What is an Online Bachelor's Degree in Fire Science?
Fire sciences is the study of all aspects of fire, including prevention, suppression, investigation, and control. Students graduating with a bachelor's in fire science are recognized as being experts in this area. The jobs that someone with a degree in the field may work in include firefighters, fire inspectors, fire chiefs, and fire loss insurance professionals. Fire science is a relatively new area of study, with experts previously trained on the job. Earning this degree is not directly related to career advancement within the field; however, it is likely to give those who have obtained the qualification an advantage when competing against peers for leadership roles. Students completing the qualification also have a comprehensive understanding of emergency incident management, enabling them to direct and manage emergency services and ensure an appropriate and coordinated response in the case of an emergency.
One unique aspect of becoming a firefighter is the fact that firefighters very much consider themselves part of an international fraternity. A number of fire departments have partnered with other departments in countries around the world and offer exchange options for full-time professional firefighters.
The degree is known by several different names, including Bachelor's in Fire and Emergency Management, Bachelor's in Fire Engineering, Bachelor's in Fire Protection Engineering, Bachelor's in Fire and Arson Investigation, and Bachelor's in Emergency Services Management.
Fire Science Specializations/Concentrations
The online Bachelor's in Fire Science offers students the opportunity to concentrate their studies on key areas that form the foundation for different career pathways. Some of the main concentrations offered for this degree include:
- Fire Administration provides students with the skills required to advance into leadership positions in the field.
- Fire Investigation teaches students all aspects of the investigation of fires, including forensics, evidence collection and analysis, and the relevant law.
- Fire Protection focuses on protecting life and property from the effects of fire.
- Fire Science Technology covers the technical aspects of fighting fire.
Curriculum/Coursework for a Fire Science Degree
Online Bachelor's in Fire Science degree programs typically have four components: core courses, supporting courses, free electives, and general education requirements.
Standard core course requirements include:
- Fire behavior and combustion
- Fire protection systems
- Incident command operations
- Building construction
- Fire investigation and analysis
- Codes and Inspections
- Strategies and tactics
- Fire prevention
- Principles of emergency management
Supporting course requirements often include chemistry, math, and psychology classes, while general education requirements tend to focus on subjects in the liberal arts.
How Long Does it Take to Get an Online Bachelor's in Fire Science
The Bachelor's in Fire Science program typically requires students to complete 120 credits. This would normally take students four years of full-time study to complete. However, many online programs offer accelerated learning opportunities that mean dedicated students can reduce the completion time to as little as two years. The opportunity for the student to study at their own pace is one of the key advantages of choosing an online program.
As well as online Bachelor's in Fire Science, a number of schools offer the program on-campus.
How to Choose a Fire Science School & Program
There are a number of considerations for a student when deciding on a school and program of study. Online study offers several advantages to more traditional methods of study. Most online courses provide students the flexibility to work at their own pace, which for those looking to accelerate the learning process is ideal. Online study is also well suited to those who have other commitments, such as work or families, as study can be scheduled around these commitments. However, students must be motivated to be successful when studying online and committed to adhering to the schedule they have worked out for themselves.
It is also important to find out what opportunities there are within the program to network with other students. They are an important source of information and support.
Tuition costs are always a factor when undertaking tertiary education. Although online schools are usually considerably less expensive than an on-campus program, there are still significant variations in the costs between schools. It is vital that students thoroughly investigate the costs associated with their course of study.
Some online schools require students to attend parts of the program in person. This requirement enables practical components of the training to be completed. Students will need to ensure that they are available to attend these blocks of study at the times they are scheduled.
When deciding to complete the program online, some of the more practical considerations relate to access to the technology required to complete the course remotely. This could include ensuring internet speeds are appropriate if there are live lectures or tutorials. Students are also likely to need to access library or resource materials to complete their studies.
Accreditation for Online Bachelor's in Fire Sciences Degrees
Accreditation is a process whereby an independent organization evaluates the school's program, looking at its content, how it is delivered, and the methods used to assess students. The accreditation process is designed to ensure that the program meets specific quality standards and that different schools' programs are comparable. Accreditation is completed at regional and national levels.
Students intending to apply for financial aid must attend a school that is accredited. They will not be able to receive financial assistance if they do not study an accredited program.
The International Fire Service Accreditation Congress is one of the key organizations providing accreditation in this field. The process to attain accreditation has two components. A comprehensive review of various documents relating to the institution's program is then followed by a site visit that assesses the program's action. For organizations that attain accreditation, compliance audits every three years ensure that the required standards are maintained.
Fire Sciences Licensure & Certification
There are no national licensure and certification requirements for firefighters; however, most states require all full-time firefighters to obtain certification at a state level. In those states requiring certification, this is typically achieved by either attending a dedicated fire academy or completing a certificate by attending classes offered by a recognized educational provider. It is important to note that completing certification in one state does not necessarily mean the firefighter will be certified in a different state. In some states, work experience is recognized when determining if a candidate has the necessary skills and knowledge for certification.
It is a requirement of most certification programs that the applicant has a current CPR certification. The length of the certification process for firefighters can require between 8 and 26 weeks of full-time attendance and is dependent on the state requirements. If the fire department has already employed the person, certification is typically organized by the employer.
Before starting their fire science program, students should also be aware that a criminal conviction, especially in federal jurisdiction, may prevent them from pursuing a career in this field. This requirement varies between states, so it is vital students review the relevant provisions in the state they intend to work in.
Fire Science Career Information
A Bachelor's in Fire Science opens up a range of possible career paths. The job growth for firefighters has been predicted by the US Bureau of Labor Statistics at 6% for the period 2019 to 2029. This is higher than the total average US job growth. Firefighting has become safer as more advanced materials and construction techniques are used in buildings; however, the nature of the job is such that there will always be a need for firefighters, making it a somewhat stable field to base a career.
There is potential to advance into positions as fire investigators, fire marshals, fire chiefs, and fire inspectors. A bachelor's degree unlocks this opportunity.
There are several jobs outside of the fire service for those with a Bachelor's in Fire Science. These jobs include sprinkler designers, fire protection engineers, and fire consultants. Other graduates may work with insurance companies as investigators and consultants.
How to Become a Fire Investigator
Fire departments and insurance companies employ fire Investigators to determine the cause of fires. The job entails attending the scene of fires and gathering and analyzing evidence relating to the fire's cause and nature. Often investigators will appear in court as an expert witness when a fire is caused by arson. Fire investigators may also be responsible for liaising with law enforcement and other authorities.
While a degree is not required in most fire departments, it will give candidates an edge; however, to work with a specialist agency such as the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms (ATF), a bachelor's degree is considered a minimum requirement.
According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, fire investigators are expected to experience job growth of 8%. The average salary of a fire investigator is $64,740. Florida, Texas, and New Jersey employ the most fire investigators; however, California offers the highest salaries, the average being $102,070. Washington comes in second with an average annual salary of $94,410, with Oregon third at $93,080.
How to Become a Fire Protection Engineer
A fire protection engineer combines the fields of fire science and engineering. Fire protection engineers work to develop buildings using safe materials and construction practices to minimize fire risk. The role also involves liaising with the appropriate regulatory authorities to ensure that buildings comply with safety regulations. Safety and maintenance schedules are often developed by fire protection engineers who also take responsibility for investigating operational failures or problems.
According to the No InterWiki reference defined in properties for Wiki called "US Bureau of Labor Statistics[https"!, the predicted rate of job growth for fire protection engineers over the next ten years is 4%. The average salary is $94,810. The states that employ the most fire safety engineers are Texas, California, and New York. In contrast, the states that pay the most are the District of Columbia, New Mexico, and California.
Professional Organizations in Fire Sciences
There are a wide range of professional organizations available to students with a Bachelor's in Fire Science. A number of organizations are related to the position an individual holds.
The International Association of Fire Fighters (IAFF) has more than 324,000 professional fire fighters and paramedics from across the US and Canada among its ranks. The IAFF has charters throughout the US, with membership available to any paid fire fighter or emergency responder. A range of different educational resources is available through the IAFF. It also provides a number of social activities for its members annually and offers grants to those who wish to pursue further study.
The Fire Department Safety Officers Association offers membership to safety officers, fire officers, and fire fighters. It has over 12,000 international members. The organization focuses on providing education and networking opportunities to its members. Several courses relating to safety and equipment are offered at its academy annually. There is also an extensive resource bank on their website. In addition, a number of social events at a local, national, and international level are offered to give members the opportunity to meet fellow fire fighters in other jurisdictions.
What Other Kinds of Fire Science Degrees Are There?
A bachelor's degree in fire science is not the only qualification in this field. A range of different educational opportunities are available to students. The bachelor's degree also opens the door to further post-graduate study in the area. While for students who do not want to commit to a four-year course, the associate degree offers another possible course of study.
Online Associate Degrees in Fire Science
The associate degree is particularly relevant in this field, as a number of states accept it as evidence that an individual has sufficient knowledge to be certified. The Associate in Fire Science usually takes a student two years of full-time study to complete. Most associate degrees provide students with the foundation knowledge required to advance in the field. This includes strategies and tactics for fighting a fire, building codes and inspection fire prevention, fire safety, first response medicine, and the basics of emergency management.
Online Master's Degrees in Fire Science
Master's degrees in fire science enable students to build on the knowledge they gained at an undergraduate level. The master's program will explore chemical combustion, the thermodynamics of fire, public safety, controlled burning, and the leadership skills needed in this field. A Master's in Fire Science requires students to complete between 36 and 64 credits, depending on the school selected. Some schools may require students to complete a thesis as part of their program of study. Other courses may require students to attend certain study blocks in person so that any practical requirements can be fulfilled.
Online Doctoral Degrees in Fire Science
There are very few schools that offer students the chance to complete a Doctorate in Fire Science online. Almost all of the schools offering this option are not accredited. The best option for students intending to pursue a doctorate is enrollment in an on-campus program.
The doctoral program in fire science is ideal for students looking to establish careers in research or teaching. Students explore advanced material, such as explosion protection, failure analysis, smoke control, and fire suppression. Students will usually be required to complete a thesis as part of their program.
Online Certificates in Fire Science
A number of Certificates in Fire Safety are considered evidence that a student has fulfilled the theoretical requirements for certification in a particular state. The practical requirements would still need to be addressed. A typical study program will see students complete between four and ten courses covering fire science's fundamental aspects. This includes theory and tactics of fire fighting, basic medical skills, and fire codes.
Although less common, several schools offer a post-graduate certificate in fire science that is ideal for students looking to gain additional knowledge in a specialist area.
Financial Aid and Scholarship Information for Fire Science Degrees
Federal and state financial aid is available to students studying at an accredited school. Both types of financial aid are awarded based on need, with students typically receiving it in the form of loans, grants, and work-study programs. For students looking to apply for federal financial aid, the first step is to complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). It is important to complete this as soon as possible as applications may take some time to process. For those looking to apply for financial aid at a state level, the first port of call should be the relevant state agency.
Some schools also offer financial aid. The requirements vary from school to school. Information specific to the school can usually be found on the school's website's financial aid page.
In addition, there are a number of scholarships available to students in this field. Some scholarships are specific to a particular school or state, while others are open to all students. Several scholarships are offered by the International Association of Fire Chiefs Foundation. This includes the following:
- Arthur J. Glatfelter Memorial Scholarship
- Chief Charles A. "Chet" Henry Memorial Scholarship
- Garry L. Briese Scholarship for drivers and engineers
- Heather Westphal Memorial Scholarship for female first responders
John M. Buckman, III Scholarship for a student who is also a volunteer firefighter
Except where noted, these scholarships are available to all students. The same application process is completed for all scholarships