What Is a Fire Science Associate Degree?
Fire science is the study of the many facets of fire. An associate degree in fire science explores the tactics and tools employed in firefighting and emergency services. Fire science programs also cover fire behavior, fire codes, construction policies, and arson investigation. Additionally, many programs include internships, during which students gain hands-on experience working alongside firefighting professionals.
With the core knowledge and skills gained during an associate program, learners can go on to pursue bachelor's degrees in the field to advance into managerial and leadership roles. Classes in organizational leadership, emergency management, and arson investigation prepare students for future careers as code inspectors, fire chiefs, and fire engineers.
Graduates with degrees in fire science enjoy mostly positive job prospects. For example, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects firefighting jobs to grow by 5% and fire inspection jobs to grow by 8% between 2018 and 2028.
Why Earn an Online Fire Science Degree?
An online associate degree in fire science prepares students for careers in firefighting and emergency services. Learners study the technical and legal aspects of firefighting, fire regulations and codes, and public fire safety education. During their studies, learners gain the following skills.
- Understanding of Fire Services
Associate programs in fire science offer comprehensive information about the types of fire services available in urban, rural, and wildland settings.
- Problem-solving Skills
Learners study how fires spread and affect individuals and communities, as well as how to combat and prevent fire risks and outbreaks.
- Critical Thinking Skills
With training on preventing and fighting fires, students learn to identify the causes of different conflagrations. By thinking critically about fire, learners can also identify suspicious events and possible cases of arson.
- Communication Skills
As public safety professionals, firefighters may interact with individuals, families, and communities. Fire science students learn how to communicate with their colleagues and the public about fires.
Fire science curricula introduce students to firefighting professionals, administrators, and leaders through internship experiences, which may lead to improved employment opportunities for graduates.
Career and Salary Potential with an Associate Degree in Fire Science
Fire science degrees prepare students for careers as firefighters and emergency service workers in diverse settings. For instance, graduates may work as fire educators, inspectors, or investigators in urban, rural, or wildland locations. The following list outlines a few potential careers for graduates.
Median Annual Salary: $49,620
Projected Growth Rate (2018-2028): 5%
|Firefighters work shifts at firehouses (or on call), responding to medical and fire emergencies. They may drive fire trucks, maintain equipment, implement rescue protocols, and treat injuries. Continued training and drills keep firefighters physically and mentally prepared for their duties. Public services, such as educational programs, allow firefighters to interact with individuals, families, and communities.|
Median Annual Salary: $60,200
Projected Growth Rate (2018-2028): 8%
|Fire inspectors assess buildings and other structures to make sure they adhere to local, state, and federal fire safety regulations. They also keep records and produce reports based on their inspections. Fire inspectors may respond to fires directly to determine potential causes and continued risks. They may also provide guidance on evacuation and fire safety practices.|
|Emergency Medical Technicians and Paramedics||
Median Annual Salary: $34,320
Projected Growth Rate (2018-2028): 7%
|EMTs and paramedics provide medical care in emergency situations. They often work with police and firefighters. EMTs and paramedics transport sick and injured patients, maintain records, and keep their ambulances stocked and clean.|
|Hazardous Materials Removal Workers||
Median Annual Salary: $42,030
Projected Growth Rate (2018-2028): 11%
|Hazardous materials removal workers identify, handle, and dispose of potentially dangerous substances, such as asbestos, lead, and radioactive waste. They must abide by local, state, and federal regulations while moving and storing hazards. These professionals clean potentially affected equipment, educate the public about natural and human-made dangers, and keep records on disposal and cleanup processes.|
|Forest and Conservation Workers||
Median Annual Salary: $27,460
Projected Growth Rate (2018-2028): -3%
|Forest and conservation workers clear, maintain, and monitor forest and protected lands. They participate in controlled burns, clear brush and debris, and identify and remove potential fire threats. Forest and conservation workers also maintain the equipment used to construct firebreaks and other fire suppression and prevention features.|
Earning an Associate in Fire Science Online
When choosing where to earn their online associate degree in fire science, students should consider factors like the application process, curriculum, and degree length, in addition to their career goals. Students with prior college coursework, as well as those who plan to continue to a bachelor's track, should also research the transfer policies of prospective schools.
Students seeking to earn online associate degrees in fire science usually only need to hold a high school diploma or the equivalent. Application fees for associate programs typically range from $20-$100. Applicants usually need to provide official high school transcripts and they may also need to meet a minimum GPA requirement. Students with previous college coursework also need to provide college transcripts.
Associate programs in fire science may accept transfer credits from learners with relevant experience. For instance, students with past training in firefighting, hazardous material removal, medical services, or wildland firefighting may receive some credits toward their degree. Learners may also receive transfer credits for military training and service.
Students pursuing online associate degrees in fire science may take different coursework, depending on their program, although most curricula cover similar topics. Fire science programs typically include classes in fire prevention, firefighting tactics and equipment, and fire safety. Students also study fire policies, regulations, and laws.
Firefighting Strategy and Tactics
Firefighting strategy and tactics classes cover the management principles and practices used at the scene of a fire. Learners study how to combat fires in different locations with varying levels of severity. Students may use case studies and simulations to develop critical thinking and decision-making skills.
Principles of Fire and Emergency Services Safety and Survival
These classes cover the actions firefighters need to take as they perform lifesaving services. Students explore cultural and behavioral changes in individuals and communities while assessing how fire and emergency services impact safety and survival.
Fire Protection Systems
Fire protection systems coursework covers fire alarm systems, water-based fire suppression systems, water sources for fire protection, and different types of fire extinguishers. Students also learn about the mechanisms in place to combat fires and how to use and supplement these systems effectively.
Fire Behavior and Combustion
Fire behavior and combustion classes cover the chemistry of fire, in addition to how fires start, why they spread, and how to control them. Coursework introduces students to different scenarios, materials, and factors that affect fire and firefighting.
Managing Fire Service
Classes that cover the managerial aspects of fire service discuss topics like fire department budgets, maintenance, and human resources. Students may also explore educational and community programs that relate to fire safety and prevention.
Average Online Degree Length
Most online associate degrees in fire science include 60 credits. Full-time students can graduate in two years, while part-time learners may take three or four years to complete their program.
Students who earn an online fire science associate degree have the flexibility to balance school with work and family obligations. For instance, learners who work full time may take one or two classes each semester rather than a full course load. Students can also apply transfer credits and/or attend accelerated programs to expedite graduation, which may lessen the total cost of their degree.
Skills, Traits, and Knowledge Gained
Learners pursuing a fire science associate degree study what causes fires and how they spread, looking closely at materials and other factors that influence fire events. Fire science tracks also incorporate coursework on emergency medical treatment. First aid and lifesaving skills allow firefighters and other fire services professionals to provide medical attention at fire scenes and related emergencies.
Programs also introduce learners to building codes and safety regulations, preparing them to work as fire inspectors. Fire inspectors look for fire dangers and risks, make sure buildings and structures adhere to codes, and review evacuation protocols. Additionally, associate programs in fire science offer specialized training related to heavy equipment, resource procurement, and controlled burn tactics, preparing students to combat wildland fires.
Fire science degrees also build critical thinking and analytical skills applicable to careers as fire investigators. Fire investigators determine the cause of a fire by collecting evidence, interviewing witnesses, reconstructing the event, and performing simulations. Both fire inspectors and fire investigators keep detailed records and communicate with colleagues in verbal and written formats.
Fire science programs also teach learners how to educate individuals, families, and communities about fire safety. Firefighters may visit schools and community organizations to provide educational programs.
Accreditation for Fire Science Associate Programs
Accreditation ensures that a school meets certain academic standards. At the institutional level, schools may receive one of two types of accreditation: national or regional. Students who earn their degree from an accredited school expand their employment, education, and financial aid opportunities.
Regional accreditation typically applies to nonprofit, degree-granting institutions, while national accreditation applies to for-profit, vocational schools. Regional accreditation is generally considered the more prestigious of the two.
Programs within a school may also receive individual accreditation. Programmatic accreditation indicates that a specialized or professional program adheres to standards put forward by a third-party accrediting body, ensuring the quality and integrity of the degree. Fire science programs may hold accreditation from the International Fire Service Accreditation Congress. The U.S. Fire Administration also recognizes schools with fire science degrees as Fire and Emergency Services Higher Education institutions.
Professional Organizations and Resources
Fire science students and graduates can benefit from joining professional organizations. These organizations may offer resources like online discussion forums, job boards, and interactive mentorship programs. They may also offer continuing education opportunities. State and local government agencies provide additional resources for fire science students and graduates, such as information on fire safety rules and regulations and public initiatives to ensure fire prevention and safety.
NFPA provides comprehensive information on fire protection codes, standards, research, and training. Members enjoy access to publications, advocacy opportunities, trainings, and events. NFPA also provides public education programs, consumer information, and grant and award programs.
Founded in 2000, AFE brings together fire researchers and managers to promote the use of fire as an ecological process. Members gain access to networks of wildland fire professionals, annual conferences, and publications. AFE also offers certifications for wildland fire professionals and wildland fire academic programs.
IAWF facilitates communication among wildfire communities, government agencies, fire researchers, and fire professionals. Members gain access to webinars, the organization's magazine and journal, and scholarships. IAWF also holds annual conferences, provides employment information, and lists wildfire resources.
Next Steps: Continuing Your Education
The knowledge and skills gained while pursuing an online associate degree in fire science serve as a solid foundation for students who want to continue on to earn a bachelor's degree. Associate degrees incorporate general education courses with field-specific content, preparing learners to transfer into four-year programs in a variety of disciplines.
Transferring to a Four-year Degree Program
Earning an associate degree in fire science prepares students to transfer into a bachelor's program in the field. Students also gain the foundational knowledge needed to study emergency management, public policy, human services, and other related fields.
Students with an associate degree in fire science may transfer into a four-year program through an articulation agreement. Many schools hold these agreements with other colleges and institutions to facilitate the seamless transfer of credits. Learners interested in transferring should meet with their academic advisor to discuss their options.
Additional Degree Paths to Consider
The curriculum of an online associate degree in fire science builds knowledge and skills applicable to bachelor's degrees in fire engineering, emergency management, and public policy, among others.
- Bachelor's Degree in Fire Science: A bachelor's degree in fire science covers theories and strategies related to fire prevention, safety, and investigation. It also builds advanced skills in emergency management, hazard detection, and fire response.
- Bachelor's Degree in Forensics: The curricula for forensics bachelor's degrees incorporate interdisciplinary coursework in criminal justice, psychology, and law. Learners may take advanced coursework in evidence assessment, documentation, and analysis. Forensic programs also emphasize forensic procedures, theories, and concepts.
- Bachelor's Degree in Emergency Management: An emergency management bachelor's degree trains students to address natural and man-made disasters. Students explore emergency preparedness, response, and recovery, including theories, policies, and practices.