Become a Fire Marshal: Education and Career Roadmap

Learn the steps in becoming a fire marshal. Research the various job duties and education requirements, and find out how to start a career in fire investigations. View article »

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  • 0:01 Fire Marshal Career Info
  • 1:04 Complete Coursework
  • 1:41 Become a Firefighter
  • 2:55 Build Firefighting Experience
  • 3:27 Acquire Additional Training
  • 4:02 Advance to Fire…

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Video Transcript

Fire Marshal Career Info

Fire marshals conduct arson investigations, supervise firefighter team members, check buildings for potential fire hazards, and teach fire safety classes. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics categorizes fire marshals as a type of fire investigator because, in many states, both jobs include authority similar to that possessed by law enforcement officers. Travel to sites is often required for this job, and safety precautions must be followed when checking buildings for fire hazards or while conducting arson investigations. Fire marshals must have physical endurance and strength and be willing to work both day and night shifts.

Degree Level High school diploma or GED; some employers prefer associates or bachelor's degrees
Degree Field Law enforcement, emergency medical services, engineering or fire sciences
Experience Prior experience as a firefighter or law enforcement officer
Key Skills Able to supervise and instruct team members; comfortable collaborating with emergency services professionals; familiarity with extinguishers, protective gear, fire trucks and fire investigation paperwork; knowledge of fire investigations procedures and building codes; able to read construction blueprints
Salary (2015) $56,730 per year (median salary)

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Complete Coursework

Common academic qualifications for fire marshals listed on state fire department websites include some postsecondary coursework related to the fire sciences. Required coursework included building fire codes, fire safety awareness, fire investigations, fire behavior, fire technology and criminal control investigations.

Aspiring fire marshals should also check state guidelines. Each state has different course requirements for fire marshals or deputy fire marshals. Students may want to check with state fire prevention or fire marshal departments to verify which courses are needed for a career in the field.

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Become a Firefighter

Most regions require fire marshals to have several years of experience in firefighting or fire investigations. One way to acquire this experience is to become a firefighter. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, individuals interested in working as a firefighter must complete fire science training programs at colleges and universities, although these programs may not always result in the awarding of a formal degree.

Fire science degree or certificate programs often cover topics related to emergency medical services, firefighting strategies, emergency management, building construction, and fire ground operations. After completing training, certificate, or degree programs, individuals are usually eligible to apply for firefighter positions with state and local agencies. Some fire departments prefer firefighter candidates with previous work experience as paramedics or emergency medical technicians.

Students who want to become fire marshals need extensive training in fire investigation procedures. While in school, students should take elective courses covering fire and building codes, hazardous material fires, arson investigations, and legal issues related to fire sciences.

Build Firefighting Experience

Some employers want fire marshals to have approximately five years of experience in the firefighting or emergency services industries. Firefighters can work in cities or rural regions. There are also job opportunities with fighting forest fires, as well as volunteer firefighting positions.

Once employed, firefighters may want to seek fire investigations training. Professional fire investigators or fire marshals may be willing to mentor firefighters, providing workers with direct experience in the field of fire science investigations.

Acquire Additional Training

Since fire marshals often carry guns and have the investigative authority of law enforcement agents, some employers require fire marshals to obtain the same training as police officers. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, police officers have to be in good physical shape, citizens of the United States, at least 21 years old, and complete a training academy. The format and curriculum of training academy programs differs in each state, but may cover topics like police tactics, criminal justice, self-defense, civil rights, firearms, and patrol tactics.

Advance to Fire Marshal Position

In most cases, fire marshals are employed by local or state government organizations. Some areas may have a tiered fire marshal employment program, which means that an individual starts as a fire marshal trainee and advances to a deputy fire marshal position before becoming a fire marshal. Professionals may work at fire departments, but some also work for other law enforcement or government agencies.

Once again, fire marshals often begin their careers as firefighters and, as such, may need to complete a degree program in fire science or law enforcement before securing a job and working their way up to a positon of fire marshal.

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