When people think about earning a fire science degree, they often imagine becoming a firefighter. But in reality, a degree in fire science can prepare students for scenarios within a variety of occupations and industries related to protecting and serving. Online fire science programs are also providing more students with opportunities to pursue their bachelor’s degree in the field than ever before. From forestry or environmental management to more traditional fire management and safety positions, find out more about why earning an online degree in fire science may be a valuable and rewarding choice for you, and explore how to get started below.
Overview of Fire Science Degrees
Catastrophes demand skilled professionals with the skills to manage devastating fires and prevent future outbreaks. These emergencies frequently involve fire, which mandates competencies in fire protection, defense planning, investigation, and system design.
Fire service professionals find earning a fire science degree online enhances their skills and allows them to apply their knowledge to real-world challenges. While many programs offer most of their classes online, some may require in-person studies to ensure students gain hands-on experience.
The career outlook for fire science graduates is positive. The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects the number of fire inspector jobs to increase 10% by 2026. This anticipated surge is due to the attention necessary to assess potential hazards in new residential, commercial, and public buildings.
Admission criteria for a fire science degree online program varies by school. However, when applying to earn your bachelor’s in fire science online you will be required to submit an application and a high school transcript. Some schools may require either SAT or ACT scores.
The best programs for an online fire science degree will also require you to submit a personal statement about why you wish to earn this degree and how it will help you achieve both your academic and professional goals. In addition, expect to submit letters of reference from professional and/or academic references and possibly a resume.
What Will I Learn?
A fire science bachelor degree online blends textbook and hands-on learning through field experiences. This blended approach allows you to put lessons learned into action. Classes explore topics like fire laws and safety codes, fire investigation, and fire prevention. You can also expect to deepen your understanding of disaster and emergency management. While these courses specifically relate to your major, general education credits can prove equally important. For example, your physics and chemistry classes help you understand the properties of fires and the environmental issues that arise because of them. In addition, coursework in liberal arts strengthens your ability to communicate in writing, a skill professionals in fire science need to draft investigative reports, recommend policy, and articulate safety procedures.
Earning a fire science degree online requires approximately 120 credits, comprised of 60 general education credits, 25 elective credits, and 35 credits in fire science. The following courses are some you can expect to take when studying for your fire science bachelor degree online. Classes will vary by school, but these examples provide an idea of what courses will be offered.
Principles of Emergency Management
In the course, you learn the complexities of emergency management and the intricacies of the all-hazard approach to overseeing catastrophic situations. In addition, you study the four phases of disaster while examining the country’s disaster policy. Your ability to assess what happens in the aftermath of floods, earthquakes, hurricanes, and even terrorist activities strengthens the analytical abilities careers in the field mandate.
Legal and Political Foundations
This class examines the myriad legal and political issues that arise in fire service professions. Students study the U.S. legal system, including its relevance to personnel and employment. You also take a closer look at the legislative protocols involved in fire service and what it means to plan and enforce fire-related codes.
Fire and Emergency Services Administration
This class prepares you to oversee fire and emergency services departments. These competencies include developing and adhering to a budget and problem-solving to both mitigate and overcome crises. In addition, you learn how to work across government models that include local, state, and federal legislative bodies. This includes studying collective bargaining, which allows administrators in the field to achieve intended outcomes.
In this class you examine methodologies for analyzing fire-related research. You will deepen your knowledge of how to design, execute, and evaluate your own independent research. Some areas of emphasis may include fire test standards, structural fire safety, and firefighter well-being.
Psychology of Disaster
This class explores the mental trauma of disaster and strategies for coping with it. Specific topics include Critical Incident Stress Management and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. Students study how mental trauma impacts those affected in the short- and long-term, including victims and responders.
Decision-Making for Fire & Emergency Services
This class teaches you techniques needed to make important decision when fires and other emergencies occur. These include understanding what data to gather and how, determining resource allocation, conducting cost-benefit analysis, and performing utility modeling.
What Can I Do with an Online Bachelor’s Degree in Fire Science?
A fire service online degree helps students develop a range of competencies through coursework that prepares them for the field and the workplace. The following sections discuss the competencies you can expect to gain from your studies and the kinds of careers they prepare you for. You will also gain a sense of the responsibilities and salaries of these professions.
Earning your online fire science degree develops your reasoning and problem-solving skills. These prove critical as you may face life and death situations that require outstanding judgment at a moment’s notice. Not only must you possess critical thinking capabilities to assess situations and determine next steps, but you must also demonstrate creativity when doing so. Your degree also builds leadership and collaboration skills.
Career demands in this field include strategic planning to oversee administrative tasks, reduce risk through mitigation efforts, and manage response and recovery as efficiently as possible. Your studies strengthen these capabilities, often by developing your project management know-how and capacity. You must also remain cognizant of the ethical issues surrounding fire and emergency management.
Potential Careers & Salaries
Completing your bachelor’s in fire science online means you are an expert in fire prevention, emergency response, fire safety, arson, fire investigation, and fire administration. The leadership and critical thinking skills you learn will prepare you to lead teams of colleagues. You also understand the importance of policy, legislation, project management, and fiscal matters. These competencies prepare you for employment in many sectors, including government agencies, nonprofit organizations, and private businesses. You may already work in a fire science role in one of these sectors but earning your undergraduate degree positions you for promotion and advancement. Your degree equips you for success in disaster management and humanitarian aid organizations, fire departments, and police departments.
Browse Bachelor’s in fire-science Careers
Emergency Management Director
These experts devise strategies to respond to disasters and emergencies. In addition to leading response efforts, they help reduce risk before disaster occurs and strive to effectively oversee response and recovery efforts in collaboration with the government and nonprofit organizations.
Emergency Response Coordinator
Professionals in this role support emergency services organizations. They often oversee teams of emergency response personnel. In addition, they design emergency response procedures and procure emergency supplies.
Firefighters help protect communities when disaster strikes. This includes extinguishing fires that destroy homes, forests, and public property. They also serve as first responders to catastrophic situations, and often offer medical assistance during emergencies. They may even help rescue pets and hurt animals.
Fire inspectors make sure certain facilities comply with fire safety codes. Their responsibilities include reviewing fire safety plans and fire extinguishing systems. Government agencies and emergency response firms often employ these professionals.
Police or Detective
Detectives enforce the law by leading investigations of criminal activities, which can include arson. They gather and analyze evidence, identify witnesses and suspects, and develop cases that a district attorney’s office can prosecute. Their work requires questioning those connected to the crimes they investigate, drafting detailed reports, and testifying in court.
Will I Need a Graduate Degree for a Career in Fire Science?
You may find that your bachelor’s in fire science online primarily qualifies you for entry-level positions. While no doubt meaningful, you can better qualify for mid-level, leadership, and even specialized roles if you decide to pursue a master’s degree. A graduate degree allows you to develop advanced skills that further demonstrate your knowledge and expertise. In a master’s-level program, you can focus your coursework on an area of interest, such as fire management, fire engineering, or public administration.
However, know that you can still advance in your career without earning a graduate degree. Employers appreciate extensive experience and recognize a willingness to work hard and lead by example. These qualities can also help you successfully transition into management positions.
Accreditation for Fire Science Bachelor’s Programs
When deciding where to enroll for your fire science degree online, make sure to choose an accredited program. Accreditation signifies the program meets specific criteria. Many fire science programs hold accreditation through national and international agencies such as the International Fire Service Accreditation Congress. Other agencies that accredit and certify fire science programs include the National Fire Academy, Society of American Foresters, and Fire and Emergency Services Higher Education Initiative.
If you select a fire science program without accreditation, make certain to enroll in an accredited university. Your college should hold either regional or national accreditation. Seven regional agencies accredit most schools in the U.S. Other universities may hold national accreditation through agencies like the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools.
Fire Science Professional Organizations
Students and professionals in the fire science field benefit from membership in professional organizations. These associations provide networking opportunities and help connect members to jobs in the field through job boards and word-of-mouth. They also keep members updated on trends and practices in fire science through conferences, symposia, and continuing education seminars. These organizations represent fire investigators, firefighters, fire inspectors, and other experts in fire science-related careers.
National Fire Protection Association
Established in 1896 to eliminate injury, death, and property loss due to fire, this organization shares the latest news on fire protection policies and standards. Members can request industry professionals as mentors, participate in virtual job fairs, and attend conferences and expos.
International Association of Firefighters
This association provides members career resources, ongoing learning opportunities, and updates on legislation important to the profession. Representing more than 313,000 firefighters and paramedics in the U.S. and Canada, students and professionals can join through either a local affiliate or union.
Society of American Foresters
This organization dates back to 1900 and represents 12,000 members, including wildfire management experts and forest fire prevention specialists. It offers certification opportunities in addition continuing education opportunities. In addition, its jobs boards connect members to employment.