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Schools for Aspiring Arson Investigators: How to Choose

Two- and four-year colleges offer certificate, associate's degree and bachelor's degree programs in arson investigation. Programs are available at many colleges to prepare students for careers as arson investigators.

Arson investigators, like fire investigators, attempt to determine the causes of fires; however, their jobs focus on the criminal element. Prospective arson investigators can gain experience in fire suppression and criminal investigation through certificate, associate's degree and bachelor's degree programs at 2- and 4-year colleges; while only a handful of schools offer programs specifically in arson and fire investigation, students can obtain a lot of the training they need for this career through criminal justice programs, which are commonly offered at community colleges as well as 4-year colleges and universities.

Arson Investigation Schools

This list of colleges and universities identifies some schools offering arson investigation programs.

College/University Location Institution Type Degrees Offered* Tuition (2015-2016)**
Eastern Kentucky University Richmond, KY 4-year, public Bachelor's In-state $8,150; Out-of-state $17,640
Hennepin Technical College Brooklyn Park, MN 2-year, public Diploma, Associate's $5,159
Ivy Tech Community College Indianapolis, IN 2-year, public Certificate In-state $4,115; Out-of-state $7,992
Kansas City Kansas Community College Kansas City, KS 2-year, public Associate's (arson investigation courses included in fire science program) In-state $3,240; Out-of-state $8,040
Houston Community College Houston, TX 2-year, public Skills Award, Associate's In-district $1,632; In-state $3,360; Out-of-state $3,756
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign Champaign, IL 4-year, public Course $425
University of New Haven West Haven, CT 4-year, private not-for-profit Bachelor's $35,650
El Centro College Dallas, TX 2-year, public Certificate In-district $1,770; In-state $3,330; Out-of-state $5,220
Oklahoma State University Center for Health Sciences Tulsa, OK 4-year, public Master's In-state $3,528; Out-of-state $14,143

Sources: *School websites, **National Center for Education Statistics

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School Select Criteria

When choosing an arson investigation program there are several things to consider.

  • Students who don't live near schools with arson investigation programs can enroll in a criminal justice degree or certificate program, which provides education in criminal investigation, data collection and the legal process and may offer concentrations in arson investigation.
  • In addition to coursework, students may want to take into account the clinical labs and practical experiences offered by each program.
  • Some schools offer internships in fire and arson investigation.
  • Some schools provide students with laboratory facilities specifically in fire investigation and arson. These facilities train students in safety techniques, as well as fire analysis and explosion.

Certificate in Arson Investigation

Certificate programs are available for arson investigators through arson investigation or fire science, including courses in investigation. The curriculum includes courses in investigation techniques relevant to automotive fires and electrical fires.

Associate's Degree in Fire and Arson Investigation

Associate's degree programs in fire and arson investigation are designed to prepare students for careers as arson investigators. Students are also trained in safety protocols and case preparation.

Bachelor's Degree in Fire Science or Arson Investigation

Bachelor's degree programs specific to arson investigation are rare, but when offered they typically focus heavily on investigation of fire sources and causes, as well as legal procedures and fire dynamics. Fire science programs with a concentration in arson investigation are also available. Students gain hands-on experience in analyzing fire and explosion scenes through labs. They also complete a supervised practicum to observe and gain practical experience in the field.

Bachelor's Degree in Criminal Justice

Some bachelor's degree programs in criminal justice offer courses or concentration areas in arson investigation. Courses that focus on gathering evidence, investigation and data analysis are also typically offered. The program often culminates in an internship working in the student's area of expertise.

It is possible to pursue studies at a college or university to prepare for a career as an arson investigator. Many institutions offer certificate, associate's degree, bachelor's degree and master's degree programs for those interested in entering this career field.


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