How Can I Become a Fire Protection Engineer?

Explore the career requirements for fire protection engineers. Get the facts about job duties, education requirements, professional licensure and the employment outlook to determine if this is the right field for you. Schools offering Fire & Emergency Services degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Does a Fire Protection Engineer Do?

Fire protection engineers use their knowledge of systems analysis or engineering to apply safety standards to projects or workplaces. Their primary responsibility is to ensure that workers are unlikely to get sick or injured from their job, as well as making sure property is unlikely to be damaged. They check machinery and equipment for compliance with safety standards, identify and fix any possible hazards in the workplace and make sure buildings comply with health and safety regulations. Fire protection engineers also install various safety devices, evaluate employee safety programs and stay up to date on all current regulations. These professionals are also the ones who investigate any incidents that occur and take measures to prevent them from happening again. Take a look at the following chart for an overview of how to enter this field.

Degree RequiredBachelor's degree
Education Field of StudyFire protection engineering, systems engineering, industrial engineering
Key SkillsPreventative systems design, regulatory knowledge, critical thinking, creativity
Licensure or Certification Licensure required in some states; certification is voluntary
Job Growth (2014-2024)6% (for all health and safety engineers)*
Average Salary (2015)$87,810 (for all health and safety engineers)*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

What Is a Fire Protection Engineer?

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) states that fire protection engineers (FPEs) are a type of public health and safety engineer; they may also be referred to as fire prevention and protection engineers ( One of your primary responsibilities in this role is to create procedures and systems to prevent illness, injury and property damage. You also need to be able to anticipate potential problems and to determine the most effective ways to resolve them.

In their capacity as health and safety engineers, FPEs assess equipment and facilities for code compliance. Other activities might include evaluating workplace safety programs and visiting accident sites. In the event of an accident, FPEs might interview witnesses and other relevant personnel to determine how the accident was caused. In some cases, they provide intervention and continued monitoring.

The BLS stated that FPEs tend to work with architects during the construction design phase to ensure that fire prevention systems are in place. You may also work closely with architects during remodels and other projects to ensure there aren't any code violations.

Do I Need a Degree?

Entry-level positions usually require a minimum of a bachelor's degree in chemical, electric, industrial or a related branch of engineering. Schools that offer cooperative programs may be especially beneficial because they allow you to obtain work experience while attending school. Another option you may want to explore is a five-year accelerated program, which combines bachelor's and master's degree programs. Since fire protection engineering is a growing specialty, there were only a few Bachelor of Science, Master of Science or Master of Engineering programs in this field as of 2012. These tended to be flexible programs that would enable you to work while attending school.

According to the BLS, a master's degree could potentially increase your employment options. For example, you might be able to immediately focus on designing, developing and applying safety systems. Coursework at the master's degree level focuses on the science of fire. This includes diffusion flame combustion, flame propagation mechanics and fire development prediction. Other coursework may include risk analysis, fire hazard assessment and probability studies. You may also have the opportunity to engage in special studies with a faculty member. You may be required to write a thesis.

Master's degree programs tend to last 1-2 years. While full-time study is recommended, you may be able to attend classes part-time, particularly within a distance education program.

Do I Need to Be Licensed or Certified?

The BLS reports that not all states require you to become licensed as a health and safety engineer. If you are licensed, however, you may be able to transfer your licensure to another state. The Accrediting Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET) states that you'll typically need to graduate from an ABET-accredited program, pass the Fundamentals of Engineering and Professional Engineering exams and have approximately four years of experience to earn state licensure (

There are two types of voluntary certification available for health and safety engineers, according to the BLS. The Certified Safety Professional is available through the Board of Certified Safety Professionals, and the Certified Industrial Hygienist is available through the American Board of Industrial Hygiene.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

A few related jobs include industrial engineers, occupational health and safety specialists and mining and geological engineers, all of which require at least a bachelor's degree. Industrial engineers aim to make production processes as efficient as possible. They analyze the process and eliminate any waste of time, energy or materials. Occupational health and safety specialists also monitor workplaces for compliance with health and safety regulations. However, they also work to prevent disease from spreading, as well as prevent damage to the environment. Mining and geological engineers design mines. They must make these areas as safe as possible so miners can remove materials like coal for utilities.

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