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Fire Science Schools and Programs

Fire science is the study and practice of preventing and mitigating potentially dangerous fires caused by nature or man. Most jobs related to this subject can be found in the firefighting field, and many graduates seek work as firefighters, fire engineers, fire inspectors or fire department supervisors.

Fire science degree programs focus on explaining the general behavior of fire, as well as how fire science professionals use their skills and expertise to prevent fire from spreading, limit destruction and save lives. Those who earn fire science degrees online or on-campus will also gain an introduction to other important aspects of this field, including hydraulics, code enforcement, protection systems and hazardous materials.

How do you get a degree in fire science?

There are a variety of degree options within this field, beginning with fire science certificate programs, which can be earned online or on campus and typically completed in less than one year. Students who want to earn an undergraduate degree also have the option of earning an Associate of Applied Science in Fire Science, for instance, or even a fire science bachelor's degree. Those who seek advanced positions within the field can also pursue a master's degree in fire science, either on campus or online.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, firefighters and fire inspectors and investigators need to complete extensive on-the-job training in addition to any postsecondary education they pursue. In most cases, they are also required to attend a fire department-sponsored training academy, pass physical tests and hold an emergency medical technician certification. Some fire departments may require certification as an EMT-Paramedic, with certification from the National Registry of Emergency Medical Technicians. Fire investigators typically become certified, the BLS reports, through a nationally recognized professional organization such as the International Association of Arson Investigators, the National Association of Fire Investigators, or the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

The U.S. Fire Administration has a list on its website of schools that offer recognized on-campus and online fire science degree programs. These include:

  • College of Southern Nevada
  • Cogswell College
  • Western Oregon University
  • Louisiana State University-Eunice
  • Idaho State University
  • Kaplan University
  • Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University
  • New Mexico State University's Doña Ana Community College
  • Western Illinois University
  • Southern Illinois University

Are there financial aid options available to help pay for a fire science program?

Many students looking for financial aid get some sort of help through the federal government. To determine whether they're eligible, students can fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA form. Potential sources of federal aid include:

  • Pell Grants
  • Stafford Loan
  • PLUS Loans for Parents
  • Federal Work Study
  • Perkins Loans
  • Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grants

In addition to federal aid, students should seek out scholarship opportunities whenever available. For example, the National Fire Protection Agency hands out several scholarships each year, with awards available to students enrolled in accredited fire science or fire protection engineering programs. The International Association of Fire Chiefs Foundation, a non-profit organization designed to promote higher education in fire sciences, also offers several scholarships to students seeking fire science degrees either online or on campus.

Other financial aid and scholarship opportunities may be available through certain state programs or postsecondary institutions, and students should contact their prospective schools for more information.

What is the job outlook for fire science majors?

The BLS projects a 7 percent increase in employment nationally for firefighters through 2022, with most of the growth attributed to an aging population requiring more emergency medical services. Fire inspectors and investigators can expect a 6 percent increase in employment nationally from 2012 to 2022, notes the BLS, with strong competition expected for available jobs.

The national projections are below the average predicted nationwide for all occupations, which is 11 percent, but because hiring in this field depends heavily on local needs and budgets, and because destructive fires are much more prevalent in certain parts of the country, state job growth will exceed national in many cases. According to state-by-state data aggregated by Projections Central, the states with the best employment projections for firefighters through 2020 are:

  • Colorado: 24%
  • Utah: 21.8%
  • Texas: 21.2%
  • Tennessee: 18.3%
  • North Carolina: 18%
  • Arkansas: 17.1%
  • Oklahoma: 15.6%
  • South Dakota: 15.6%
  • Idaho: 13.9%
  • Maryland: 13.3%

Where can you find more information about these programs?

Certain professional organizations offer resources and support for existing professionals and prospective students, including the National Association of Fire Investigators and the International Association of Fire Safety Science. Students can also contact schools in their area for more details or check specific institutions' websites for more information.

Sources:

Firefighters, "Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014-15 Edition," Bureau of Labor Statistics, Jan. 8, 2014,
http://www.bls.gov/ooh/protective-service/firefighters.htm#tab-1

Fire Inspectors and Investigators, "Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014-15 Edition," Bureau of Labor Statistics, Jan. 8, 2014,
http://www.bls.gov/ooh/protective-service/fire-inspectors-and-investigators.htm#tab-1

IAFC Foundation Scholarships, International Association of Fire Chiefs Foundation,
http://www.iafcf.org/Scholarship.htm#scholarships

Scholarships, Awards, and Grants for Students, National Fire Protection Association,
https://www.nfpa.org/training/scholarships-awards-grants/for-students

FESHE-Recognized Fire Science Degree Programs, U.S. Fire Administration, Federal Emergency Management Agency,
http://www.usfa.fema.gov/nfa/higher_ed/resources/schools/

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