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Home > Campuses & Centers > Annandale > Academic Divisions > Business and Public Services > Fire Science > Overview

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.

WPI - Fire Protection Engineering Program
UMD - Department of Fire Protection Engineering

One of the undergraduate degrees offered by the University of New Haven is for Fire Protection Engineering, but it appears NOT accredited by the appropriate engineering council.

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:

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:

Two universities offer bachelor degrees in EMS leadership/management that only require EMT-Basic certification:

There are other programs, check the following websites: