospects and increase their marketability by pursuing a bachelor's degree in fire science.

The coursework in most fire science programs includes material from chemistry, environmental science, and natural resource studies, along with criminal justice (for arson and other fire-related crimes). Fire science majors also study local, state, and federal regulations for firefighting, resource protection, and handling and disposing hazardous materials. Many agencies and organizations that employ fire science degree-holders require their employees to earn additional credentials, such as EMT certification; top online fire science degree programs allow students to earn certifications as part of their coursework. Fire science programs often include internship or practicum course components, as well. These opportunities allow students to receive supervised onsite training from experienced professionals.

Read on to learn more about what you will study in a fire science program, and what kind of career opportunities you can pursue once you have your degree.


An online bachelor's in fire science degree program covers the fundamentals of fire prevention and emergency management. Your classes will discuss tactics for fire scouting and identification, containment techniques, and post-suppression analysis. Many fire science programs cover urban and forest fire behavior, allowing students to learn about both fields. Programs with internship components also provide you with practical experience.


Online fire science bachelor's degree programs offer a flexible alternative to traditional, brick-and-mortar classes. Students will be able to access lectures and other course materials, submit written assignments, take exams, and communicate with professors on their own schedule. Current technology also enables them to study away from their home computer using a laptop, tablet, smartphone, and other Wi-Fi-compatible devices. For additional convenience, students can usually coordinate internships or practicum courses at a location near their current residence.


Students who graduate with a degree in fire science leave school qualified for most entry-level jobs in the industry, along with some supervisory roles that are normally reserved for candidates with a formal education. Common career pathways include firefighting, fire inspection, and emergency management. Those with an EMT certification and a background in first aid may also be considered for positions in emergency services.


Choosing a program is an incredibly personal decision, and only you can properly evaluate whether a target school's strengths match your educational needs. The following ranked list of schools should serve as a helpful starting point in your search for the best online bachelor's in fire science programs in the United States. If you are considering going back to school for a bachelor's degree in fire science, and you value the flexibility of the online format, be sure to take a look at these top online college programs.

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Rank School Name Ranking Score Location Description
1 University of Florida RANKING SCORE 87.50 COST Graduation Rate 87%% LOCATION Gainesville, FL

One of the nation's top public institutions of higher learning, the University of Florida offers a bachelor's in fire science online that is uniquely customizable. Working first responders with at least 60 prior college credits can apply to the 120-credit program, which features three tracks: fire, EMS, and emergency management. Because of these concentration options, students can tailor their degree to fit their career aspirations.

No matter which specialization they choose, distance learners must complete seven core courses in subjects such as communications, emergency services management, and leadership and ethics. Learners use six electives to create a program that fits their professional goals. Classes are delivered in an asynchronous format.

This program does not lead to certification in firefighting or EMS. Instead, it gives students the skills and knowledge they need to move into management positions. Applicants must have a 2.3 GPA in previous undergraduate courses. Potential students should also have certification or work experience in their area of interest. Tuition is competitive even for non-resident students.

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2 Colorado State University-Fort Collins RANKING SCORE 61.15 COST Graduation Rate 67%% LOCATION Fort Collins, CO

Offered by the Department of Forest and Rangeland Stewardship, Colorado State's BS in fire and emergency services administration is designed for students who have completed 60 credit hours at the community college level or have previously earned an associate degree. A maximum of 64 credits from accredited community colleges or similar two-year institutions can be transferred towards this degree, however, certain military fire and emergency service training credits may be transferred from the American Council on Education.

Building upon technical training and emergency services knowledge, this bachelor's in fire science online degree equips students with the skills needed to succeed in administrative and leadership roles in fire protection, prevention, and emergency services, such as fire chiefs, public administrators, fire marshals, and educators. With opportunities for elective seminars and independent studies, most students finish the program in three or four years, but it can be completed within just two years. Experience in fire and emergency services is recommended prior to enrollment.

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3 University of North Carolina at Charlotte RANKING SCORE 60.77 COST Graduation Rate 57%% LOCATION Charlotte, NC

Emphasizing both the technical and nontechnical elements of fire safety, UNC Charlotte's BS degree in fire safety engineering technology prepares students for careers in the fire service and fire-protection industries. Designed for those looking for leadership and management roles, this fire science online degree program covers a variety of topics, including industrial hazards and electricity risk management, engineering economics, major disasters, and organizational psychology.

UNC schools offer a 2 + 2 transfer option for students who have already earned an associate of applied science (AAS) in fire protection/fire science or a similar degree. Students must have completed all prerequisite courses or must do so within their first year at UNC Charlotte. Coursework is available entirely online and is delivered via Moodle and Saba Meeting.

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4 University of Cincinnati-Main Campus RANKING SCORE 60.00 COST Graduation Rate 67%% LOCATION Cincinnati, OH

The BS in fire and safety engineering technology at the University of Cincinnati is a flexible and convenient online program with 14-week long classes. In conjunction with the National Fire Academy's Fire and Emergency Services Higher Education Program, the open learning fire service program is designed for current firefighters who are seeking advancement and promotional opportunities within the fire service industry.

This fire science bachelor degree online program offers optional accelerated residencies in which students complete three-credit courses in five days while networking with other fire professionals. A minimum of 40 credits hours must be earned at UC to receive a degree, however, certain certifications such as BLUE CARD, HAZMAT tech, fire inspector, BERT Technician, FF II, paramedic, EMT, state fire instructor and fire officer I, II, III, and IV satisfy some course requirements. The University of Cincinnati is accredited by the North Central Association of Colleges & Secondary Schools.

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5 University of Nebraska at Omaha RANKING SCORE 58.27 COST Graduation Rate 45%% LOCATION Omaha, NE

The metropolitan campus of the Nebraska public university system, the University of Nebraska Omaha educates more than 15,000 students. The school's online fire science degree aligns with the high standards set by the National Fire Academy and the Fire and Emergency Services Higher Education Network.

The university offers the online fire science degree as part of its bachelor of multidisciplinary studies. Students must complete 120 total credits, including 40 in UNO's general education core. The fire science program consists of 30 credits in areas such as personnel management, budgeting finances and resources, risk assessment, and best practices in emergency fire response.

The program prepares firefighters and EMS professionals to enter supervisory roles. All coursework is available online, largely in an asynchronous format. Participants also select two secondary fields and electives. The university recommends that fire science students choose a concentration in emergency management, but there are dozens of options. Students may transfer in up to 66 credits.

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6 University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh RANKING SCORE 56.15 COST Graduation Rate 53%% LOCATION Oshkosh, WI

Designed for current fire safety and emergency professionals, UW's online bachelor of applied science (BAS) in fire and emergency response management was developed by fire chiefs. Preparing graduates for careers as chiefs, officers, inspectors, firefighters, and paramedics, FERM coursework includes budgeting, emergency planning, administrative law, and leadership and management of emergency services.

Students can transfer up to 90 credits from eligible associate degrees, military credit, National Fire Academy, FEMA, and American Council on Education. Students who transfer more than 60 credits can complete the degree in two years. The majority of courses are delivered in accelerated, seven-week sessions via Desire 2 Learn. Certain campus resources such as the writing center, library, and academic advisers are also available to online students. UW's fire science degree online program was the first in the nation to receive accreditation from the International Fire Service Accreditation Congress.

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7 Fayetteville State University RANKING SCORE 54.62 COST Graduation Rate 32%% LOCATION Fayetteville, NC

Located in Fayetteville, North Carolina, Fayetteville State's Department of Government and History offers an online BS in fire and emergency services administration. A partnership between the Fayetteville Fire Department, Fayetteville Technical Community College, and Cumberland County Schools, this fire science online degree program only admits degree-seeking students.

A core part of the program's mission is to bring women and minorities into the fire service. Most students enroll after completing an AAS in fire protection technology from one of the state's community colleges, however, students can also dual enroll in Fayetteville Technical Community College to satisfy the lower-level course requirements. Modeled after the National Fire Academy's Fire and Emergency Services Higher Education curriculum, the program is delivered entirely online for distance education students.

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8 Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University-Worldwide RANKING SCORE 53.08 COST Graduation Rate 25%% LOCATION Daytona Beach, FL

Headquartered in Daytona Beach, Florida, ERAU offers an entirely online 120-hour BS in emergency services. ERAU's emergency services' curriculum has earned a Certificate of Recognition from Fire Emergency Services Higher Education, as it addresses multiple areas, including fire, investigation, aircraft rescue and firefighting, and wildland firefighting.

Students in this online fire science degree program study disciplines in both public and private sectors and can choose between two specializations: aviation emergency management, which focuses on aircraft accident investigation, airport emergency management, aviation safety, and leadership in emergency response organizations; or fire and emergency services, which focuses on emergency response administration, management, leadership, community risk reduction, and operational issues in emergency services. Graduating students also receive a National Fire Academy certificate.

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9 Siena Heights University RANKING SCORE 50.00 COST Graduation Rate 47%% LOCATION Adrian, MI

Siena Heights University -- a Catholic, coeducational university founded in 1919 -- offers a BAS in public safety professions to students with qualifying associate of applied science degrees and backgrounds in allied health, technical training, and public safety. Students can transfer up to 90 credits from an AAS program, approved technical, trade, and hospital schools, college-equivalent military, apprenticeships, corporate, or professional training, or CLEP and DANTES exams.

Designed for individuals who are interested in public safety studies, fire science technology, corrections and law enforcement, hazardous materials, or homeland security, this BAS online fire science degree is entirely customizable based on students' individual educational and professional goals. Online students complete coursework as a cohort in eight-week periods via the online delivery system eCollege, however, the program is also available in a blended-online format in conjunction with the Ann Arbor and Port Huron campus locations.

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10 Eastern Oregon University RANKING SCORE 49.04 COST Graduation Rate 31%% LOCATION La Grande, OR

Eastern Oregon's BS in fire service administration is designed for fire service professionals who are interested in pursuing careers as supervisors, operations managers, executive directors, and dispatchers. Students pursue coursework covering fire protection hydraulics and water supply, strategy and tactics, and fire investigation and analysis. Higher-level courses include studies on political and legal foundations of fire protection.

EOU's fire science degree online program was developed around the National Fire Academy's Fire and Emergency Services Higher Education curriculum. Terms consist of 10 weeks of classes plus one finals week. The curriculum is delivered entirely online via Canvas an online e-tutoring is available for help in a variety of areas. Students who wish to transfer previously earned college credit must demonstrate a 2.25 GPA from all previously attended accredited colleges or universities.

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2 to 4 years
Program Costs
$15,000 to $30,000 in full tuition
Related Areas of Study
Emergency Management, Logistics, Criminal Justice, Forensic Science/Psychology, Occupational Health and Safety, Organizational Psychology, Environmental Science, Chemistry
Fire and Emergency Services Higher Education (FESHE) Board

Job Placement

Fire prevention, suppression, and investigation is considered a 'recession-proof' industry due to the consistently high demand for qualified fire professionals. According to a 2014 survey by Georgetown University's Center on Education and the Workforce (CEW), "criminal justice and fire protection" degree-holders with work experience faced a 4.0% unemployment rate -- a full percentage point lower than the national unemployment rate for all occupations.

Furthermore, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects steady employment growth in the field. The following table looks at industry projections for some of the most common careers in fire science.

Occupation Projected Industry Growth (2014-24) Change in Number of Jobs (2014-24)
Firefighters 5% +17,400 jobs
Emergency Management Directors 6% +700 jobs
Private Detectives and Investigators 5% +1,800 jobs
EMTs and Paramedics 24% +58,500 jobs
Hazardous Materials Removal Workers 7% +3,300 jobs

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS)

Despite the inherent danger of fire containment and suppression, firefighting is actually considered one of the nation's safest jobs. According to CAL Watchdog, 2.5 out of every 100,000 firefighters are killed in the line of duty. By comparison, the national average for all professions is 3.5 deaths out of 100,000 employees.

Earning a Living

The 2014 CEW survey found that the median annual salary for experienced employees with a 'criminal justice and fire protection' degree is $63,000, while the median salary for inexperienced degree-holders is $34,000. However, your earnings will depend on a few factors, including your specific job title, experience, and location. The following table explores salary expectations for different positions in fire science at four key career benchmarks.

Occupation Median Annual Salary for Entry-Level Employees (0-5 Years) Median Annual Salary for Mid-Career Employees (10+ Years) Median Annual Salary for Experienced Employees (10-20 Years) Median Annual Salary for Late-Career Employees (20+ Years)
Firefighter $39,390 $44,941 $52,795 $64,681
Fire Inspector $38,000 $45,000 $52,000 $60,000
Emergency Management Specialist $50,000 $59,000 $65,000 $70,000
Fire Protection Engineer $62,893 $76,971 $87,680 $105,736
Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) and Paramedic $33,544 $40,792 $46,284 $46,165

Source: PayScale

Of the five careers listed on the table, fire protection engineers saw the highest rate of career salary growth, with an increase of roughly 68.1% between entry-level jobs and late-career. Firefighters enjoy the second highest career salary growth at 64.2%, followed by fire inspectors at 57.9% and emergency management specialists at 40.0%.

Career and Further Education Opportunities

Students who graduate from college with an online bachelor's degree in fire science will be qualified for dozens of positions. Below, we've covered five of the most common career paths for degree-holders in the field.

Firefighters: Firefighters respond to fire-related emergencies that threaten human lives, property, or natural resources. Rigorous training is required for all firefighters, and job candidates should expect to face stiff competition. Of the roughly 327,300 urban and forest firefighters in the United States, the BLS estimates that approximately 91% are employed by local, state, and federal government agencies.

Fire Inspectors: Fire inspectors investigate urban and forest fires to determine the cause, origin, amount of damage, and any measures needed to mitigate further destruction. They also inspect buildings, civic structures, and other areas to ensure they follow fire code requirements. The BLS notes that roughly 88% of fire inspectors work for local, state, or federal government agencies.

Emergency Management Directors: Emergency management directors oversee teams that develop contingency plans for fires and natural disasters, as well as response and relief efforts when emergencies occur. They often collaborate with elected officials, government agencies, nonprofit organizations, and other entities to ensure that emergency operations run smoothly and efficiently. Roughly 64% of the nation's emergency management directors work for local or state government agencies.

EMTs and Paramedics: EMTs and paramedics respond to emergency situations where human lives are at risk. They are trained to administer CPR, first aid, and other life-saving techniques to the sick and injured. They also provide transportation for medical patients requiring further medical attention, and keep records of everyone that they assist.

Hazardous Materials Removal Workers: Hazmat workers identify, handle, and dispose of lead, asbestos, chemical waste, and other toxic materials that pose a threat to human health and safety. They also assess the threat these materials pose to human life, property, the environment, water supplies, and other important resources.

Occupation Median Annual Salary Required Training/Certification
Firefighters $46,870 Most paid firefighters must complete a set amount of training (usually a few months) offered by their local fire department or local, state, or federal agencies.
Fire Inspectors $54,790 Requirements vary by state, but most fire inspectors must receive a combination of classroom-based and onsite practicum training.
Emergency Management Directors $67,330 Some states require these employees to receive specialized training and earn certain credentials, such as the Certified Emergency Manager credential.
EMTs and Paramedics $31,980 All states require EMTs and paramedics to receive licensure. In many states, certification from the National Registry of Emergency Medical Technicians (NREMT) will satisfy these requirements.
Hazardous Materials Removal Workers $39,690 Most states require hazmat workers to receive at least 40 hours of OSHA training, along with classes on nuclear waste and radioactive materials.

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

Professional Organizations

Making connections and learning more about fire science is crucial to your professional success. Professional organizations offer a great entry point for students who want to learn more about their chosen career path. Below you'll find three of the country's most prominent organizations established for fire science professionals. These organizations host networking events, provide online trainings, maintain active job boards, and offer other services for career-ready college graduates.

  • International Association of Fire Fighters: The IAFF represents more than 300,000 firefighters and paramedics in the U.S. and Canada. The association's website includes job listings, video tutorials, and an extensive resource library.
  • International Association of Women in Fire & Emergency Service: Founded in 1982, i-Women today represents more than 110,000 female firefighters and fire personnel in the United States. Member benefits include discounts on conference fees, trustee and mentorship opportunities, and a complimentary subscription to the association's online magazine.
  • U.S. Fire Administration: This government agency is home to the National Fire Academy, as well as the Fire and Emergency Services Higher Education (FESHE) board. The website also features links for employment and grant opportunities, as well as an online fire science publications database.

Despite the relative affordability of online programs, most students still need financial assistance. Students should complete a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) form to learn more about loans, grants, and other opportunities offered through the U.S. government. Additionally, private grants and scholarships are widely available through nonprofit organizations, companies, and other sources. Check out our collection of resources below to learn more about financial aid options.


Approximately two-thirds of today's college students rely on loans to fund their education, but there are plenty of overlooked financing options you can use to reduce your overall student debt.


Completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is a crucial first step for any student with financial needs. Our FAFSA guide features a step-by-step rundown on the process and answers to several frequently asked questions.


Financial aid for online learning is equivalent to what you'll find for campus-based learning, but that hasn't always been the case. Learn about the changes that have taken place, as well as the different funding opportunities available to online students.


Online programs can provide an affordable and flexible option for women trying to balance the demands of work, family, and earning their degree. We've curated a list of valuable scholarships specifically for women.


Online college programs can be a flexible, affordable option for single parents who are interested in earning a degree and securing their family's financial future. We've compiled a list of scholarships, grants, and other financial aid options geared toward single moms and dads.


Millions of dollars in free money is available to U.S. military personnel, but much of it goes unused. Learn more about grants, scholarships, and other financial aid opportunities available to veterans, active-duty service members, and reservists.

Rankings Archive

Best Online Fire Science Programs of 2017
Rank School Location
1 Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University-Worldwide Daytona Beach, FL
2 University of North Carolina at Charlotte Charlotte, NC
3 Colorado State University-Fort Collins Fort Collins, CO
4 University of Cincinnati-Main Campus Cincinnati, OH
5 University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh Oshkosh, WI
6 Siena Heights University Adrian, MI
7 Fayetteville State University Fayetteville, NC
8 Eastern Oregon University La Grande, OR
9 Salem State University Salem, MA
10 Anna Maria College Paxton, MA
Best Online Fire Science Programs of 2016
Rank School Location
1 University of Florida Gainesville, FL
2 Colorado State University - Fort Collins Fort Collins, CO
3 University of North Carolina at Charlotte Charlotte, NC
4 Eastern Kentucky University Richmond, KY
5 University of Wisconsin - Oshkosh Oshkosh, WI
6 University of Cincinnati Cincinnati, OH
7 Fayetteville State University Fayetteville, NC
8 Salem State University Salem, MA
9 Anna Maria College Paxton, MA
10 Eastern Oregon University OR