Fire and arson investigator associate degree programs provide students with the skills necessary for careers with a wide range of tasks, from collecting evidence to interviewing witnesses to testifying in court. Many programs include internship components that provide students with practical, hands-on experience. Online courses and programs are available in some schools.
Associate Degree in Fire and Arson Investigation
By necessity of the job, arson investigators must understand the nature of fire, the engineering principles of structures affected by fire, the reasons why people set fires, and much more. Common coursework includes the following:
- Introductory fire and arson investigation
- Fire protection system fundamentals
- Hazardous materials
- Fire chemistry
- Introduction to criminal forensics
- Criminal psychology
Career Outlook and Salary Info
There were approximately 14,100 jobs for fire inspectors and investigators in 2014, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS, www.bls.gov). That number is expected to grow 6% from 2014 to 2024. In May 2015, the mean annual salary earned by fire inspectors and investigators was reported as $59,800 by the BLS.
Initial certification is not required to enter the field of arson investigation. The two most common certifying organizations for arson investigators are the International Association of Arson Investigators (IAAI) and the National Association of Fire Investigators (NAFI). To become an IAAI Certified Fire Investigator (IAAI-CFI), an individual must pass an examination after accumulating sufficient education and work experience; re-certification is required every five years. NAFI offers the basic Certified Fire and Explosion Investigator (CFEI) certification and the advanced Certified Fire Investigation Instructor (CFII) and Certified Vehicle Fire Investigator (CVFI) designation. As with IAAI, NAFI's basic certification test confirms proven experience in arson investigation and is not intended for entry-level investigators.
Receiving an associate's degree in fire science gives the student the proper education and knowledge needed to have a career as an arson investigator. Upon graduation, students may become certified by two organizations as long as they meet the requirements.