Basic Elements of Online Fire Science Degree Programs
Fighting fire is about more than just hooking up a hydrant and pointing the hose in the right direction. A great deal of skill, research, and training go into effective firefighting, and several online colleges offer degrees in the subject, for those who want to enter a career in firefighting, or get promoted to a higher position in the industry.
Preparedness is the key to good fire suppression. Degree programs in fire science offer courses not only in the methods of fire prevention and suppression, but in fire scene investigation, management, and aspects of community services. Some courses you can expect to take as part of a fire science curriculum include:
- Fire Protection Hydraulics and Water Supply: Water can be equally as destructive a force as fire, and the amounts of water being handled by firefighters at high pressure can do a lot of damage to people and property if misdirected. Knowing how to safely harness the power of the water that comes out of fire hydrants or a pressurized tank truck is a crucial skill for any fire suppression specialist.
- Apparatus Operations: This course will teach you how to use the specialized equipment employed by firefighters in their line of work. There are best practices for using everything from a fire truck to an axe, and making sure that every firefighter on a squad is following the same procedures is a necessary safety precaution.
- Fire Protection Code and Standards: Different areas have different standards and laws regarding how they deal with fires, and the point of this course is to give a general overview of the core elements of fire protection code.
- Construction Documents and Plans Review: This course is geared toward people who aim to become a fire inspector. It involves examining building plans to assure that they have the proper number of emergency exits and no fire hazards, such as bottlenecks in high traffic areas, or rooms with improper ventilation.
To learn more about Fire Science programs as well as other programs in related fields, check out the links below.
Fire Science Career Opportunities
It may seem obvious that people who go to fire science want to become firefighters, but there’s plenty of job variation within this field. State and national forest services hire fire suppression specialists to protect national parks or other public land that is vulnerable to fires sparked by lightning strike or other natural causes. City fire departments need dedicated workers and leaders, and someone with a fire science degree will more naturally rise into a leadership position than someone without.
Some career paths you could enter after completing an online fire science program include:
- Firefighter: This one is the most obvious. You could work for a city fire department as a first responder, which entails a lot of waiting around and short periods of intense activity. You’ll rush to the scenes of reported fires and work with a team of other trained and fit firefighters to suppress the fire and minimize the damage and loss of life caused.
- Fire Chief: This position is reserved for someone who has put in years of dedicated service at a fire department, and has shown leadership and management capacity as well as the ability to work well under pressure.
- Forest Services/Park Ranger: Fire is actually a necessary part of the lifecycle in many ecosystems, and national parks are often subjected to “controlled burns” where a carefully demarcated area of grass or woodland is burned to make way for new growth. However, these fires need to be carefully monitored, and there are still uncontrolled fires that crop up and have to be dealt with. There are plenty of job options for someone who knows how to manage fire on a grand scale in the national forest service.
Scholarships and Other Financial Aid Options for Fire Science Degree Programs
Financial aid is available for students in nearly any discipline, and especially those who are working in public service fields. The government offers the following grant and loan options for any qualifying student:
- Perkins and Stafford Loans (Subsidized or Unsubsidized): Some people don’t consider loans to be a form of financial “aid,” but the government’s loan offerings have far more favorable interest rates and repayment terms than just about any
- Pell Grants: These grants are available for students who are in financial need and can prove it. The grants can be worth up to $5,000 per school year, and are renewed each year based on continuing eligibility.
- Tax Credits: The Lifetime Learning credit is an opportunity offered by the IRS that allows you not to pay taxes on money that would normally be taxed, as long as that money went toward education expenses. This can save you about $2,000 per year, depending on your income and college costs.
- The Post 9/11 G.I. Bill: This program offers education financial aid to current or former members of the armed services and their families. You can take courses online while serving in the military, or take them when you’re not on a tour of duty, and your family can take advantage of these funds at any time with your go-ahead.
The above are basically your best options for financial aid for a fire science program, although borrowing from friends and family, or simply working while taking classes and paying cash up-front are also viable ways to pay education expenses.
Getting Promoted with a Fire Science Degree
One big reason to consider getting an online fire science degree is if you already work as a firefighter or related career, and want to be promoted into a management position. Showing leadership potential to your superiors is always the first step, but earning a degree takes you to the next level of knowledge and skill in the field, and shows a lot of commitment to doing the work.
Some fire departments may even pay for their promising employees to take night or online classes when they’re off the clock. If you already work as a firefighter, check with your employer whether they offer financial support for continuing education.
Salaries for Firefighters and Related Careers
Firefighters work long shifts, sometimes up to 24 hours, most of which are spent at the fire station waiting for a call. They eat, sleep, and do other time-consuming activities while remaining prepared to react when an emergency call comes.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics quotes a figure of $45,250 as the median annual salary for firefighters, and while there are over 300,000 firefighters employed in the U.S., the career is seeing slower than average growth.
A fire science degree is also a good credential for someone who wants to become a fire investigator or inspector. Rather than fighting fire, investigators visit buildings and check them for fire hazards and determine whether they are in compliance with local fire codes. This career is less dangerous than that of firefighter, but does not carry as much possibility for excitement. Fire inspectors do get paid better than firefighters, though, with a median annual salary of $52,230. Usually, fire inspectors are hired from a pool of applicants with upwards of five years of experience in fire suppression or a related field, so it is hard to get this job right out of college, but is a prospect for anyone looking to move into a more bureaucratic position instead of being on the frontlines as a firefighter.
Other careers with some similarities in training and duties to firefighters include emergency medical technician (EMT), paramedic, police, and corrections officers.
Picking a Fire Science Degree Program
Online fire science degree programs are not as common as some courses of study, but there are plenty out there and picking one that both prepares you for your career and fits your scheduling and budgetary needs is important. Talking to some firefighters or other fire science professionals that you know is a good way to find out about the education options that worked for them, or this site has resources to help you find a program and decide whether it is right for you. The list of schools below is a good place to start in your search for a career changing degree program in fire science.