Many online fire science associate's degree programs offer all classes remotely with no on-campus or in-person requirements. However, some programs require monthly advising or practical training sessions. Depending on the program, the degree awarded can be an Associate of Science - which usually transfers into a bachelor's degree program - or an Associate of Applied Science. Students learn about fire behavior, emergency services and fire prevention. Students may need Adobe Reader and a word processing program. In some cases, applicants must have current employment or volunteer experience at a fire department. Other majors with relevant courses include occupational safety and health, and fire investigation.
Associate's Degree in Fire Science
Classes in a fire science associate's degree program draw on the sciences - particularly chemistry - as well as architecture, engineering and law to explore the behavior of fires and strategies for responding to them. Associate's degree programs are generally open to students with a high school diploma, though some fire science programs require that applicants be currently employed or volunteering at a fire department.
Although firefighting is a hands-on profession, most coursework in fire science programs is theoretical and lecture-based. Practical training in the physical work of firefighting usually occurs outside of academic programs and on-site at fire departments or other organizations that employ firefighters.
Program Information and Requirements
Online associate's degree programs in fire science generally take 2-3 years to complete depending on how many classes a student enrolls in per term. In an online associate's degree program, students access course materials asynchronously through the school's online course management system. To do this, students must have a computer with Internet access and email. Other technical requirements may include Adobe Reader and a word processing program for completing assignments.
Fire science students must complete general education coursework and electives in addition to the core courses. Typical topics include fire prevention and safety, the history of firefighting and fire codes.
Students learn about ways in which fires begin, spread and die down. The class draws on chemistry and physics to explain strategies for containing and extinguishing fires by means of water, chemicals, clearing and other techniques.
Building Construction for Fire Safety
Students learn about construction materials and building design to understand how structures react to fires. They study how to prevent or contain minor blazes, and how to rescue others and avoid injury when fighting fires in seriously damaged homes. Patterns of fire growth and building collapse are discussed.
Topics include fire prevention and containment technology, firefighting careers and fire regulation laws. Course materials draw from architecture, engineering, history and law.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, job opportunities for firefighters are predicted to increase 5% from 2014-2024, as fast as the national average (www.bls.gov). However, competition for available jobs is high, and firefighting work is physically demanding and often requires long hours. The average annual wage for firefighters in 2015 was $49,330. Supervisors and managers earned an average yearly salary of $74,970.
Continuing Education Information
Some colleges and universities offer bachelor's degrees or professional certificate programs for individuals who are already employed as firefighters. These may be useful for pursuing a promotion into a management role or for transitioning to a fire inspector or fire prevention specialist position. Some programs are available entirely online, while others require campus attendance.
Online fire science associate's programs emphasize fire prevention and management. Students must be physically present for practical training and advising, but can complete classwork online.