Job Description for Arson Investigators
Arson investigators work for state or local fire departments, insurance agencies or other private companies to analyze the scenes of fires to determine their causes. They collect and test evidence, reconstruct arson scenes and interview witnesses to prepare detailed reports. They may also arrest and question suspects. Arson investigators are often called on to describe their findings in court.
Arson investigators work in offices and conduct fieldwork as needed when inspecting the scene of a fire. Investigators work in shifts, which commonly last 24 hours. Because arson investigators must respond when a fire occurs, they frequently work evenings, weekends and holidays. Positions in this field are most often found in urban areas with a large number of buildings.
|Required Education||High school diploma or GED; employers may require an associate's or bachelor's degree|
|Job Skills||Attention to detail, communications skills, integrity, deductive reasoning|
|Median Salary*||$59,260 (2017, for all fire investigators and inspectors)|
|Career Outlook*||27% (2016-2026, for all fire investigators and inspectors)|
Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
Most arson investigators are required to have a high school diploma; however, some employers may require a 2- or 4-year degree in an area such as chemistry or fire science. Many arson investigators first work as firemen or police officers and then undergo special training to become fire investigators. Courses in these training programs include inspection techniques, fire codes and courtroom procedures. Arson investigators are typically required to complete on-the-job training under experienced inspectors.
Certification is required for arson investigators in some states. An exam may be required for the initial certification, while continuing education is often needed to maintain certification. In most areas, arson investigators who work for private companies must hold a private investigation license. Optional certifications are available through professional organizations such as the National Fire Protection Association and the International Association of Arson Investigators.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), arson investigators typically possess the following qualities:
- Integrity and attention to detail to ensure that their investigations are thorough and impartial
- Strong deductive reasoning skills in order to analyze information and form educated opinions
- Ability to communicate highly technical information to individuals such as law enforcement officers, insurance agents and jurors
Employment and Salary Outlook
The employment outlook for fire inspectors and investigators, including arson investigators, was far greater than the national average; according to data from the BLS, employment in this field should grow 27% from 2016-2026. The median annual salary for workers in this field was $59,260 in 2017.