The majority of fire fighters gain their education and training through two-year associate's degree programs and on-the-job instruction. However, some universities and community colleges offer four-year bachelor's degree programs in fire science for individuals interested in assuming positions of management and leadership in the fire service industry.
Requirements for fire science majors vary from school to school, but the majority require incoming students to hold at least a high school diploma or GED. Some request that students have professional experience working within a fire service organization or similar public safety agency.
Bachelor's Degree in Fire Science
Students enrolled in a fire science bachelor's degree program gain operational and leadership skills necessary to manage a crew of fire fighters. They learn to design and implement organizational policies, oversee human resources and training, manage a group of employees and lead organizations through dangerous situations. In addition, they acquire an in-depth understanding of local and state fire codes, legal aspects of fire protection, safety measures and hazardous materials management procedures. Some examples of course topics include:
- Fire protection and department safety
- Advanced fire administration and leadership skills
- Fire prevention organization and management
- Fire analysis, investigation and principles of fire behavior
- Legal aspects of fire protection and hazardous material management
- Fire science hydraulics
Employment Outlook and Salary Info
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), firefighters can expect to see 5% job growth for the years 2014 through 2024. Firefighters earned a median annual wage of $46,870 in 2015, according to the BLS. In the same year, supervisors of firefighting and prevention workers earned $72,230 as a median annual wage.
Continuing Education Information
Master's degree programs in fire science are uncommon, but there are a few available. The bachelor's degree is the more typical terminal degree for the field. In addition to school programs, fire fighters may participate in continuing education through advanced training sessions sponsored by their departments or by professional organizations like the U.S. National Fire Academy.
Students pursuing a fire science program at the bachelor's level learn about fire safety, fire protection and leadership skills. With this knowledge and skill set, program graduates can become firefighters and firefighting supervisors.