15 Great Careers in Fire Science

  • Firefighter
  • Emergency Medical Services
  • Investigation
  • Law Enforcement
  • Forensic Science
  • Battalion Chief
  • Fire Alarm Technician
  • Public Safety Telecommunicator
  • Fire Protection Engineer
  • Emergency Management Director
  • Smoke Jumper
  • Wildland Fire Ecologist
  • Law Enforcement Officer
  • Fire Science Faculty
  • Forensic Science Technician

Diverse fire science degree jobs are available to do public safety work protecting communities. Fire science is a technical discipline focused on how fires behave. Fire science students learn how to control, extinguish, and prevent blazes from destroying property and lives. Not many people know that this college program exists, but you can work towards a fire science degree. Fire science majors go for jobs that put them right into a fast-paced, physical environment like fighting fires. Fire science majors also utilize their education for administrative jobs, including fire chief. At one time, fire science degrees were restricted to traditional careers in firefighting and investigation. Today, the scope has been widened to include fields from emergency management to forensic science. This article will outline 15 great fire science degree jobs and the academic requirements to excel in each one.

What are Fire Science Degree Programs?

Image of firefighter for our article on fire scienceFire science degrees are post-secondary programs that cover the essentials of fire safety. College students can major in fire science at four levels: certificate, associate, bachelor’s, and master’s. Fire science certificates are short-term collegiate training options with only 12 to 40 credits of occupational courses. Fire science associate degrees are two-year, 60-credit technical programs at community colleges. Fire science bachelor’s degrees have four-year, 120-credit university curricula to advance beyond entry-level roles. Fire science master’s degrees range from 30 to 48 credits at graduate schools to prepare for upper-level administration work. A few colleges, such as Oklahoma State University and the Worcester Polytechnic Institute, even have fire science doctorates. Getting a fire science degree entails taking specialized, college-level courses online or on campus. Here are some common fire science courses:

  • Firefighter Basic Skills
  • Fundamentals of Fire Prevention
  • Firefighter Safety and Survival
  • Emergency Vehicle Operators
  • Fire Behavior and Combustion
  • Emergency Medical Services
  • Building Codes and Ordinances
  • Public Safety Risk Management
  • Fire Protection Engineering
  • Water Supply Operations
  • Fire Service Administration

Getting all As in fire science courses is not the only curriculum goal though. Fire science degrees require intensive, interactive, training that will be essential in your job ahead. Fire science majors need to learn the tools of the trade, including extinguishers, ventilators, air chisels, and axes. Computer labs to master incident command system software are included. Fitness tests and exercise courses are required to ensure the physical endurance for firefighting. That is another essential area of the fire science field. Fire science programs often partner with local fire departments for on-site job shadowing visits. Students generally complete at least one internship or cooperative education placement for fieldwork. For instance, the U.S. Fire Administration hosts the Volunteer Internship Program in Emmitsburg for sophomores, juniors, and seniors with minimum 3.0 GPAs. Depending on the degree level, fire science programs could end with a capstone project or master’s thesis research.

Which Fire Science Degree Jobs are Available?

People mistakenly assume that every fire science degree graduate becomes a paid firefighter. Indeed, fire science degrees are an excellent way to qualify for a fire academy. Fire academies are rigorous job training programs that last 12-14 weeks full-time for 600+ hours. Attending a fire academy often requires being between 18-45 years old and a high school graduate or GED recipient. Having a fire science degree exceeds the experience requirements. Most fire academy programs mandate passing physical fitness tests, medical exams, criminal background checks, and mental health screenings too. Trainees are tested with real-life burning building simulations. Fire academy recruits must complete training drills, such as moving hose lines and dragging life-sized dummies. Going the fire academy route is not the only path forward though. Let’s dive into 15 different, yet related fire science degree jobs.

An image of a firefighter in our list of 5 Great Careers in Fire Science

1. Firefighter

Firefighters are the real superheroes who rush toward rather than away from crises. Firefighters wear flame-retardant gear and compressed air breathing apparatus to enter burning structures. Firefighters plan building escapes to save people and animals from major burns or death. Firefighters perform basic first aid to injured fire victims until EMTs or paramedics can arrive. Firefighters utilize hoses, extinguishers, and pumper tanks to put out blazes with water or chemicals. Besides fires, firefighters are trained to respond to car accidents, plane crashes, drownings, natural disasters, and more. Firefighters know how to contain hazardous materials during events like oil spills and nuclear plant explosions. Becoming a firefighter requires attending a training program sponsored by the National Fire Academy. Fire science degrees give the opportunity to climb the ranks of the fire department faster.

2. Emergency Medical Technician

Emergency medical technicians are courageous ambulance personnel who deliver life-saving first aid during crises. EMTs respond quickly to 911 calls for critically ill and traumatically injured people. EMTs make split-second decisions to determine a person’s medical state. EMTs regularly treat victims of fires, vehicle accidents, heart attacks, strokes, overdoses, and more. Emergency medical technicians can provide basic clinical care, such as CPR and oxygen. EMTs lift injured or sick persons onto wheeled gurneys for ambulance transport to hospitals. Upon arrival, doctors and nurses count on EMTs to convey the patient’s vital signs for fast emergency room action. Emergency medical technicians keep detailed records of each case and keep the ambulance stocked with clean equipment. EMTs need a postsecondary certificate or associate degree from a fire science school and national certification.

3. Paramedic

Paramedics are advanced pre-hospital care providers who have longer training than EMTs to save the most critical patients. Paramedics work on ambulances and helicopters to deliver extensive treatment in transit. Unlike EMTs, paramedics are qualified to administer drugs by mouth or an intravenous (IV) line. Paramedics use more complex medical machines, such as electrocardiograms. Paramedics respond to the same critical emergencies as EMTs. In extreme cases, paramedics can even deliver babies and transport newborns in incubators. Rural fire departments require a certain percentage of their staff to be paramedics. The purpose of this is, if a local emergency medical service company is unavailable to respond to a call, the fire department can step in and assist. Paramedics build atop EMT basic training with an associate-level degree and passing National Paramedic Certification exam score.

4. Fire Investigator

First investigators are inquisitive detectives who examine burned buildings or landscapes to determine the cause of fires. Fire investigators are meticulous in collecting evidence, such as gas cans or bomb parts, from the scene. Fire investigators re-enact the blaze to identify where it started and spread. Fire investigators talk to eyewitnesses, property owners, and engineers to put together pieces of the puzzle. There may be a clear answer like faulty wiring or a lit cigarette. However, fire investigators may launch a criminal arson case too. Fire investigators need to document every ounce of evidence with pictures, diagrams, and scene samples to pursue justice. Fire investigators usually have the power to arrest arsonists and testify in courtrooms. Fire investigation is a competitive workforce. Having a fire science degree gives an edge over other job applicants. Most fire inspectors transition from firefighting.

5. Fire Marshal

Fire marshals are detail-oriented prevention specialists who aim to detect fire hazards long before they can ignite. Fire marshals inspect residential and commercial buildings from the inside out. Fire marshals are employed by local, state, or federal government bodies to enforce legislative building codes. Fire marshals determine when buildings fail to comply with safety codes and issue citations for code violations. Fire marshals test protective equipment, including smoke detectors, carbon monoxide alarms, and sprinklers. Fire marshals set the capacity limits for large, safe gatherings of people. Fire marshals consult with new developers about code-abiding architectural plans. Fire marshals also help prevent wildfires by only issuing burn permits in the correct conditions. Most agencies prefer hiring marshals with a fire science associate or bachelor’s degree and Certified Fire Inspector (CFI) status.

6. Battalion Chief

Battalion chiefs are the senior-level commanding officers who supervise the rank-and-file firefighters of one station. Battalion chiefs are the highest on-duty officers to ensure daily operations run smoothly. Battalion chiefs generally report to the district chief and fire commissioner. In smaller municipalities, battalion chiefs might only report to the fire chief. Battalion chiefs set the fire department protocol that dictates how firefighters work. Battalion chiefs oversee every member of that unit, including lieutenants and captains. Battalion chiefs direct emergency responses from the sidelines to ensure team members stay staff. Battalion chiefs lead training activities that keep firefighters sharp. Battalion chiefs sign off on all important paperwork like budgets and personnel files too. Becoming a battalion chief requires working up the ladder from firefighter. Fire science degrees can help competitors for the coveted role.

7. Fire Alarm Technician

Fire alarm technicians are high-tech equipment installers who wire protection systems that warn of fires. Fire alarm technicians are assigned clients’ cases to put in smoke and heat detectors. Fire alarm technicians use various tools, such as drills, cable pullers, and conduit benders, for a proper installation. Fire alarm technicians must know local building ordinances to ensure equipment exceeds code. Despite their name, fire alarm technicians often work on placing CO2 monitors, sprinkler heads, and radon detectors in homes or businesses too. Fire alarm technicians run maintenance tasks to ensure the technology is functional when needed. Fire alarm technicians do system tests and take readings with meters. When glitches are detected, fire alarm technicians devise a troubleshooting plan for a fast, effective fix. Fire alarm technicians do not need a degree but can benefit from studying fire science.

Image of a fire alarm for our article on fire science

8. Public Safety Telecommunicator

Public safety telecommunicators are the unruffled, patient dispatchers who respond to 911 calls and send emergency response crews. Public safety telecommunicators man the telephone lines to answer when people in need of assistance. Public safety telecommunicators talk with people to determine the nature of the emergency. Dispatchers send this vital information to prepare first responders for coming to the scene. Public safety telecommunicators have computer software to triangulate a caller’s location and watch the progress of response teams. Meanwhile, 911 dispatchers keep callers calm and verbally guide them through basic first aid steps. In times of disaster, public safety telecommunicators must garner enough info to triage or prioritize calls. Dispatchers also report fake or prank calls to law enforcement. Though a degree is not mandatory, 911 dispatcher is another of the fire science degree jobs.

9. Fire Protection Engineer

Fire protection engineers are the creative masterminds who design new cutting-edge equipment to mitigate fire hazards. Fire protection engineers brainstorm prototype ideas for products that prevent or suppress flames. Fire protection engineers utilize in-depth knowledge of fire behavior to effectively control blazes. According to the Society of Fire Protection Engineers (SFPE), more than 5,000 members in these fire science degree jobs save people and properties from destructive fires. Fire protection engineers create the manufacturing blueprints for sprinklers, extinguishers, emergency ladders, hose valves, air packs, chimney snuffers, and more. Fire protection engineers test equipment after production to guarantee safety regulation compliance. Most aspiring engineers must earn a bachelor’s or master’s degree in fire science. Fire protection engineers also take the PE exam for licensure.

10. Emergency Management Director

Emergency management directors are diligent disaster preparers who create plans to allay bad situations when they arise. Emergency management directors get community resources ready in case of natural disasters from tornadoes to tsunamis. Emergency management directors also devise strategies for preventing and mitigating man-made tragedies like terrorist attacks and train derailments. Emergency management directors work with municipal leaders to budget funds for predicted and unforeseen crises. Emergency management directors coordinate with fire, police, and EMS departments plus hospitals for their response plans. When disaster strikes, emergency management directors lead first responders and volunteers to save lives as well as property. Emergency management directors oversee the distribution of supplies and use of facilities like schools or community centers as shelters. Most emergency management directors have public safety experience and bachelor’s degrees in fields like fire science.

11. Smokejumper

Image of a parachute for our article on fire science

Smokejumpers are the brave, high-flying parachutists who leap off planes to attack wildfires from inside the inferno. Smokejumpers combine their skydiving and firefighting skills to suppress flames sweeping through dry forests. Smokejumper crews contain tight-knit groups of physically fit men and women who get deployed to wildland fires. Smokejumpers don their jumpsuits and protective gear for drops into remote wooded areas at risk of burning. Airplanes drop further equipment, including food, water, and sleeping bags, for smokejumpers to stay on-site for days. Smokejumpers stay in contact via radios and flares to signal fire control progress. There are currently nine U.S. Forest Service and two Bureau of Land Management crews of smokejumpers. Joining these elite groups requires past wildland firefighting or hotshot experience. Having a fire science degree background could help.

12. Wildland Fire Ecologist

Wildland fire ecologists are the skilled, studious scientists who conduct research to better understand how wildfires happen. Wildland fire ecologists investigate the role fire plays in maintaining a natural, healthy forest ecosystem. Wildland fire ecologists test how fires influenced the growth or mortality of trees and other vegetation. Wildland fire ecologists are involved hands-on in taking soil and plant samples from burn areas to determine changes to nutrient levels. Wildland fire ecologists are concerned with environmental problems from climate change and continued deforestation globally. Wildland fire ecologists may study the effect of fires on the foraging or reproductive habits of native animal species, including endangered ones. Wildland fire ecologists also consult when the U.S. Forest Service plans to safely ignite prescribed fires. Aspiring wildland fire ecologists need at least a fire science bachelor’s degree.

13. Law Enforcement Officer

Law enforcement officers are the valiant, uniformed cops who are responsible for protecting lives and policing a jurisdiction. Law enforcement officers are sworn to respond to emergency calls, including fires, to keep the public safe. Law enforcement officers patrol neighborhoods to search for signs of illegal, criminal behaviors. Law enforcement officers work on assigned cases to surveil suspects, conduct warrant searches, and make arrests. Law enforcement officers write up detailed reports on their gathered evidence to ensure criminal justice in court. Law enforcement officers can work toward so many other careers, including detective, sheriff, warden, and FBI agent. Law enforcement officers can be hired with anything from a high school diploma to a bachelor’s degree. Having a fire science degree in one’s back pocket increases the probability of being accepted into a police academy.

14. Fire Science Faculty

Fire science faculty are passionate post-secondary teachers who develop college courses to train the field’s next generation. Fire science faculty can be full-time, tenured or part-time, adjunct professors at two- or four-year institutions. Fire science faculty write course syllabi to outline the readings, assignments, and projects students must complete to pass. Fire science faculty deliver inspiring, interactive lessons that teach the fundamentals of firefighting. Fire science faculty are responsible for grading papers, exams, oral reports, and more to determine each student’s content knowledge. Fire science faculty hold office hours to counsel students about their courses and future career. At universities, fire science faculty generally have a master’s or Ph.D. degree to engage in scholarly research. Community colleges hire fire science faculty with bachelor’s degrees and relevant field experience though.

15. Forensic Science Technician

Forensic science technicians are clever crime scene investigators who amass physical evidence to aid police cases. Forensic science technicians wear gloves, masks, and bodysuits to preserve an exact crime scene. Forensic science technicians utilize special tools to collect fingerprints, DNA samples, blood sputter, weapons, and more. Forensic science technicians take photographs to recreate the crime in detailed sketches. Forensic science technicians run scientific analysis with microscopes to test every fiber of cataloged evidence. Forensic science technicians help link suspects to criminal acts from sexual assault to arson and murder. Forensic science technicians do not necessarily need a forensics degree, especially with a fire science bachelor’s degree on hand. Forensic science technicians are trained on the job to partake in criminal prosecution at law enforcement and government agencies.

What is the Job Outlook in Fire Science?

The Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that all protective service occupations will grow 3 percent by 2028 for 95,200 new fire science degree jobs. Firefighters will see 5 percent job growth for 17,600 new U.S. openings. EMTs and paramedics can count on a 7 percent hiring increase for 18,700 jobs. The employment of fire inspectors will jump 8 percent for 1,300 positions added. Forest fire prevention specialists will experience much faster-than-average job growth of 24 percent for 500 openings. The demand for fire protection engineers will rise 5 percent for 1,400 jobs. Emergency management directors can expect 5 percent, or 500, new jobs created. The need for 911 dispatchers will expand by 6 percent for 5,500 positions. Environmental scientists, including wildland fire ecologists, will see 8 percent more jobs. There will be 5 percent, or 37,500, more law enforcement officers by 2028. Forensic science technicians will also benefit from a 14 percent market uptick for 2,400 openings. In May 2019, fire science degree jobs had a mean annual wage of $54,650. America’s highest-paid fire chiefs make up to $350,000 yearly.

Related Resource: Top 10 Associate’s in Fire Science Degrees Online

It is important to find fire science degree jobs that are going to be lucrative and beneficial to you. Nonetheless, you want to choose a fire science career that interests and excites you as well. The perfect candidate for a fire science degree is one who wants a fast-paced public safety job. Fire science majors must have the ability to analyze information, create scenarios, and mitigate life-threatening situations quickly. Fire science students put their genuine care for their community and society to good use. While working toward a fire science degree, give some thought into which jobs to apply before after graduation. Consider getting an internship ahead of time to line up a job down the road. Fire science degree jobs are generally in high demand with above-average pay and personal satisfaction.