2020 Accredited Online Fire Science Degrees
A degree in fire science encompasses many aspects of fire management and emergency services. While firefighters are able to find employment with a high school diploma and work experience, those with an associate, bachelor’s, or master's degree in fire science may have more opportunities to advance their career or qualify for a higher salary. A degree in fire science is comprehensive, and students will take courses on everything from how fire behaves to fire management. With a fire science degree, many people go on to become firefighters, where they must also complete on-the-job training and emergency medical certification. There are additional opportunities available with this degree, including careers as fire inspectors, fire investigators, or fire chiefs.
Most Popular Accredited Online Schools for Fire Science Degrees
Online Fire Science Degree Overview & Career Information
The online associate degree in fire science can help students secure positions as firefighters and fire investigators. Courses in building codes, regulations, and fire protections systems discuss the ways in which the risk of fire in the built environment can be mitigated, while classes in fire behavior and fire science discuss the spread of fire and combustion during various fire situations.
The online bachelor’s degree program in fire science may be used to enter the career track and advance more quickly into fire chief or administrator positions. The bachelor’s degree covers the same foundational topics as the associate program in areas like fire science, fire prevention, and emergency response, but bachelor's students also learn about managing public service organizations, hiring fire response personnel, and the legal issues involved in emergency services.
The online master's degree in fire science covers management issues involved in emergency administration. Graduates may become administrators in fire departments or other emergency response settings, or they may be able to work in research positions. Additional education may also allow professionals to be promoted more quickly within a fire station, from entry-level firefighter to lieutenant or even fire chief.
Students should contact the firefighting agencies in the state where they hope to work in order to learn about the type of academic programs their state prefers. The National Fire Academy offers standardized national training and also offers information about two- and four-year fire science and emergency response programs across the United States.
Online Associate Degrees in Fire Science
While generally not required to work as a firefighter or fire investigator, an associate degree in fire science can help increase one’s job prospects and chances for professional advancement. Graduates may be more qualified to apply for higher positions in a particular fire department, such as captain or battalion chief. These two-year programs cover things like combustion science, fire codes, and fire department administration. These degrees also require students to complete a number of liberal arts courses in areas like math, natural science, social studies, and humanities, so that students have a solid intellectual foundation. Applicants to the associate degree program must have a high school diploma or the equivalent, as well as the physical fitness to complete the service-training portion of the degree.
Online associate degrees in fire science are commonly offered by community colleges, vocational schools, and traditional universities. Along with the option of completing a degree program, prospective firefighters could also consider completing a formal apprenticeship with a fire department. Apprenticeships last approximately four years and use fieldwork and classroom learning to teach students the techniques of the job.
The curriculum in the fire science associate degree covers the methods for fighting fires, investigating fires, and inspecting buildings for safety. Students learn how to read blueprints in order to better understand how fires spread. Core classes require students to learn firefighting tactics and become familiar with pre-fire preparation, extinguishing agents, and special fire situations. Other classes look at fire behavior and combustion, fire prevention, fire protection systems, and water distribution fundamentals. Students are expected to participate in on-site training with fire equipment.
Online Bachelor's Degrees in Fire Science
The bachelor’s degree in fire science provides students with a thorough understanding of fire response tactics and sharpens critical thinking and fire service administration skills. These degrees may be traditional four-year programs requiring 120 credit hours, or they may be bachelor’s completion programs, designed for current associate-level fire personnel. Applicants need a high school diploma or associate degree, depending on the program type. Applicants must also be physically fit in order to complete practical training.
Core courses in the fire science bachelor’s cover the role of fire services and how to respond properly to fires in different types of structures. Students learn how to read a fire and apply an understanding of combustion and how fires spread in order to anticipate how a particular structure will burn. In on-site training sessions, students work with water supplies and different extinguishing strategies. A key function of the bachelor’s program in fire science is also to provide leadership and administration skills. Fire and emergency staffing, budgeting, public policy administration, and organizational behavior are some commonly required courses. Other classes look at special functions of fire services, like their role in mitigating natural disasters.
The fire science bachelor’s degree can open up entry-level and advanced fire safety positions. Current firefighters can complete a bachelor’s in order to qualify for administrative positions such as assistant chief, deputy chief, or chief.
Online Master's Degrees in Fire Science
Current fire service professionals or those in careers outside emergency services can use the fire science master’s degree to learn advanced technical and administrative skills. These programs typically require 10 to 15 courses and may include a thesis or research project. Applicants need a bachelor’s degree; most programs also require basic knowledge of emergency or fire services. Fire science master’s programs are offered in a few different structures. Some are specialized fire science degrees with concentrations in areas like arson, fire administration, and public safety management. Other programs include a core of classes in more general safety and emergency management areas, with a specialization in fire science topics. Students can choose the best program type for their needs, based on their previous experience in fire science and their career goals.
Along with the core classes, the fire science master’s degree also typically requires an internship, research project, or thesis. For example, a student specializing in arson might spend a semester shadowing a fire investigator in their local community. On the other hand, a student in a thesis-based emergency administration program might spend a semester developing a disaster response plan for a fire department.
The fire science master’s degree can lead to positions in public service and private industry. Current fire service professionals could use the degree to move into fire chief or administrative roles in their workplace. Others can use the degree to enter local government roles, assisting with community planning and municipal services. Employment also exists in the private sector in businesses that require specialists in safe industrial processes and the analysis of fire hazards.
Online Doctoral Degrees in Fire Science
An online doctoral degree in fire science prepares students to be leaders in disaster management, emergency management professions, and the fire sciences. They are also equipped to work as educators and researchers in these areas. Candidates generally must have completed a master’s degree, and it is preferred that students already have an academic background in fire or emergency services and experience working in a related field. The degree can be general or more specific to a certain field, such as fire prevention, fire suppression, or fire services leadership.
The curriculum of a fire science program includes the study of subjects such as disaster response, disaster recovery, preparedness and planning, mitigation, fire and emergency management, political and community relations, incident command system, labor management, complex emergencies, and risk analysis. Students learn about fire protection services, fire hydraulics, and fire and arson investigation. The program may also include an in-depth analysis of fire stations and agencies, including the functions, structure, operational techniques, principles of organization, staffing, budgeting, controlling, coordinating, and planning at such agencies. It will also typically include dissertation research.
Those who complete an online doctoral degree in fire science are prepared to work in management positions in fire and rescue, emergency management, emergency medical services, law enforcement, homeland security, and related fields in both the public and private sectors. They may also pursue teaching positions at the collegiate level.
Online Certificates in Fire Science
The certificate in fire science can be used to study basic firefighting skills and strategies, fire administration, or a particular technical area of fire science. These programs typically take a year to complete and require 10 to 15 courses. Depending on the program, applicants may be required to have already completed basic fire training. Most programs require a high school diploma or GED, as well as sufficient physical fitness for completing the physical training portion of the certificate.
The required coursework in the fire science certificate varies depending on the certificate level. Introductory certificates are aimed at those with no fire experience. These programs cover firefighting tactics and strategy, fire protection systems, and emergency response. Other certificates are aimed at current firefighters interested in administrative positions. These programs cover topics like fire code enforcement, building construction, and emergency services administration.
Graduates of the basic fire science certificate can apply for entry-level positions in fire departments. Because the job market for firefighters is expected to be tough in the coming years; those with some postsecondary training in fire science will have an advantage over other applicants who only have a high school diploma. Experienced firefighters can use the certificate to prepare for fire administrator, investigator, or inspector positions.
- Training. US Fire Administration. Accessed May 14, 2014. https://www.usfa.fema.gov/training/nfa/.
- Occupational Outlook Handbook. Bureau of Labor Statistics of the US Department of Labor. Accessed May 14, 2014. http://www.bls.gov/ooh/protective-service/firefighters.htm#tab-4.
- Occupational Outlook Handbook. Bureau of Labor Statistics of the US Department of Labor. Accessed May 14, 2014. http://www.bls.gov/ooh/protective-service/fire-inspectors-and-investigators.htm#tab-4.