Online associate's and bachelor's degree programs are available for aspiring fire fighters. Associate's degree programs are offered in fully online formats and explore concepts in fire protection and fire behavior. These programs provide students with a basic overview of fire science and are typically combined with on-the-job training or undertaken after a fire fighter has already gained employment.
Online bachelor's degree programs in fire science or administration provide students with the administrative and supervision skills to advance their careers in the firehouse. These four-year programs examine concepts in health and safety, fire inspection, legal aspects of fire protection and fire personnel management.
Associate's Degrees in Fire Science
Although fire fighters do not have to be college graduates, an Associate of Applied Science in Fire Science can be an asset to a fire fighter's career. The curriculum in an associate's degree program includes classes in communications and English composition, as well as specialized, career-related courses in basic fire protection, fire behavior and fire prevention.
An associate's degree is one possible starting point for a career as a fire fighter, but a degree program is usually undertaken after much on-the-job training and often completed while employed.
Program Information and Requirements
Degree programs may be completed almost entirely online at the student's own pace, and usually take 2-4 years. Students need access to a computer with an Internet connection, preferably high-speed. Classes combine traditional text with audio and video presentations. Students communicate with professors and classmates via e-mail.
Courses in an online associate's degree program will give students a sound knowledge and understanding of the principles and practices of fire safety and combat. There are often also general course requirements in English composition and communications.
Fire Prevention Basics
This course gives students a broad and comprehensive overview of the historical background of fire prevention. It also may cover the development and implementation of fire safety codes, fire safety inspection procedures, the need for public fire safety education and the evaluation of volunteer fire departments.
Current Systems of Fire Protection
Topics covered in this course include the role and responsibilities of the designers of fire protection systems and the analysis of contract drawings and specifications for those systems. The benefits and disadvantages of old-style sprinkler protection systems are explored. Also highlighted are studies on the use and application of newer, high-speed water spray systems and methods of extinguishing various types of fires.
Basic Fire Behavior Principles
In this course, students exam how a fire burns, studying the basic principles of flame over, flash over and back draft. They will learn how the behavior of elements and compounds in a fire is determined by their atomic structure. They will also study social attitudes toward fire prevention and fire control efforts. Additional topics include the pre- and post-fire planning process, different construction methods of high-rise buildings, and the latest technological advances in fire-extinguishing agents.
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Bachelor's Degrees in Fire Science or Fire Administration
A Bachelor of Science in Fire Science and Technology or Fire Administration prepares students to advance their careers as active fire fighters and fire science professionals. It may help them obtain leadership and administrative positions, become high-ranking fire chiefs in small-town fire stations, or work for large government agencies. Program studies are highly specialized and topic-specific, but some core courses in subjects such as chemistry, mathematics, and English composition are generally required.
Program Information and Requirements
The requirements for an online bachelor's degree program in fire science or fire administration are similar to the requirements for an online associate's degree program. Online classes are a combination of text, video and audio presentations, and to take these classes students will need a computer with high-speed Internet. This program usually takes about four years to complete.
Courses in a fire science or fire administration bachelor's degree program center around specialized studies, such as fire safety and fire prevention, that prepare students for a specific career path. Students generally also take basic general education courses to complete their degree requirements.
This course, usually offered at several levels, addresses the basics of fire prevention. It covers essential topics such as personal fire protection equipment, fire tools and appliances, fire department command structure, the study of fire on a chemical level and fire degree classifications.
Investigation and Analysis of Fire Origin
Students will develop and practice taking an analytical approach to fire investigation. This course highlights topics such as fire ignition, the combustion of flammable liquids, gases and fuels, flame spread and the investigative process.
Health and Safety of Fire Stations and Departments
This course provides an in-depth overview of the health and safety programs currently being used by emergency service agencies. It covers federal regulations and their impact, distinctions between emergency response vehicles, effective response procedures, pre- and post-incident analysis and procedures, and the job responsibilities of various health and safety personnel.
An Associate of Applied Science in Fire Science can be considered a terminal degree. While associate's and bachelor's degree programs are becoming more popular among working fire fighters, they are not deemed necessary, as almost all education and training is obtained on the job.
According to the U. S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), nine out of ten fire fighters are employed by local governments (www.bls.gov). Applicants for the job are subject to written exams, tests of physical strength, stamina and coordination, and drug screening. Most fire stations have apprenticeship programs and give new employees 2-3 weeks of on-the-job training. Additionally, most fire fighters are trained emergency medical technicians. Graduates with a bachelor's degree in fire science or fire administration are qualified to hold leadership positions in fire stations, including battalion chief, deputy chief, and chief.
Despite the long, hard, dangerous hours fire fighters must work, competition for jobs is tough and the pool of qualified candidates remains large, according to the BLS. According to the BLS, as of May 2015, fire fighters can expect to earn an average of $49,330 per year, and fire inspectors and investigators can earn an average of $59,800 per year.
An individual's career goals will likely help them determine whether to enroll in an associate's degree program in fire science, designed for those who either already have jobs or are hoping to get jobs in fire fighting, or a bachelor's degree program in fire science or administration, which will focus on more management and leadership topics.