Although the curriculum is focused on assisting students who are currently firefighters with their career development goals, students with a variety of backgrounds have graduated from the program and pursued careers in the public sector fire services, or for private sector careers in safety, loss prevention engineering and risk management. Opportunities also exist for transfer into four-year baccalaureate degree programs in fire science, public safety, public administration, and emergency management and planning.
Nationwide, fire suppression and emergency response is a labor intensive growth industry. Careers in fire science and allied fields continue to increase.
- Overview of Programs
- Prior Fire Department Training?
Overview of Programs
By Assistant Professor Michael J. Ward
There is a huge amount of diversity in "fire science" academic programs. From community college credit for Firefighter I, to graduate engineering and hard science PhDs from universities.
Most fire departments do not provide preferential considerations for someone with a two- or four-year degree. If you are going to college to prepare for a career in fire-rescue, your best investment is to obtain paramedic certification.
Two-Year Community College Fire Science Programs
Associate of Applied Science (AAS) degrees are designed for a student to complete in PREPARATION for a career in a craft or trade (hospitality, allied medical technicians, mechanic, computer technician, business office skills, realtor, etc.) In general, completing an AAS in Fire Science DOES NOT increase your chances of getting hired.
AAS degrees are considered terminal degrees, which means they are NOT designed to prepare you to progress to a bachelor degree.
Most fire departments are still using 19th century municipal hiring practices. You are hired based on your potential (physical, mental and moral) and the recruit school will provide the needed job skills training. The majority of NOVA FIR students are already on-the-job and taking classes to prepare for promotion to technician, Lieutenant or Captain.
Four-Year Fire Science Degree Programs
There are three flavors of a four-year "fire science" bachelor degree.
The most academic challenging is the Fire Protection Engineering degree that is offered at the University of Maryland (College Park) and the Worcester Polytechnic Institute (Worcester, Mass.). These degrees are similar to civil, mechanical or electrical engineering programs with two years of higher level math, one to two years of hard science and about twenty engineering courses.
Completion of the program qualifies you to start working as an Engineer-In-Training (EIT) and eventually becoming certified as a Professional Engineer. Both universities offer master's of FPE.
Many four-year fire science degrees fall into the technology arena -- not as academically robust as an engineering degree. You receive a Bachelor of Science degree and you will have taken more math/science/engineering technology classes than the next flavor of degree, but you will not be prepared to sit for the Engineer-in-Training program or become a registered Professional Engineer.
Fire Technology bachelor programs include:
- Oklahoma State University
- Eastern Kentucky University
- University of New Haven
- John Jay College (N.Y.C.)
- University of Akron (Ohio)
- University of North Carolina Charlotte
- Thomas Edison State College (N.J.)
The third flavor is a four-year non-technology emergency service degree that will lead to a bachelor's in management, supervision, leadership, emergency services and more. It usually requires a year of English, a year of college level math and whatever other general education requirements are needed by that educational institution. Many are offered through distance education and most assume that the student has some emergency service experience.
Emergency service degrees include:
- University of Maryland University College
- University of Richmond (emergency management)
(UR is partnering with Fairfax County to offer classes in Northern Virginia)
- University of Florida
- Eastern Oregon University
- Arizona State University East
- California State Universities
- Holy Family University (Philadelphia)
- Lake Superior State University (Mich.)
- New Jersey City University
- Arkansas Tech University (FEMA Emergency Management)
- Anna Maria College (Paxton, Mass.)
- Charter Oak State College (New Britain, Conn.)
- University of Idaho
- University of Nevada, Reno Fire Science Academy (no degree but a very cool training facility)
Two universities offer bachelor degrees in EMS leadership/management that only require EMT-Basic certification:
There are other programs, check the following websites:
Prior Fire Department Training?
Get College Credit for Prior Fire Department Training
Credit received from training outside of the traditional academic environment is recognized as Advanced Standing Credit. You can read about the College's Advanced Standing Policies here.
The Virginia Community College System and the Virginia Department of Fire Programs (VDFP) have developed a guide to Fire Science Advanced Standing in a "Crosswalk" format for NOVA Fire Science students.
NOTE: The conversions in the crosswalk are one way.
The EMS program also has advanced standing to allow EMT-basic and enhanced personnel to bridge to EMT-intermediate, EMT-IS to bridge to paramedic, and allow paramedics to earn their AAS degree. For more information regarding the EMS program contact Michael Pariser, assistant dean of the program.
To obtain credit you already have for certifications that are listed in the Advanced Standing guide, you will need to bring copies of your certificates to the Student Services Center at any NOVA campus and fill out a Transfer Credit Evaluation Request form. Be sure to indicate that this is an Advanced Standing Request. There is no fee to have these credits transferred to your NOVA transcript.
The Fire Science Department is located at the Annandale Campus. It is recommended that Fire Science Students use the Annandale Campus Student Services Center, located on the 1st floor of the CA Building.
A more detailed list of courses from the Virginia Department of Fire Programs (including some courses not listed on the "Crosswalk") has been approved by the American Council on Education (ACE) for college credit.
Details on each of these courses, as well as conditions of approval and eligible course dates as of Spring 2010, are listed here. A summary of that information is in the table below. In order to get college credit for the entire list of classes you can get a transcript from ACE reflecting your training, which you can bring to the Student Services Center as described above. The VDFP has provided instructions on how to obtain an ACE transcript. Although NOVA does not charge a fee for credit transfers, ACE does charge a fee to compile your records and process your transcript request.
Virginia Department of Fire Programs Class Number of Credits What Will Show on Your NOVA Transcript Airport Fire Fighter 2 FST elective Arson Detection First Responder 1 FST elective Confined Space Rescue Technician 1 FST elective Driver/Operator Aerial Device 1 FST elective Driver/Operator Pump 2 FST elective Fire Fighter I 3 FST 100 (FF II also required) Fire Fighter II 2 FST elective Fire Inspector I 5 FST 115 Fire Instructor I 2 FST 135 Fire Instructor II 2 FST 136 Fire Investigator 6 FST 230 (3) and FST 231 (3) Fire Officer I 4 FST 140 Fire Officer II 3 FST 250 Fire Officer III 3 FST 255
Hazardous Materials First Responder at the Awareness Level
1 FST 111 Hazardous Materials First Responder at the Operational Level 2 FST 111 Health and Safety Officer 1 FST elective Incident Safety Officer 1 FST elective Leadership I: Strategies for Company Success 1 FST 237 (all 3 needed) Leadership II: Strategies for Personal Success 1 FST 237 (all 3 needed)
Leadership III: Strategies for Supervisory Success
1 FST 237 (all 3 needed) Training Operations in Small Departments 1 FST elective
Other Fire and Rescue training organizations have also been approved for ACE credit. If you have earned credits at any of these institutions they may be added to your ACE transcript.
Maryland Fire and Rescue Institute MFRI National Emergency Training Center (NFA) NFA National Emergency Training Center (EMI) EMI Fire and Rescue Training Institute, University of Missouri UMFRTI Fire Department of New York City FDNY Texas Engineering Extension Service TEEX West Virginia University Fire Service Extension WVUFSE
Credit for Experience by Portfolio
The final option for earning credit for training and experience is through the Prior Learning Activity Credit Evaluation (PLACE) program. PLACE is a student development course (SDV 298) that will allow you to assemble a portfolio of your experience and training/education, and use it to challenge for credits for a specific class. You can earn up to 15 credits with this method.
If you are considering SDV 298 PLACE, you are encouraged to contact the Credit for Prior Learning Office at 703-425-5835 or firstname.lastname@example.org. The SDV PLACE course is offered in-person on a NOVA campus and online through ELI.
Credit From Testing
It is possible to earn college credit by examination for many of the required courses, but this is not recommended for all students. For more information, check out the Advanced Standing handbook.
Transferring Credit to NOVA From Other Colleges and Universities
Credit is generally acceptable for transfer if it is earned from an institution that is accredited by the Commission on Colleges or the Commission on Higher Education by one of the regional accrediting agencies, and is comparable to the required course credit in the student's chosen NOVA curriculum. Credit also may be transferred from institutions if the Transfer of Credit Practices of Designated Educational Institutions, published by AACARO, states that credit from the institution is generally accepted for courses that are appropriate to the reporting institution's baccalaureate programs.
Credits earned at other post-secondary institutions usually do not transfer to NOVA, even if the institution is accredited through a commission other than those previously listed.
The instructions page for Form 125-049 is also a good resource. The form can be found in the NOVA Forms Library.
Policies are always subject to change. Students should always consult the most current version of the Advanced Standing handbook and the College Catalog. Check this site frequently for updates.
Remember that 25% of the credits used towards your degree must be earned through actual classes at NOVA, so even if you have advanced standing, PLACE credit, or testing credit for every class, you will not be eligible to graduate. Please contact a counselor or your advisor for more information.
For answers to the most commonly asked questions go to the FAQ page.