Read about careers in the field of fire science, such as firefighting and fire inspecting. Explore the fire science degrees you could earn as an undergraduate or graduate student, and check the job requirements for various positions.
Is Fire Science for Me?
A fire is a chemical change that results when combustible material combines with oxygen from the air and releases heat, light and flames. Fire science is the study of the prevention and suppression of different types of fires. The career most commonly associated with fire science is that of a firefighter. However, there are many occupations that fall under the fire science category, such as fire safety officer, fire inspector, prevention specialist, hazardous materials specialist, arson investigator, emergency planner and chief fire officer.
The firefighter job is potentially hazardous and physically demanding and often requires long hours. As a firefighter, you could have other job duties, such as maintaining equipment, continuing your education and visiting schools and other organizations to teach about fire hazards and prevention. Some firefighters deal specifically with fires involving hazardous materials.
A fire inspector makes sure that public buildings and businesses are up to state and local fire codes. A fire investigator looks at evidence to determine the probable cause of a fire, while a forest fire prevention specialist spots and reports possible forest fires.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported that as of May 2013, the median annual wage for firefighters was $45,600 (www.bls.gov). The BLS reported slower than average job growth of 7% from 2012 through 2022, and competition for jobs was expected to be high. The median salary for fire inspectors and investigators was $55,440 per year as of May 2013. Forest fire prevention specialists and inspectors earned an annual median of $33,610 at that same time, per the BLS.
How Can I Work in Fire Science?
If you're courageous, responsible, service-oriented and physically fit, you might find your interest piqued by a career in the fire sciences. Becoming a volunteer firefighter also helps you get a foot in the door for a career in firefighting.
While a high school diploma may be all you need, a degree will definitely help in this highly competitive field. In studying fire science, you can expect to take courses in fire investigation, fire prevention, fire suppression, emergency response, hazardous materials and code enforcement.There are many different programs in the fire science field of study, depending on your career goals. For instance, you can earn fire science associate's degrees, including the Fire Science Wildland A.A.S. or the Fire Science Technology A.A.S. Bachelor's degree programs in fire science and even master's degree programs in fire technology are also available.
Because firefighters are often the first on the scene of car accidents, medical emergencies and disasters, EMT or paramedic certification could also give you an advantage when applying for jobs.