Brief Overview of "Fire Science Degree" 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
- Maryland is one of seven campuses running the NFA Degree-at-a-Distance Program
- 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 University Los Angeles
- 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:
- George Washington University
- University of Maryland Baltimore County
There are other programs, check the following websites: