One only has to look at the devastating wildfires that ravaged California and other Western states in 2017 to understand the importance of fire science. The field is dedicated to unraveling why fires start and how to stop them. Fire science professionals are needed to respond to emergencies, put out house fires and even help crack criminal cases involving arson.
Firefighting can be a competitive field and having an education in fire science may help you stand out from other job candidates. Plus, fire inspection or investigation positions may require a degree. While bachelor's degrees in fire science are available, an associate degree is typically sufficient for many career paths. If you don't have time to spend in a classroom, some colleges have online fire science degree programs.
Keep reading to learn more about the top schools for fire science as well as where to get financial aid and what careers might be waiting for you after graduation.
Best Colleges for Fire Science Degree Programs 2018-19
You don't have to go to an expensive, big-name school to get a good education in fire science. In fact, many of the best colleges for fire science degree programs may be ones you've never heard of before. Using a methodology that considers program prominence, student success outcomes and support services, these ten institutions are the best of the best.
Located in Yucaipa, California, Crafton Hills College takes the number one spot among the top schools for fire science. Its combination of affordable education, a prominent program and various support services help boost it to the first place ranking.
CHC is a two-year school that is known for its premier Fire Academy. Programs are available for basic firefighter training, California fire officer training and fire inspection. Students can also earn either a certificate or an associate degree in fire technology. In addition to classroom instruction, students gain hands-on experience in skills such as rappelling.
Crafton Hills College ties for 11th out of all surveyed schools for its affordable tuition. It also has the second most prominent program and the fifth best graduation rate among the institutions on this list.
California schools dominate the list of best colleges for fire science degree programs, and the state's Butte College takes second place. With a campus in Oroville, the community college serves approximately 13,000 students. It has more than 180 academic programs, including 25 transfer degrees.
Fire science students have several education options at Butte College. The school offers both a certificate and an associate degree in fire technology. Those who plan to pursue a firefighting career can enroll in the college's Firefighter Academy.
In addition to the quality of its program, Butte College ranks high for its flexible scheduling options and career counseling services. It has the fourth best graduation rate among the schools on this list.
Students in Northern California may want to turn to Lake Tahoe Community College for their education. Based in South Lake Tahoe, the school draws 3,000 students each quarter. LTCC splits its fire sciences program into three parts:
- Fire Academy
- Fire Officer
- Fire Science
Each section offers both an associate degree and a certificate in its field. While the fire academy and fire officer options are intended for those planning to work in California, the fire science degree or certificate may be suitable for jobs elsewhere as well.
At 16-1, the student-faculty ratio at Lake Tahoe Community College is the lowest among all the schools on this list. The school also has the third best graduation rate among the best colleges for fire science degree programs.
Founded in 1929, Antelope Valley Community College has its campus in Lancaster, California. Offering an affordable education, the school attracts 18,000 students annually.
AVCC follows the Uniform Fire Technology Curriculum of the California Community College System. Students get hands-on experience including live fire training. The college has both a Firefighter 1 Academy and a Wildland Fire Academy and offers the following programs:
- Certificate in fire technology
- Certificate in wildland fire technology
- Associate degree in fire technology
- Associate degree in wildland fire technology
When it comes to costs, Antelope Valley Community College ranks first among all schools surveyed for its low tuition rate. It's also notable for its student support services which include academic advising and career placement assistance.
As one of three schools within the San Diego Community College District, San Diego Miramar College can trace its roots to 1969. The school offers 70 associate degrees and 90 certificate programs. Approximately 14,000 students are enrolled in its classes.
Within the field of fire science, San Diego Miramar College offers certificates and associate degrees in the following areas of emphasis:
- Fire prevention
- Fire protection company officer
- Fire technology
The college also houses the San Diego City Basic Firefighter I Academy, Heartland Fire Training Regional Firefighter Academy and CAL Fire/San Diego County Fire program.
San Diego Miramar College ties for 11th overall for its affordable tuition. It also has the best graduation rate among these top schools for fire science.
In San Marcos, California, Palomar College offers more than 200 degree and certificate programs. The two-year college enrolls more than 30,000 students, who are likely attracted by the school's affordable tuition rate among other things.
Palomar College offers a Fire Academy to train future firefighters. There are also certificates and degrees in fire technology. Students enrolled in fire technology can select either a general curriculum or specialize in emergency management.
The college has the fifth lowest tuition rate among the schools on this list. Palomar College is also notable for the prominence of its program and the availability of services such as career counseling.
Known as SAC, Santa Ana College has been educating students for more than 100 years. The community college offers a range of career training and associate degree programs. Nearly 30,000 students are enrolled in classes at its Santa Ana, California campus.
The Fire Academy at SAC is one of the largest and oldest fire technology programs in the state. It runs under the guidance of the Orange County Fire Chiefs' Association and meets county standards. The college also offers a fire officer program as well as other certificates and degrees that can be used to pursue a career in the field.
Santa Ana College ties for 11th overall when it comes to its low tuition rate. It also ranks sixth overall for the prominence of its fire science program.
Palm Beach State College holds the distinction of being the only institution outside California to make the list of best colleges for fire science degree programs. The school has five campuses in Florida and was founded as the state's first public community college in 1933.
Students at PBSC can choose from certificates for firefighter and fire officer supervisor as well as an associate degree in fire science technology. While the firefighter certificate is appropriate for someone new to the profession, the associate degree is designed for those already working in the field. Both programs are offered at the college's Lake Worth campus.
PBSC has the second best graduation rate among the top colleges for fire science. The school is also a good choice for those who need evening classes.
Back in Redding, California, Shasta College takes the number nine spot on this list. The school opened its first campus in 1950 and is part of the California Community College System. Shasta College offers the following options within its fire technology program:
- Firefighter 1 Certificate
- Firefighter 2 Certificate
- Wildland Firefighter 1 Certificate
- Associate Degree in Fire Technology
The associate degree can be earned by those new to the field as well as those with some firefighting experience. As part of their education, fire technology majors may fulfill a tour of duty with a local fire agency.
Shasta College made this list because of its low tuition, flexible scheduling options and program prominence. It is also notable for the emphasis it places on academic support for its students.
Rio Hondo College rounds out the top ten colleges for fire science. The school opened the doors to its Whittier, California campus in 1962. Since then, it has gained a reputation for strong career-technical programs, including its fire academy.
Within its Public Safety Division, RHC offers an associate degree in fire technology and an associate degree in wildland fire technology. Certificates are also available. Those looking for online degrees for fire science will find several courses offered via distance education. However, the degrees may also have hands-on training requirements that must be met.
In addition to the quality of its program, RHC is a good choice for fire science students thanks to its affordable tuition, flexible class schedules and academic support services.
Fire Science Degree Programs and Common Career Paths
Students enrolling in fire science degree programs typically have very specific career goals. They want to work as a firefighter, investigator or supervisor. While a certificate can be sufficient for entry-level jobs, an associate degree may provide people with more career options.
Career Outlook for Fire Science Majors
It seems unlikely that the risk of fires can ever be completely eliminated. As a result, fire professionals should continue to be in demand. Below are career growth projections from the Bureau of Labor Statistics for the major occupations in the field.
PROJECTED JOB GROWTH(%)
|Forest Fire Inspectors and Prevention Specialists||$53,350||2,160||24.1%|
|Security and Fire Alarm Systems Installers||$50,210||71,600||11.2%|
|Fire Inspectors and Investigators||$64,730||13,710||5.5%|
|Public Safety Telecommunicators||$44,310||95,320||5.5%|
|Firefighting and Prevention Workers||$55,040||340,490||5.4%|
|First-Line Supervisors of Firefighting and Prevention Workers||$82,010||69,590||5.3%|
Financial Aid and Scholarships in Fire Science
Financial aid for both on-campus and online degrees for fire science typically come from three sources: educational institutions, the government and private organizations. Colleges and universities may have aid available to fire science students enrolled at their school. Plus, most institutions participate in government loan and grant programs. What's more, groups like the International Association of Fire Chefs Foundation and the Railway Tie Association have scholarship programs.
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