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 and 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, and most top online fire science degree programs allow students to earn certifications as part of their coursework. In addition, fire science programs often include internship or practicum course components These opportunities allow students to receive supervised onsite training from experienced professionals.
Read on to find out more about what students learn in a fire science program, and what kind of career opportunities you can pursue after earning your degree.
Choosing a Program
WILL AN ONLINE FIRE SCIENCE DEGREE PROGRAM PROVIDE ME WITH THE SKILLS I NEED TO ADVANCE MY CAREER?
An online bachelor's in fire science degree program covers fundamental concepts in fire prevention and emergency management. Classes address fire scouting and identification tactics, containment techniques, and post-suppression analysis. Many fire science programs address urban and forest fire behavior, allowing students to learn about both fields. Programs with internship components provide candidates with practical experience.
WILL AN ONLINE FIRE SCIENCE DEGREE PROGRAM WORK WITH MY SCHEDULE?
Online fire science bachelor's degrees offer a flexible alternative to traditional, brick-and-mortar classes. Students can access lectures and other course materials online, submit written assignments, take exams, and communicate with professors on their own schedule. They can 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 residence.
WHAT JOBS CAN I GET WITH MY BACHELOR'S IN FIRE SCIENCE?
Students who graduate with a degree in fire science are qualified to take on 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 emergency services positions.
WHAT ARE THE BEST ONLINE FIRE SCIENCE DEGREE PROGRAMS?
Choosing a program is an incredibly personal decision, and only you can determine whether a program matches your educational needs and career goals. 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 value the flexibility that web-based degrees provide, be sure to take a look at these top online college programs.
Accredited Online Fire Science Programs
|1||University of Florida Gainesville, FL||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 87%||
One of the nation's top public institutions of higher learning, the University of Florida offers a bachelor's in fire science online that is uniquely customizable. Working first responders with at least 60 prior college credits can apply to the 120-credit program, which features three tracks: fire, EMS, and emergency management. Because of these concentration options, students can tailor their degree to fit their career aspirations.
No matter which specialization they choose, distance learners must complete seven core courses in subjects such as communications, emergency services management, and leadership and ethics. Learners use six electives to create a program that fits their professional goals. Classes are delivered in an asynchronous format.
This program does not lead to certification in firefighting or EMS. Instead, it gives students the skills and knowledge they need to move into management positions. Applicants must have a 2.3 GPA in previous undergraduate courses. Potential students should also have certification or work experience in their area of interest. Tuition is competitive even for non-resident students.
|2||Colorado State University-Fort Collins Fort Collins, CO||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 67%||
Offered by the Department of Forest and Rangeland Stewardship, Colorado State's BS in fire and emergency services administration is designed for students who have completed 60 credit hours at the community college level or have previously earned an associate degree. A maximum of 64 credits from accredited community colleges or similar two-year institutions can be transferred towards this degree, however, certain military fire and emergency service training credits may be transferred from the American Council on Education.
Building upon technical training and emergency services knowledge, this bachelor's in fire science online degree equips students with the skills needed to succeed in administrative and leadership roles in fire protection, prevention, and emergency services, such as fire chiefs, public administrators, fire marshals, and educators. With opportunities for elective seminars and independent studies, most students finish the program in three or four years, but it can be completed within just two years. Experience in fire and emergency services is recommended prior to enrollment.
|3||University of North Carolina at Charlotte Charlotte, NC||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 57%||
Emphasizing both the technical and nontechnical elements of fire safety, UNC Charlotte's BS degree in fire safety engineering technology prepares students for careers in the fire service and fire-protection industries. Designed for those looking for leadership and management roles, this fire science online degree program covers a variety of topics, including industrial hazards and electricity risk management, engineering economics, major disasters, and organizational psychology.
UNC schools offer a 2 + 2 transfer option for students who have already earned an associate of applied science (AAS) in fire protection/fire science or a similar degree. Students must have completed all prerequisite courses or must do so within their first year at UNC Charlotte. Coursework is available entirely online and is delivered via Moodle and Saba Meeting.
|4||University of Cincinnati-Main Campus Cincinnati, OH||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 67%||
The BS in fire and safety engineering technology at the University of Cincinnati is a flexible and convenient online program with 14-week long classes. In conjunction with the National Fire Academy's Fire and Emergency Services Higher Education Program, the open learning fire service program is designed for current firefighters who are seeking advancement and promotional opportunities within the fire service industry.
This fire science bachelor degree online program offers optional accelerated residencies in which students complete three-credit courses in five days while networking with other fire professionals. A minimum of 40 credits hours must be earned at UC to receive a degree, however, certain certifications such as BLUE CARD, HAZMAT tech, fire inspector, BERT Technician, FF II, paramedic, EMT, state fire instructor and fire officer I, II, III, and IV satisfy some course requirements. The University of Cincinnati is accredited by the North Central Association of Colleges & Secondary Schools.
|5||University of Nebraska at Omaha Omaha, NE||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 45%||
The metropolitan campus of the Nebraska public university system, the University of Nebraska Omaha educates more than 15,000 students. The school's online fire science degree aligns with the high standards set by the National Fire Academy and the Fire and Emergency Services Higher Education Network.
The university offers the online fire science degree as part of its bachelor of multidisciplinary studies. Students must complete 120 total credits, including 40 in UNO's general education core. The fire science program consists of 30 credits in areas such as personnel management, budgeting finances and resources, risk assessment, and best practices in emergency fire response.
The program prepares firefighters and EMS professionals to enter supervisory roles. All coursework is available online, largely in an asynchronous format. Participants also select two secondary fields and electives. The university recommends that fire science students choose a concentration in emergency management, but there are dozens of options. Students may transfer in up to 66 credits.
|6||University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh Oshkosh, WI||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 53%||
Designed for current fire safety and emergency professionals, UW's online bachelor of applied science (BAS) in fire and emergency response management was developed by fire chiefs. Preparing graduates for careers as chiefs, officers, inspectors, firefighters, and paramedics, FERM coursework includes budgeting, emergency planning, administrative law, and leadership and management of emergency services.
Students can transfer up to 90 credits from eligible associate degrees, military credit, National Fire Academy, FEMA, and American Council on Education. Students who transfer more than 60 credits can complete the degree in two years. The majority of courses are delivered in accelerated, seven-week sessions via Desire 2 Learn. Certain campus resources such as the writing center, library, and academic advisers are also available to online students. UW's fire science degree online program was the first in the nation to receive accreditation from the International Fire Service Accreditation Congress.
|7||Fayetteville State University Fayetteville, NC||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 32%||
Located in Fayetteville, North Carolina, Fayetteville State's Department of Government and History offers an online BS in fire and emergency services administration. A partnership between the Fayetteville Fire Department, Fayetteville Technical Community College, and Cumberland County Schools, this fire science online degree program only admits degree-seeking students.
A core part of the program's mission is to bring women and minorities into the fire service. Most students enroll after completing an AAS in fire protection technology from one of the state's community colleges, however, students can also dual enroll in Fayetteville Technical Community College to satisfy the lower-level course requirements. Modeled after the National Fire Academy's Fire and Emergency Services Higher Education curriculum, the program is delivered entirely online for distance education students.
|8||Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University-Worldwide Daytona Beach, FL||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 25%||
Headquartered in Daytona Beach, Florida, ERAU offers an entirely online 120-hour BS in emergency services. ERAU's emergency services' curriculum has earned a Certificate of Recognition from Fire Emergency Services Higher Education, as it addresses multiple areas, including fire, investigation, aircraft rescue and firefighting, and wildland firefighting.
Students in this online fire science degree program study disciplines in both public and private sectors and can choose between two specializations: aviation emergency management, which focuses on aircraft accident investigation, airport emergency management, aviation safety, and leadership in emergency response organizations; or fire and emergency services, which focuses on emergency response administration, management, leadership, community risk reduction, and operational issues in emergency services. Graduating students also receive a National Fire Academy certificate.
|9||Siena Heights University Adrian, MI||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 47%||
Siena Heights University -- a Catholic, coeducational university founded in 1919 -- offers a BAS in public safety professions to students with qualifying associate of applied science degrees and backgrounds in allied health, technical training, and public safety. Students can transfer up to 90 credits from an AAS program, approved technical, trade, and hospital schools, college-equivalent military, apprenticeships, corporate, or professional training, or CLEP and DANTES exams.
Designed for individuals who are interested in public safety studies, fire science technology, corrections and law enforcement, hazardous materials, or homeland security, this BAS online fire science degree is entirely customizable based on students' individual educational and professional goals. Online students complete coursework as a cohort in eight-week periods via the online delivery system eCollege, however, the program is also available in a blended-online format in conjunction with the Ann Arbor and Port Huron campus locations.
|10||Eastern Oregon University La Grande, OR||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 31%||
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.
What Else Can I Expect from an Online Fire Science Degree Program?
Selecting a concentration allows students to personalize their fire science degree and gain a deeper understanding of a particular focus area. While schools tend to offer concentrations that align with faculty expertise and student demand, many fire science bachelor degrees include the following specialization options.
Concentrations Offered for an Online Bachelor's in Fire Science
- Fire Investigation
This concentration equips learners with the knowledge and skills needed to collect evidence, perform data analysis, and make critical forensic determinations based on findings. By exploring topics in fire safety and administration, candidates learn to draw connections between fire conditions and criminal law and investigations.
Careers This Concentration Prepares For: Fire Investigator; Fire Inspector
- Fire Science Administration
Students who select this emphasis prepare to take on public administration roles by studying risk reduction, prevention management, and fire research. Coursework addresses fire service practices, leadership strategies, and public administration techniques.
Careers This Concentration Prepares For: Fire Prevention Supervisor; Fire Services Director
- Fire Service Management
Exploring the intersection of fire safety and technology, this concentration emphasizes fire and rescue services' critical role in emergencies. Common lecture topics include inspections and codes, public fire protection, and prevention tactics. Students also learn to organize and manager fire prevention activities.
Careers This Concentration Prepares For: Emergency Management Director; Emergency Response Coordinator
Example Courses for an Online Bachelor's in Fire Science
While every school's fire science bachelor degree features a slightly different curriculum, most include certain foundational courses. These classes explore core concepts that are integral to any fire science degree. Regardless of which institution you choose to attend, you are likely to encounter one or more of the following courses.
- Fire Research: This class develops and strengthens fire-oriented research skills along with critical thinking and professional writing competencies. Candidates explore the processes involved in designing and performing original research, as well as data analysis techniques. Lectures address concepts such as structural fire safety, fire test standards, and personal safety for firefighters.
- Fundamentals of Emergency Management: Coursework addresses the many challenges related to emergency services and the complications created by taking an all-hazard approach to emergency management. Learners survey disaster phases and the evolution of U.S. disaster policy, gaining the problem-solving skills needed to successfully handle earthquakes, floods, fires, and terrorist activities.
- Psychology of Disaster: Offering a broad survey of emergency-oriented psychological trauma, this course examines disaster's short- and long-term effects on both responders and victims. Candidates learn to assist individuals affected by post-traumatic stress disorder and employ critical incident stress management techniques.
- Emergency Services and Fire Administration: This class introduces crucial emergency management leadership and administrative skills, including budget development, collective bargaining, and effective risk reduction strategies. Students also learn to influence public policy and collaborate with government entities on the local, state, and federal levels.
- Political and Legal Foundations: Fire service professionals face numerous political and legal matters on the job. This course addresses common legal practices related to fire service, including employment matters. Candidates examine the processes used to draft and enforce fire codes, as well as how their efficacy is measured.
Skills and Competencies Gained in an Online Bachelor's in Fire Science Program
Earning a fire science degree online introduces and builds upon important professional skills. Candidates strengthen their understanding by reviewing fundamental topics in fire science, explore advanced and specialized concepts, and learn to synthesize and apply their knowledge in real-life settings.
- Critical Thinking
- Students learn to collect evidence, analyze information, and make data-driven decisions based on their findings, using logic to explore potential benefits and risks.
- Problem Solving
- By assembling and leveraging the necessary tools, prospective fire science professionals learn to prevent and resolve complications in the field. Graduates are able to handle challenges in a variety of settings and situations.
- Strategic Planning
- This skill allows professionals to develop and execute efficient, effective long- and short-term plans. Strategic planners carefully consider the resources required to achieve their intended results.
- Strong communicators are able to deliver clear, focused messages, both orally and in writing. allows you This skill allows fire science professionals to express ideas in a way that others understand them, even in critical situations.
- Project Management
- Skilled project managers can clearly plan and articulate a project's trajectory from start to finish. They successfully budget for and obtain the necessary human and fiscal resources to fulfill their plans and carefully monitor and assess team progress.
How Long Does It Take to Get an Online Bachelor's in Fire Science?
On average, a fire science bachelor degree consists of around 120 credits, including general education, major-specific, and elective classes. While full-time students often finish their degree in four years, part-time candidates may spend an extra year or two on their studies. Some institutions provide college credit for professional experience, or allow students to transfer credits from other institutions, which may further shorten a program's duration.
Program length also depends on delivery format and structure. In cohort-based programs, a student group progresses through the curriculum together. While the cohort learning format offers more faculty support and collaborative opportunities than self-paced programs, cohort classes often take longer to complete. In contrast, asynchronous coursework may be completed at the student's convenience, and accelerated degrees permit candidates to finish their studies as quickly as they like. Internship or practicum requirements may also add significant time to a degree.
Accreditation for Online Bachelor's in Fire Science Degrees
Selecting an accredited fire science degree is crucial to obtaining a top-notch education. Accreditation demonstrates a school's commitment to offering high-quality, rigorous curricula and maintaining excellent academic and ethical standards. Colleges and universities may hold regional or national accreditation, depending on the agency that assess them.
Regional accrediting agencies include organizations like the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools and the Middle States Commission on Higher Education, and typically evaluate public, nonprofit universities. Most nationally accredited schools are private, for-profit vocational institutions. Regional accreditation is generally considered to be more prestigious, and credits earned from regionally accredited schools transfer easily between programs.
In addition to regional and national accreditation, some programs hold field-specific, programmatic accreditation. Agencies like the International Fire Service Accreditation Congress (IFSAC) evaluate emergency-oriented college curricula and fire science certification programs. Many employers prefer to hire candidates with degrees from IFSAC accredited programs.
While it does not accredit schools or programs itself, the U.S. Department of Education promotes robust educational standards and access to quality education for all learners. This government branch maintains a comprehensive list of accredited schools and programs on its website and collaborates with the Council for Higher Education (CHEA) to recognize high-quality institutions. through some 60 accrediting organizations. Comprised of representatives from over 3,000 colleges and universities, CHEA monitors accrediting agencies and advocates for high academic standards. CHEA's website is home to an international database of recognized accrediting bodies and accredited institutions and programs.
Employment Outlook for Bachelor's in Fire Science Graduates
Fire prevention, suppression, and investigation is considered a "recession-proof" industry due to the consistently high demand for qualified fire professionals.
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 (2016-26)||Change in Number of Jobs (2016-26)|
|Emergency Management Directors||8%||+800|
|Private Detectives and Investigators||11%||+4,400|
|EMTs and Paramedics||15%||+37,400|
|Hazardous Materials Removal Workers||17%||+7,900|
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
According to the BLS, the median annual salary for all protective service occupations in 2017 was $39,690. However, numerous factors influence earnings, including your specific job title, experience, and geographic 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||Median Annual Salary for Mid-Career||Median Annual Salary for Experienced||Median Annual Salary for Late-Career|
|Emergency Management Specialist||$48,000||$57,000||$62,000||>$73,000|
|Fire Protection Engineer||$62,000||$80,000||$85,000||$103,000|
|Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) and Paramedic||$29,000||$33,000||$36,000||$39,000|
Of the five careers listed on the table, fire protection engineers saw the highest rate of career salary growth, with an increase of roughly 66% between entry-level jobs and late-career. Fire inspectors enjoy the second highest career salary growth at 58%, followed by firefighters and emergency management specialists at around 52%.
CAREER AND FURTHER EDUCATION OPPORTUNITIES
Students who graduate from college with an online bachelor's degree in fire science qualify for dozens of positions. Below, we take a look at five common career paths for degree-holders in the field.
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. All firefighters require rigorous training, 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 92% 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 87% 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||$49,080||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||$56,670/td>||While requirements vary by state, most fire inspectors receive a combination of classroom-based and onsite practicum training.|
|Emergency Management Directors||$72,760||Some states expect these employees to complete specialized training and earn certain professional certifications, such as the Certified Emergency Manager credential.|
|EMTs and Paramedics||$33,380||All states require EMTs and paramedics to obtain licensure. In many states, certification from the National Registry of Emergency Medical Technicians (NREMT) satisfies these guidelines.|
|Hazardous Materials Removal Workers||$41,400/td>||Hazmat workers in most states must undergo at least 40 hours of OSHA training and enroll in classes on nuclear waste and radioactive materials.|
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. Membership benefits include discounted 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 board. The website also features links for employment and grant opportunities, as well as an online fire science publications database.
Financing Your Online Bachelor's in Fire Science Program
Despite online programs' relative affordability, most students still seek some form of financial assistance. All learners 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 the 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.
While financial aid for online learners is equivalent to that for campus-based learning, this hasn't always been the case. Learn about recent changes to financial aid policies, as well as the different funding opportunities available to online students.
Online programs 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 present a flexible, affordable choice for single parents who are interested in earning a degree and securing their family's financial future. This list contains scholarships, grants, and other financial aid options geared toward single moms and dads.
Millions of dollars in free educational funding 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.
- 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