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2023 Most Affordable Online Fire Science Degrees

By the OnlineU team | Updated 10/28/2022
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A bachelor's degree in fire science is designed to prepare firefighters and emergency responders to advance into administrative and managerial positions in emergency medical services (EMS). Evolving forces, including climate change, are driving an increase in demand for highly trained professionals with bachelor's degrees to fill these roles. Along with team leadership skills, students will explore subjects related to arson investigation, interagency coordination, and building safety regulations. Graduates are eligible to pursue supervisory roles in fire departments, fire investigation teams, and emergency services organizations. 

For students who want to look beyond fire safety and investigate the broader environmental issues that relate to natural disasters and climate change, a similar online degree option to pursue is environmental science

View our methodology for details about rankings or learn more about us. You can also check out our overall list of the most affordable online degrees for some inspiration.

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All tuition numbers were manually collected and verified
Rank School Locations Annual Tuition
# 1 #1 College of Southern Nevada Las Vegas (NV) $5,100
# 2 #2 University of Alaska Fairbanks Fairbanks (AK) (and 1 other) $7,020
# 3 #3 Columbia Southern University Orange Beach (AL) $7,050
# 4 #4 University of Florida Gainesville (FL) $9,158
# 5 #5 Western Illinois University Macomb (IL) $9,238
# 6 #6 Waldorf University Forest City (IA) $9,300
# 7 #7 Northwestern State University of Louisiana Natchitoches (LA) $9,600
# 8 #8 Southern Illinois University - Carbondale Carbondale (IL) $9,645
# 9 #9 University of Wisconsin - Oshkosh Oshkosh (WI) $10,800
# 10 #10 American Public University System Charles Town (WV) $11,150
#1
#1
Annual Tuition: $5,100
Annual Tuition: $5,100
Annual Tuition: $5,100

The College of Southern Nevada (CSN) is a public college with a Bachelor of Applied Science in Fire and Emergency Services Administration. This online program requires 121 credit hours and generally takes students four years to complete on a full-time schedule.

At CSN, students use Canvas for their online coursework, which is delivered completely remotely at an asynchronous pace. The curriculum for a fire and emergency services administration degree builds upon a student's existing technical understanding in fire safety with managerial and leadership skills. Core classes include Personnel Management for Fire and Emergency Services, Fire Related Human Behavior, and Fire Investigation and Analysis. Graduates are eligible for leadership and managerial positions in public and private agencies.

  • Financial Aid Recipients: 84%
  • Undergrad Online Enrollment: 6,420
  • School Type: Nonprofit
  • School Accreditation: NWCCU
#2
#2

University of Alaska Fairbanks

Fairbanks (AK) (and 1 other)
Annual Tuition: $7,020
Annual Tuition: $7,020
Annual Tuition: $7,020

The University of Alaska Fairbanks (UAF) has an online Bachelor of Security and Emergency Management - Fire Administration, requiring 120 credits. Full-time students can complete this degree in four years.

Students at UAF use Canvas as their learning management system (LMS). Coursework is available either 100% online or in a hybrid learning format. UAF has a student-run fire station for those who are studying on or near campus. The curriculum for this degree teaches business management skills along with a more advanced understanding of public safety issues, including terrorism and cybersecurity. Required coursework includes Training and Management Development, Emergency Planning and Preparedness, and Leadership in Dangerous Contexts. Career opportunities may be available as first-line supervisors, emergency management directors, and personal service managers.

  • Financial Aid Recipients: 88%
  • Average SATs: 1030 -1280
  • Undergrad Online Enrollment: 2,350
  • Graduate Online Enrollment: 598
  • School Type: Nonprofit
  • School Accreditation: NWCCU
#3
#3

Columbia Southern University

Orange Beach (AL)
Annual Tuition: $7,050
Annual Tuition: $7,050
Annual Tuition: $7,050

Columbia Southern University (CSU) is a private institution offering a Bachelor of Science in Fire Administration. This fully remote program requires 120 credits and may take up to four years to complete while studying full time.

Online CSU students use Blackboard's LMS for their coursework, which is available to pursue on a flexible schedule through distance learning. The program is designed to develop administrative and managerial skills using an interdisciplinary approach with community risk reduction and tactical fireground considerations. Major requirements include classes in Fire and Emergency Services Administration, Political and Legal Foundations of Fire Protection, and Building Construction for Fire Protection. Students may earn administrative positions upon graduation.

  • Financial Aid Recipients: 94%
  • Undergrad Online Enrollment: 14,364
  • Graduate Online Enrollment: 5,670
  • School Type: For-Profit
  • School Accreditation: DEAC
#4
#4

University of Florida

Gainesville (FL)
Annual Tuition: $9,158
Annual Tuition: $9,158
Annual Tuition: $9,158

The University of Florida (UF) is a public institution with a Bachelor of Science in Fire and Emergency Services. With a requirement of 120 credit hours, students are likely to complete this program in four years while studying at a full-time pace.

UF students use Canvas for their program coursework, which is all available online. The degree is meant to prepare students with leadership skills for fire services, EMS, and other emergency services. There are three specializations available: (1) Fire, (2) EMS Management, and (3) Emergency Management. Examples of core classes for the major among all specializations are Fire and Emergency Services Public Relations, Fire and Emergency Services Financial Management, and Disaster Planning and Control. Graduates typically enter careers in fire department management, government agencies, or insurance companies.

  • Financial Aid Recipients: 92%
  • Average SATs: 1310 -1470
  • Undergrad Online Enrollment: 1,029
  • Graduate Online Enrollment: 3,401
  • School Type: Nonprofit
  • School Accreditation: SACS COC
#5
#5
Annual Tuition: $9,238
Annual Tuition: $9,238
Annual Tuition: $9,238

Western Illinois University (WIU) is a public university with a Bachelor of Science in Fire Protection Services. This degree requires 120 credit hours, and students often finish in four years if they maintain a full-time schedule.

WIU students use Desire2Learn as their LMS. The curriculum was designed by actual firefighters and teaches a scientific understanding of fire, engages students in legal and ethical discussions pertaining to fire careers, and offers a focus on safety and risk prevention. This program also requires a capstone project. Core classes include Fire Tactics, Fire Emergency Administration, and Fire Ethics. Career options can be found in fire prevention agencies.

  • Financial Aid Recipients: 88%
  • Average SATs: 950 -1150
  • Undergrad Online Enrollment: 589
  • Graduate Online Enrollment: 472
  • School Type: Nonprofit
  • School Accreditation: HLC
#6
#6

Waldorf University

Forest City (IA)
Annual Tuition: $9,300
Annual Tuition: $9,300
Annual Tuition: $9,300

Waldorf University (WU) is a private institution offering a Bachelor of Science in Fire Science Administration, requiring 120 credits. Typically, this program takes four years to complete with a full-time schedule.

Blackboard is WU's primary LMS that allows students to attend class asynchronously. This program teaches leadership techniques and problem-solving as they relate to fire protection strategies. Required classes include Applications of Fire Research, Leadership, and Political and Legal Foundations of Fire Protection. WU also offers a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology - Fire Science. Upon graduation, students may explore careers in emergency services and fire protection associations.

  • Financial Aid Recipients: 96%
  • Average SATs: 920 -1110
  • Undergrad Online Enrollment: 1,950
  • Graduate Online Enrollment: 519
  • School Type: For-Profit
  • School Accreditation: HLC
#7
#7
Annual Tuition: $9,600
Annual Tuition: $9,600
Annual Tuition: $9,600

Northwestern State University of Louisiana (NSU) offers a Bachelor of Science in Unified Public Safety Administration - Fire and Emergency Medical Service Administration. Students pursue this degree through eNSU, which is NSU's completely online global campus. The degree requires 120 credit hours, which takes at least four years for full-time students to finish.

eNSU uses Moodle as its LMS. Students can study 100% online with no required campus visits. The program aims to provide students with a conceptual and research-based understanding of public safety. There are required classes, including Emergency Medical Response Planning, Concepts of Emergency Medical Service, and Social Dimensions of Disaster. A practicum and senior seminar are also required. Graduates are eligible for careers in security and fire protection services.

  • Financial Aid Recipients: 97%
  • Average SATs: 1010 -1210
  • Undergrad Online Enrollment: 3,643
  • Graduate Online Enrollment: 896
  • School Type: Nonprofit
  • School Accreditation: SACS COC
#8
#8
Annual Tuition: $9,645
Annual Tuition: $9,645
Annual Tuition: $9,645

Southern Illinois University - Carbondale (SIU) is a public university offering an online Bachelor of Science Public Safety Management - Fire Service Management requiring 120 credit hours. Most students complete this degree in four years while remotely studying full time.

Students at SIU use Brightspace for their fully online coursework. The curriculum for this program is meant to provide a practical understanding of fire-related management and supervision. Core classes include Risk Reduction Fire and Emergency Services, Personnel Systems Fire and Emergency Services, and Management of Emergency Services. Careers for alumni may include fire commissioner, federal air marshal, or FEMA team leader, to name a few options.

  • Financial Aid Recipients: 95%
  • Average SATs: 1030 -1250
  • Undergrad Online Enrollment: 1,534
  • Graduate Online Enrollment: 552
  • School Type: Nonprofit
  • School Accreditation: HLC
#9
#9
Annual Tuition: $10,800
Annual Tuition: $10,800
Annual Tuition: $10,800

The University of Wisconsin - Oshkosh (UWO) is a public university with an online Bachelor of Applied Studies in Fire and Emergency Response Management. This distance learning program requires 120 credit hours. Without transferable credits, full-time students generally complete this degree in four years. However, there are also options for accelerated courses.

Canvas is UWO's primary LMS, where students can complete all coursework remotely. The curriculum is designed to instill leadership skills so students can tackle complex fire safety and emergency situations. There are two emphases to choose from: (1) Fire Services Management or (2) Emergency Management. Core classes include Fire and Emergency Services Leadership, Public Personnel Administration, and Conflict Resolution for Emergency Services. Graduates may become executive fire chiefs or managers at fire service organizations.

  • Financial Aid Recipients: 75%
  • Undergrad Online Enrollment: 632
  • Graduate Online Enrollment: 303
  • School Type: Nonprofit
  • School Accreditation: HLC
#10
#10
Annual Tuition: $11,150
Annual Tuition: $11,150
Annual Tuition: $11,150

The American Public University (APU) has a fully remote Bachelor of Science in Fire Science Management. This online degree requires 120 credits, which full-time students can finish in approximately four years.

APU students who are studying online use Desire2Learn to complete their coursework. This online fire science degree uses both theory and practice to teach future fire safety professionals techniques in both prevention and protection. Students are required to finish a senior capstone project and pass core classes, such as Emergency Planning, Fire Prevention, and Fire Dynamics. By the end of the program, alumni are prepared to apply for leadership roles in fire protection and emergency response organizations.

  • Financial Aid Recipients: 100%
  • Undergrad Online Enrollment: 37,335
  • Graduate Online Enrollment: 7,914
  • School Type: For-Profit
  • School Accreditation: HLC

Overview of Online Bachelor's in Fire Science Degrees

An online bachelor's degree in fire science is designed to enhance students' understanding of fire dynamics and emergency services administration. Core courses cover topics, such as fire behavior, fire prevention, building construction, and risk management. Electives provide deeper insights into topics including hazardous materials, public administration, homeland security, and fire protection systems. These programs are typically delivered as bachelor of science or bachelor of applied science degrees and require 120 credit hours to graduate. Most students take about four years of full-time study to finish, but a few colleges offer accelerated programs that may enable them to graduate sooner.

The admissions criteria for fire science programs are similar to those of other bachelor's programs, usually requiring the submission of a high school diploma that shows a minimum GPA of 2.5 or 3.0. Some programs also require enrollees to have worked as firefighters or emergency responders for several years. Applicants who don't meet all of the requirements may need to complete one or more prerequisite courses before starting the program.

If you're unsure about pursuing a fire science degree, you may want to consider programs in related fields. Learn more about online bachelor's degrees in emergency management, public administration, and homeland security.

How Much Does It Cost to Get a Fire Science Degree?

Earning a college degree can be expensive, but a distance learning program may be an effective way to save money. Some schools charge online students lower tuition fees and may even charge in-state tuition rates for out-of-state residents. Schools may also waive some additional fees for their on-campus services, and some fire science programs include textbooks in their tuition fees.


The average annual tuition for the schools on our list is $11,916, as compared to the average annual tuition at four-year schools across the country, which is $25,362.


Here are some additional ideas for reducing the cost of a fire science degree:

  • Complete your general education courses at a less expensive, accredited community college and transfer credits to a four-year university.
  • Take full 18-credit course loads at a school that charges a flat tuition fee for course loads of 12 or more credits.
  • Request a prior learning assessment, if available, to determine whether you can receive college credit for work or military experience.
  • Take advantage of school-provided military discounts and government-funded GI Bill benefits.
  • Investigate whether your employer is a learning partner at your school, as this may entitle you to a tuition discount.
  • Apply for all types of financial aid, especially scholarships and grants.

For additional college affordability tips, check out How to Make College Cheaper or explore our full range of resources about paying for a college degree.

Financial Aid for Online Fire Science Students

Students enrolled in online fire science degree programs may be eligible for many types of financial aid. Examples include federal, state, and college grants and scholarships, which students prefer because they don't have to repay these funds. Student loans may also be offered as part of a financial aid package, but students should thoroughly review a loan’s terms before accepting one. Federal and state loans typically feature lower interest rates and more flexible repayment plans. Students can apply for financial aid by filling out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). If they have questions about types of aid or aid packages, students should contact the financial aid office at their school.

Fire science majors may also want to check with professional organizations as well as state and local community agencies for privately sponsored scholarships. For example, the International Association of Fire Chiefs Foundation offers nine scholarships for associate and bachelor's degree seekers. The eligibility requirements and award amounts for these scholarships vary. Private scholarships usually require a separate application from the FAFSA, and application materials may include transcripts, letters of recommendation, and a personal essay.

What Can You Do With a Fire Science Degree?

The U.S., like so many regions around the world, is experiencing greater criminal activity and a growing number of natural disasters due to climate change. These forces are creating a growing need for college-educated professionals to assume leadership positions in fire safety and emergency response. Online bachelor's degrees in fire science help prepare graduates to assume these advanced roles, which include the following occupations:

Fire Inspectors and Investigators

Fire inspectors and investigators usually have firefighting experience and an associate degree or bachelor of science in fire science. Their work may involve searching buildings for public safety hazards and reviewing evacuation plans, or gathering evidence for fire and arson investigations. The median annual salary for fire inspectors and investigators is $64,610, and 1,700 new positions are expected to open annually between 2020-2030.

First-Line Supervisors

First-Line Supervisors of Firefighting and Prevention Workers are the highest-ranking officers in a fire department. They perform common managerial functions, including planning for resources, hiring and training staff, and monitoring budgets. Experienced firefighters usually need a bachelor's degree in fire science or a related field to obtain a position in fire service management. The median annual salary for this position is $78,870, and 5,300 job openings are projected each year through 2030.

Emergency Management Directors

Emergency management directors may work for state or local governmental agencies assessing potential hazards and formulating plans for emergency responses. If a disaster occurs, fire services administration coordinates with other local responders to implement their plans and oversee operations. Individuals usually need at least five years of related work experience and a bachelor's degree in fire science or emergency management to assume this role. They earn a median annual salary of $76,250, and 1,000 new openings are projected in the U.S. each year through 2030.

Accreditation For Online Fire Science Programs

Accreditation ensures college students receive a quality education that provides them with the skills, mindset, and knowledge they need to enter the workforce with confidence. Enrollment at an accredited college is also required to be eligible for financial aid, and it may be necessary for acceptance into graduate school. Colleges and universities typically earn regional accreditation, which indicates that an approved regional accreditation agency has evaluated all of their programs, faculty members, and student services. Alternatively, the Distance Education Accreditation Commission typically provides national accreditation status to schools that offer primarily online degrees.


Students should check a school's accreditation status before applying by searching the U.S. Department of Education or Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA) databases.


The International Fire Service Accreditation Congress (IFSAC), an accreditation agency authorized by CHEA, can grant programmatic accreditation to individual degree programs in fire science. Additionally, the Federal Emergency Management Agency has issued Fire and Emergency Services Higher Education Recognition certificates (FESHE) to some programs. While both IFSAC accreditation and FESHE recognition indicate that a fire science program has been modeled on standardized education criteria set by emergency service sector leaders, it’s important to remember that employers don’t typically require either.

Is an Online Bachelor's in Fire Science Worth It?

Firefighters and emergency response workers who want to move into managerial positions must have a bachelor's degree in fire science. However, prospective students should carefully examine their personal circumstances to determine whether the degree’s expected value is worth the investment of money and effort. The following pros and cons may help students make this decision:

Potential Benefits

A degree in fire science helps graduates qualify for higher-paying positions. Fire departments are typically organized according to a hierarchical structure, and the higher-paying positions in management, inspection, and investigation require a bachelor's degree.

Flexible online programs are well suited to working professionals. Firefighters often work 24-hour shifts that change from week to week, making it difficult to attend routine scheduled classes on campus. Asynchronous classes might make it easier for online learners to stay on track with their coursework.

Potential Drawbacks

Administrative jobs in emergency services can be dangerous. Commanding officers, inspectors, and investigators must work on-site at the scenes of fires, explosions, and other disasters. According to the BLS, these occupations have some of the highest rates of injuries and illnesses of all occupations.

The job market for leadership roles is competitive. Although the emergency service sector in the U.S. is calling for more college-educated professionals, the total number of job openings nationwide remains fairly small.

An online degree may not be a suitable fit for all students. Despite the flexible schedule inherent in online learning, some students learn better in a face-to-face setting where they can easily share and discuss real-world situations. It's important to consider personal learning preferences when deciding whether to enroll in an online program.

Frequently Asked Questions About Online Fire Science Degrees

Can I Get a Fire Science Degree Online?


Yes, you can study fire science fully online. Our list above features 20 of the cheapest online fire science degrees.

Should I Get a Fire Science Degree to Be a Firefighter?


No, becoming a firefighter does not require a fire science degree. Firefighters typically receive all the instruction they need at fire academies and through EMT and paramedic certifications and on-the-job training. Those who aspire to managerial positions, however, usually need an associate or bachelor's degree in fire science.

Do Firefighters With Degrees Get Paid More?


Firefighters with degrees may earn slightly higher salaries than their colleagues without degrees, but their annual salaries are still likely to be close to the median of $52,000, as reported by the BLS in 2021. However, a college degree, particularly in fire science, helps qualify experienced firefighters for positions in management — especially the highest ranks of assistant chief, deputy chief, and fire chief — and other specialized occupations related to emergency response services.

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