Fire Protection Engineer Overview
|Degree Level||Bachelor's degree|
|Degree Fields||Fire protection engineering or related engineering field|
|Licensure||Professional engineering (PE) licensure required in some states|
|Experience||4+ years fire protection or related experience|
|Key Skills||Analytical and problem solving, communication, and multi-tasking skills; familiarity with MS Office, AutoCAD, Revit, and MicroStation; knowledge of fire suppression and safety systems; ability to read and create construction documents and specifications|
|Salary||$87,810 (2015 average for all health and safety engineers)|
Sources: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
Fire protection engineers design and implement solutions to reduce the risk of fire to buildings and other properties. They work in numerous industries, including manufacturing, consulting, research, insurance, and government. Travel to worksites is often required, and many hours spent sitting at a desk are common. Fire protection engineers need analytical, problem-solving and multi-tasking abilities, communication skills and familiarity with MS Office, AutoCAD, Revit and MicroStation. They also must have knowledge of fire suppression and safety systems, and the ability to read and create construction documents and specifications. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, health and safety engineers, including fire safety engineers, earned a mean annual salary of $87,810 as of May 2015. Let's review the steps to become a fire protection engineer.
Obtain a Bachelor's Degree
Working as a fire protection engineer requires the completion of an engineering degree program approved by the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET). Fire protection engineering degree programs cover structural topics, protection and safety assessment methods, fire dynamics and modeling, problem solving, and design. Some employers accept engineers with degrees in other ABET-accredited disciplines of engineering, such as civil or mechanical engineering.
Take the Fundamentals of Engineering (FE) Exam
This exam, also known as the Engineer-In-Training (EIT) exam, is usually taken prior to or immediately following graduation from an undergraduate engineering degree program. The National Council of Examiners for Engineering and Surveying (NCEES) administers the test. Although it's not a requirement, many prospective engineers take the exam to open up more job opportunities.
The FE exam consists of 180 multiple-choice questions and takes approximately eight hours to complete. Passage of the test confers the title of Engineer-In-Training or Engineering Intern, depending on the state.
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Gain Work Experience
Gaining work experience is a valuable part of becoming a licensed engineer. To become eligible for professional licensure, individuals must have a minimum of four years of work experience, preferably under the supervision of a Professional Engineer.
During this time, fire protection engineers should become familiar with local codes and National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) standards.
Licensure is not always a requirement to find work as a fire protection engineer, but those who are licensed can work independently, rather than under the supervision of a professional engineer. Individuals working within governmental agencies are required to be licensed.
To be eligible for licensure, prospective engineers must pass the Professional Engineering (PE) licensure exam, an 8-hour test that consists of 80 multiple-choice questions on fire protection methodologies, analysis, and designs. Engineers can then apply for licensure from the state in which they intend to work.
Follow Continuing Education Guidelines
State requirements vary. Many require fire protection engineers to undergo continuing professional education coursework to renew their licenses. The Society of Fire Protection Engineers offers online and classroom-based training. The National Fire Protection Association offers continuing education focusing on NFPA standards.
Pursue Career Advancement Opportunities
In many cases, fire protection engineers need a master's degree to take on more challenging roles. Voluntary certification may be helpful for career advancement as well.
In summary, fire protection engineers need a minimum of a bachelor's degree in fire protection engineering or a related field. With state licensure, fire protection engineers can work independently and a master's degree and voluntary certification might help them advance in their careers.