Students in fire protection engineering programs learn through classroom instruction as well as through computer-simulated exercises. Highlighting topics such as fire alarm codes and fire safety and protection systems, these programs might prepare students to pursue careers that also include safety engineering and loss control. Programs at the bachelor's degree level require a high school diploma (or equivalent) and acceptable ACT or SAT scores for admission. Some of these programs may be offered online.
Applicants to master's degree programs may be required to take selected undergraduate courses in the area of fire protection engineering to round out their backgrounds before being admitted. These programs may feature thesis requirements, though non-thesis tracks are often available. Master's degree program coursework incorporates a variety of hands-on learning opportunities through lab work that allows students to investigate principles of fire dynamics.
Bachelor's Degree in Fire Protection and Safety Engineering Technology
A bachelor's degree program in fire protection engineering technology is designed to prepare students to assess and reduce the loss potential of fire, safety and hazardous material incidents. Students examine current trends in fire sciences and receive practical instruction in equipment operation. The curriculum focuses on industrial loss prevention, safety program management, occupational safety, fire prevention, suppression and investigation. In addition to traditional classroom teaching, instruction is conducted through hands-on training and computer-simulated activities.
Typical fire safety engineering program coursework provides students with a solid foundation in the design, testing, analysis and implementation of fire protection systems. Students gain an advanced understanding of science, engineering, mathematics and computers in order to better solve technical problems. Below are examples of topics included in the program's core curriculum:
- Fire suppression and detection systems
- National fire alarm codes
- Fire behavior and combustion
- Hazardous materials
- Human factors in fire and safety
- Structure design for fire safety
Master's Degree in Fire Protection Engineering
A Master of Science in Fire Protection Engineering program provides the skills and knowledge needed to apply science and technological principles to protect property, people and businesses from destructive fires. Classes cover how fires start, how fires grow and how to design buildings with properly implemented fire protection solutions. Lessons also focus on how fire and smoke affect people, property and buildings.
Graduate-level coursework helps students develop effective communication skills in order to produce graduates that are prepared to work closely with state and local building officials, architects, local fire departments and other engineers to build and maintain fire-safe communities. The comprehensive curriculum includes the following topics:
- Fire modeling
- Detection, alarm and smoke control
- Building fire safety
- Fire protection systems
- Advanced fire suppression techniques
- Human response to fire
Popular Career Options
Individuals with a master's degree in fire protection are prepared for a wide array of career opportunities across several industries, including municipal and fire services, fire protection, industrial hygiene and exposure science. Below are just a few examples of the many job opportunities available to those with an advanced degree in fire protection engineering:
- Fire chief
- Fire prevention officer
- Fire suppression system designer
- Fire protection engineer and consultant
- Building inspector
- Loss control specialist
- Safety engineer
Individuals planning to practice fire protection engineering with a firm or as independent consultants are required to become licensed as Professional Engineers (PEs) since they are providing services directly to the public. The PE credential can be obtained by passing both the Fundamentals of Engineering exam and the Professional Engineering exam administered by the candidate's state registration board. Many states require licensed professional engineers to complete continuing education credits in order to maintain licensure. Individuals can learn more about state-specific requirements for the PE credential by checking with their state's registration board.
Employment Outlook and Salary Information
Graduates from a fire protection and safety engineering program can utilize their knowledge and skills in a variety of careers ranging from protection system design to consulting. Fire protection engineers are employed in a variety of industries, including insurance, forensic investigations, research and development, fire equipment manufacturing, consulting engineering firms and public fire service. According to a 2014 survey conducted by the Society of Fire Professional Engineers (SFPE), fire protection engineers in the U.S. earned a median annual income of $110,000. However, the survey also reported that individuals with 0-6 years of experience earned a median income of $73,360.
Programs in fire engineering train students to assess and limit the damage caused by fires and hazardous materials. Degrees at the bachelor's and master's level can be pursued, the latter giving access to occupations that can include safety engineer, fire chief and building inspector.