Bachelor's and master's degree programs in fire protection engineering teach students to design systems and buildings to prevent and safeguard against fire. Though these programs are not extremely common, they are available from a number of schools. Bachelor's degree programs include coursework both in science and engineering, along with training in fire laboratories.
M.S. programs may need to complete a thesis while M.Eng. programs require more classes. Applicants to a master's degree program may be required to have an engineering undergraduate degree. These degree programs are commonly available online.
Bachelor of Science in Fire Protection Engineering
Fire protection engineering is a field that encompasses both the scientific analysis of fire and the practical engineering strategies used to safeguard against fire-related damage. Bachelor's degree students in this field usually study fire science in order to gain theoretical background in the basic chemical and behavioral features of fire and combustion processes. Simultaneous coursework in mathematics, general engineering and the natural sciences gives students the ability to apply this conceptual understanding of fire to the creation of efficient fire protection and suppression systems, as well as the design of fireproof buildings. Most programs incorporate additional training in fire laboratories in which students can model fires, study firehouse environments and simulate fire extinguishing.
Students should have a high school diploma and transcripts. Letters of recommendation from high school math and science teachers may also be required. Undergraduate students interested in entering to the major may be required to have completed coursework in math, English and laboratory science.
Bachelor's degree programs integrate typical general education requirements with varied topics in chemistry, physics, engineering and fire science. Common course topics include:
- Engineering analysis
- Fire alarms and detection systems
- Fire chemistry
- Fire protection systems
- Fire safety and buildings
- Fluid mechanics for fire protection
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Master's Degree Programs in Fire Protection Engineering
M.S. and M.Eng. programs in this field allow engineers to refine their analytical understanding of fire and to apply research to specific engineering environments and situations. M.S. students may be required to complete a master's thesis or to substitute additional coursework in its place. Some programs offer graduate internships at fire departments or technology companies. Teaching assistantships may also be available.
Applicants should have a B.S. in Engineering or a related field. Applicants with degrees in the natural sciences may be required to complete additional on-site coursework before beginning the program. Some programs also require a minimum undergraduate GPA.
Coursework at this level may build upon undergraduate topics in fire science and protective engineering while introducing new topics in legal regulation, industry standards and qualitative analysis. Topics may include:
- Burning rate theory
- Diffusion flames
- Fire-induced flows
- Fire codes and legal regulations
- Fire modeling
- Hazard analysis
Popular Career Options
Graduates with a B.S. in Fire Protection Engineering most typically work for fire departments, governments, insurance companies or engineering firms. Possible titles include:
- Design engineer
- Fire investigator
- Fire safety engineer
- Fire marshal
- Loss prevention specialist
Employment Outlook and Salary Info
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) classifies engineers who assess fire hazards and then develop safety measures as health and safety engineers (www.bls.gov). From 2014-2024, health and safety engineers are expected to see 6% growth in total employment, or about as fast as the average for all professions. The BLS expects these engineers to be in demand in order to inspect and test new safety technology.
In May 2015, the BLS reported that the median annual wage for all health and safety engineers was $84,600. At that time, most of these engineers worked in nonresidential building construction and for architectural and consulting services.
Licensure and Certification Info
All 50 states require that engineers who offer their services to the public to be licensed as professional engineers (PEs). Licensure standards usually require engineers to have graduated from an engineering program approved by the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET) and to have at least four years of working experience. Candidates must also pass a state licensing examination.
When students go for either a bachelor's degree or master's degree in protection engineering, they will learn more about topics such as fire modeling, fire chemistry, and fire protection systems. Graduates of these programs are required to seek professional licensure through their states by passing an exam.