What is a Fire Science Degree?

Fire happens when oxygen comes into contact with fuel and a heat source. The field of fire science is dedicated to figuring out why and how fires start, how firefighters can stop them, and how to prevent them.

To this end, degree programs in fire science focus on fire combustion and behaviors, methods and materials for putting out fires, identifying the origin and cause of fires, and the evolution of fires codes. Because of the nature of the science, chemistry and physics are also a part of the curriculum.

Program Options

It is important to select a fire science training program that is accredited by one or more of the associations recognized by the National Fire Academy (NFA).

Two of the most prominent accrediting bodies are the International Fire Service Accreditation Congress (IFSAC) and the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges (ACCJC).

Certificate in Fire Science – Varying, Typically Short Duration
Certificate programs in fire science tend to focus on a specific area of the field, such as fire combustion and behaviors, fire prevention, or fire inspection. They may be as short as a day or a weekend in duration. Because they are typically not broad in scope, these programs do not provide students with a comprehensive fire science education.

Associate Degree in Fire Science – Two Year Duration
The Associate Degree in Fire Science is the most common degree held by those working in the field. Here is a snapshot of the curriculum’s components:

• Introduction to Fire Science
• Building Construction and Building Codes
• Essentials of Fire Fighting
• Fire Combustion and Behaviors – how fires start and react to chemicals, materials, temperatures, and fuels
• Firefighting Skills
• Firefighting Systems and Equipment
• Fire Hydraulics – water, foam, and other fire suppression agents
• Fire Inspection and Codes
• Fire Investigation – the nature and chemistry of fire, ignition, smouldering, spontaneous combustion, scene examination, origin, cause, determination of arson, electrical fires, upholstery fires, flashover (rapid fire growth), outdoor fires, evidence collection and analysis
• Fire Prevention
• Fire Service Management and Administration
• Fire Service Supervision / Fire Officer
• Fire Suppression – attack strategies and tactics for different kinds of fires
• Hazardous Materials
• Hazardous Materials Operations
• Multicultural and Diversity Strategies for Fire Science
• Principles of Fire Safety and Survival
• Rescue Techniques

Bachelor’s Degree in Fire Science – Four Year Duration
The four-year bachelor’s program in fire science combines courses in the major with general education and liberal arts classes. The core fire science classes are essentially the same as those offered at the associate level. The bachelor’s curriculum may be preferred by students who intend on pursuing senior level roles in firefighting and other areas of fire science.

Degrees Similar to Fire Science

Building Inspection
Degree programs in building inspection prepare students to work as building inspectors, who ensure that construction and renovation projects meet building codes and standards, zoning regulations, and contract specifications. Students learn how to recognize construction defects in areas like building foundations and frames, electrical wiring, plumbing, insulation, heating systems, drainage, and sewers.

Criminal Justice
Criminal justice is concerned with society’s response to crime. Degree programs in the field teach students about the agencies and processes that governments have created to control crime and punish those who violate laws. At the heart of training are the five components that make up the criminal justice system: law enforcement, prosecution, defense, courts, and corrections.

Emergency Medical Technology (EMT Paramedic)
Students who enrol in EMT degree programs learn the skills required to provide emergency medical care. The curriculum includes courses in medical terminology, patient assessment, and advanced life support such as performing respiratory procedures and administering IV fluids, injections, and medications.

Forensic Science
The objective of forensic science is to solve crimes by applying science and scientific methods to the justice system. Degrees programs in the field, therefore, train students to use cutting-edge techniques to examine and interpret evidence in criminal and civil cases. Because forensic science draws upon the sciences of biology, physics, and chemistry, these subject areas make up an important part of the forensics curriculum.

Forestry degree programs teach students how to conserve and manage forests through sustainable practices. This means the curriculum covers both preserving biodiversity, as well as producing wood products in ecologically responsible ways. Classes also address contemporary issues like climate change, carbon management, and how to plan and manage urban forests or green spaces in metropolitan areas.

Homeland Security
Homeland security degree programs prepare students to work in the areas of intelligence, counter-terrorism, border security, and emergency management. The typical curriculum addresses topics like intelligence methods, understanding terrorism, assessing perceived threats, emergency services, emergency exercises, disaster preparedness, and crisis communication.

Police Science
Degree programs in police science prepare students for all aspects of police and security work: patrolling, investigating, crime prevention, community relations, report writing.

Skills You'll Learn

While learning about fire science and developing the specific hard skills required to work in the field, students also cultivate a set of soft skills, which are valued across the job spectrum:

• Active listening and communication
• Attention to detail
• Critical / analytical thinking
• Ethics and integrity
• Investigative and interviewing skills
• Legal awareness
• Observation
• Operations planning and management
• Persistence
• Research / data and evidence collection and analysis
• Respect, empathy, and compassion
• Safety awareness and safety training skills
• Stress tolerance and management
• Technical report writing

What Can You Do with a Fire Science Degree?

These are the occupational categories in which fire science graduates predominantly work:

• Firefighting
• Fire department administration
• Forest / wildfire fire prevention
• Fire forensics / origin and cause investigation
• Arson investigation
• Building inspection / fire code inspection
• Government agencies such as the US Fire Administration (USFA) and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA)
• Fire prevention public education
• Fire science education at colleges, universities, and training centers
• Military
• Fire technology – fire prevention and firefighting equipment design
• Insurance – risk of fire damage assessment
• Freelance fire protection engineering consulting – emergency planning, fire protection, security system design, fire code compliance


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