Fire safety professionals, such as fire inspectors, examine structures to confirm compliance with governmental fire codes and can be trained through certificate programs. Associate's and bachelor's degree programs in the field also cover fire safety and prevention, along with other related subjects. Many programs include hands-on learning through internships with government agencies or other fire safety companies. Graduates can apply for professional certification at various levels. Certification usually requires completing training programs or earning degrees, acquiring a designated amount of experience, and passing competency examinations. Many state mandates include certification.
Aspiring fire safety professionals can start their careers by enrolling in a basic fire inspector certificate program. Students learn how to inspect structures and implement safety measures. They also gain proficiencies in fire and safety laws and regulations.
Common degree programs offered at the associate's degree level include an Associate of Applied Science (AAS) in Fire Science Technology, an AAS in Fire Protection Technology and an AAS in Fire Protection and Safety Technology. These programs also help students get ready for careers in arson investigations, fire safety and protection, fire safety reviews and fire systems. Firefighter studies may be included in the curriculum.
Several types of bachelor's degrees are available that focus on fire and safety, including the Bachelor of Science (B.S). in Fire Protection and Safety Engineering Technology and the B.S. in Fire Science. These programs are frequently offered in a hybrid or online mode to accommodate working firefighters and other emergency professionals. Students learn to become leaders in the fire safety field and are exposed to courses that allow them to perform at their best in their future careers. Exploration of the process of planning and executing innovative operational procedures and the study of unsuccessful defenses is also examined.
A high school diploma or equivalent is required for certificate and associate's degrees. An associate's degree in a related field is often required for acceptance into a bachelor's degree program.
Fire Inspector Certificate
Fire inspector certificate programs primarily focus on fire protection and methods used to help prevent future fires. Students also explore areas of investigation, arson and the origin of combustion sources. Certificate curricula might include some of the following:
- Essentials of fire safeguards
- Fire defense techniques
- Fire deterrence instruction and assessment
- Proficient verbal communication
- Structural examinations
- Hazardous substances
Associate of Applied Science
Coursework in these programs typically consists of studies in building codes, dangerous substances and fire safeguards. Program topics might include:
- Computer systems
- Creation of structures
- Crisis and disaster response
- Fire hydraulics
- Fire system plans and approaches
Bachelor of Science
Bachelor's degree program studies also include ignition and burning, underlying fire forces and disaster response. Other topics that might be explored include:
- Defense systems
- Fire deterrence and safeguards
- Fire performance
- Protection evaluation
- Risk management
Popular Career Options for Graduates of Certificate Programs
Graduates of a fire certificate program have the skills and abilities to enter related positions. Some of those job titles might include:
- Fire chief
- Fire marshal
- Fire prevention inspector
- Fire protection specialist
Popular Career Options for Graduates of Bachelor's Degree Programs
Those who possess a bachelor's degree in fire safety and protection are qualified to choose from a variety of professions. Potential career opportunities might include:
- Fire lieutenant
- Arson investigator
- Fire prevention and code inspector
- Fire protection technician
- Fire chief
Employment Outlook and Career Info
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), fire inspectors and investigators held 12,290 positions in 2015 (www.bls.gov). The BLS projects 5% growth for this field between 2014 and 2024. In May 2015, median annual wages for these professionals was $56,730.
Professional Certification Information for Associate's Degrees
To demonstrate their knowledge of the field, fire and safety professionals may apply to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) to obtain certification as a Certified Fire Protection Specialist, or CFPS (www.nfpa.org). Eligibility includes a combination of education and years of work experience. For example, applicants with an associate's degree in technology, engineering or a related field and four years of proven work experience can become certified after passing an exam. The NFPA also offers certification programs for designations of Fire Inspector I, Fire Inspector II and Fire Plan Examiner. All certifications must be renewed every three years.
Professional Certification Information for Bachelor's Degrees
With a bachelor's degree, graduates can apply for certification with NFPA, which grants the Certified Fire Protection Specialist designation. Candidates must have a degree in technology, engineering or a similar field and two years of demonstrated work experience (www.nfpa.org). Additionally, prospects must submit their resume and college transcripts to the NFPA, along with passing the organization's certification test.
Fire and safety certificate, associate's and bachelor's degree programs sometimes include direct experience opportunities, like internships. Graduates may find work as fire chiefs, inspectors and investigators.