Fire science is a dynamic field of study that attracts students interested in environmental science, occupational safety, and natural resource protection. In addition, interdisciplinary bachelor's degree in fire science programs expose students to the fundamentals of other public safety services, such as police departments and emergency response agencies. In this way, the program differs somewhat from the associate in fire science degree, which gears students specifically for firefighter positions and completion of the Firefighter I Certificate, the most basic level in firefighter training.
Students who enroll in online bachelor's degree programs in fire science will receive comprehensive instruction pertaining to fire prevention and protection. Students learn to carry out their duties as a part of the public services delivery system, the success of which relies on teamwork. They will learn the legal frameworks that affect fire service, policy integration, and other fundamental aspects of the job.
Why a Bachelor's Degree?
Students who enter a bachelor’s degree program in fire science generally hope to secure a position as a fire inspector/investigator or management-level positions within the field. However, professionals from the public safety, fire service, and emergency preparedness fields must continually update their skills and knowledge. Local and state fire departments often require their employees to complete some sort of in-house training. Some professionals eventually assume managerial or leadership roles.
As is the case with most undergraduate degree programs, a bachelor’s in fire science program includes general education courses as well as courses related to the major field of study. Some students wish to complete a bachelor’s degree. They may be drawn to fire science, but unsure if they want to commit to this field post-graduation. For this reason, some students actually use the bachelor’s degree to explore related fields, such as forestry, conservation, or environmental education. The best fire science bachelor’s degree programs incorporate these related fields into the curricula and provide a well-rounded education for students.
Inside a Fire Science Bachelor's Degree Program
Though bachelor’s degree programs in fire science are highly specialized courses of study, students must take courses in math, history, English, and other courses that are generally required for undergraduate education. Students begin the major with introductory classes like ‘Introduction to Fire Protection,’ ‘Interactions of Hazardous Materials,’ and other courses that teach fundamental fire technology skills. As students progress, they will take upper-level classes like ‘Legal Aspects of Fire Protection,’ ‘Terrorism Incident Management and Emergency Procedures,’ ‘Managerial Issues of Hazardous Materials,’ and ‘Personnel Management for the Fire Service’
Most bachelor’s degree fire science programs take four years to complete. However, many online students require more time because they also hold full-time jobs. Fire service programs like Columbia Southern University offer students the opportunity to become certification through the Fire Department Safety Officer Association (FDSOA) with either the Incident Safety Officer Certification (ISO), or Health Safety Officer Certification (HSO). Students who work toward the ISO must take the programs ‘Fire Department Safety Officer’ class; those who seek the HSO need to complete ‘Fire Department Health and Safety.’
What’s Next for Fire Science Bachelor's Degree Holders?
Graduates of the program who are already certified firefighters may be promoted within the department. Those who want to become fire inspectors will receive additional training through academies and in on-the-job situations. The bachelor’s degree will serve these graduates well, as many employers look for candidates with a two- or four-year degree in fire science or related disciplines. Some students will continue their education by earning a master’s degree in fire science or environmental science, or a vocational certificate in wildfire/forestry conservation.
The Bureau of Labor and Statistics (BLS) reports that the projected rate of employment change for fire inspectors and investigators between 2014 and 2024 is 6%; median annual salary, as of 2014, was $54,020. In 2014, the median salary for firefighters was $45,970, job growth to 2024 is projected at 5%.