Fire service workers are vital to the security of lives and property in cities and towns all across the country. A fire science degree program is a great way to prepare for a variety of careers in inspection, education and administration. These professionals handle a wide range of duties, including:
- Assessing fire activity, structural condition and potential collateral danger using visual cues
- Directing firefighters and medical personnel to strategic points at an emergency site
- Evaluating new or existing systems for fire detection, protection and safety
- Inspecting buildings, fuel storage tanks and construction plans for fire code compliance
- Training firefighters or administrating operations of entire fire battalions and departments
While entry-level firefighters typically only need a high school diploma to begin training at a local fire academy, a formal degree in fire science or environmental science can often be of benefit to fire service workers looking to move up the ranks. In many departments, candidacy for positions above that of battalion chief requires a bachelor's degree or higher.
Coursework in Fire Science Programs
Course requirements vary from institution to institution, and tend to depend on a student's prior educational experience. However, here are a few core concepts that most fire science programs are likely to cover:
- Emergency service principles
- Fire behavior
- Fire prevention
- Fire protection systems
- Personnel management
- Emergency services administration
- Community risk control
- Fire investigation
- Media relations
Fire science degree programs can be completed at multiple levels of educational attainment, from a non-degree certificate up to a master's degree. Certificates or associate degrees are common among firefighters rising through the lower ranks of the department. Instructors, inspectors and upper-tier administrators often hold bachelor's or master's degrees.
Career Outlook for Professionals with Fire Science Degrees
Employment of firefighting personnel is projected to increase seven percent between 2012 and 2012, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). This should result in more than 20,000 new positions nationwide. Considerable competition is expected, but candidates who complete some of the coursework offered in fire science degree programs can help set themselves apart in the hiring process.
BLS data placed the median annual wage for firefighters at $45,600 in 2013, which is about 30 percent higher than the national average salary across all occupations. The bottom 10 percent of firefighter salaries in 2013 brought in less than $21,960 per year, while the top 10 percent earned $80,430 or more.
After they've accumulated enough experience on the job, firefighters with degrees in fire science can qualify for other positions with higher expected rates of pay. Fire inspectors and investigators, for example, earned a median annual wage of $55,440 in 2013. First-line supervisors of fire service personnel took home a 2013 median salary of $70,040, with the highest 10 percent of earners making $111,120 or more.
"Firefighters," Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Outlook Handbook 2014-15 Edition, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/Protective-Service/Firefighters.htm
"Firefighters," Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Employment and Wages, May 2013, http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes332011.htm
"Fire Inspectors and Investigators," Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Outlook Handbook 2014-15 Edition, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/Protective-Service/Fire-inspectors-and-investigators.htm
"Fire Inspectors and Investigators," Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Employment and Wages, May 2013, http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes332021.htm
"Municipal Fire Fighting and Prevention Supervisors," O*NET Online, http://www.onetonline.org/link/summary/33-1021.01
"First-Line Supervisors of Fire Fighting and Prevention Workers," Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Employment and Wages, May 2013, http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes331021.htm