Most firefighter programs require only a high school diploma, but if you want to stand out from the hundreds of other applicants, you might want to consider getting an accelerated fire science degree online.
Although having an online fire science associate’s degree is recommended for firefighters, taking a traditional or online fire science bachelor’s degree program can help set you up for promotions.
You may climb the firefighting career ladder to fire chief, fire inspector, fire safety officer, fire prevention officer, or fire investigator. Some of these positions may require an on-campus or online masters in fire science, which a growing number of universities now offer.
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If you want to start a firefighting career, a fire science degree may get you noticed and accepted into a training program. If you are already working as a firefighter, going for your fire science degree can help you go further in your career.
Types of Accelerated Fire Science Degree Programs
Fire science is just a general term for an advanced degree in fire fighting. The types of degrees you can take will vary by each school as well as by the area that you want to pursue.
Some common options are:
- Bachelor of Science in Fire Administration
- Bachelor of Science in Fire and Emergency Services
- Bachelor of Science in Fire Protection Administration and Technology
- Bachelor of Science in Fire Science
With your degree, you may be ready for the next step on the career ladder.
Accelerated Fire Science Degree Programs Overview
A fire science degree can help prepare you for a field that is becoming increasingly professional. It’s not just about fighting fires anymore. The needs in fire science are bigger than they have ever been and can be more complex.
Your degree program can help you develop skills in:
- Facilitation and team organization
Your degree can also help you prepare for advancement and management roles. The classes you take can help you develop the knowledge needed to handle these more complex situations.
Classes will vary from program to program, but some common options are:
- Analytical Approaches to Fire Protection
- Critical Incident Management
- Disaster Recovery and Mitigation
- Fire Behavior and Combustion
- Fire Leadership and Ethics
- Fire Prevention
- Fire Protection Systems
- Management of Fire Related Human Behavior
- Multi-Agency Incident Command
- Natural Disaster Phenomena for Emergency Services
- Regulatory Issues in Fire and Emergency Services
These classes and those like them are designed to help you develop the knowledge and skills needed to stay safe and excel in your career.
Careers with an Accelerated Fire Science Degree
Becoming a frontline firefighter is not the only career you can pursue with a fire science degree. Most likely you will start there to gain experience, but there are many other directions you may go.
You might also pursue careers in:
- Emergency management
- Emergency medical services management
- Federal government programs with DHS, FEMA, HHS, and DOT
- Fire department management
- Insurance companies
- Private industries, such as oil companies
- State government programs
With such a wide range of jobs available, it is not surprising that there is a predicted job increase of 6% over the next 10 years, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Jobs in emergency management are becoming more necessary as situations become more complex.
The big question is: How much does it pay?
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, some careers in the fire science field and their average salaries are:
|Careers||Annual Median Salary|
|Fire Prevention and Protection Engineers||$94,240|
|Emergency Management Directors||$76,250|
|Fire Inspectors and Investigators||$64,610|
|Construction and Building Inspectors||$62,860|
|Forensic Science Technicians||$60,590|
|Occupational Health and Safety Technicians||$53,340|
|Fire Inspectors and Prevention Specialists||$42,150|
|Forest and Conservation Technicians||$38,940|
Besides your degree, your pay will also vary depending on your experience and location.
The Benefits of Online Accelerated Fire Science Degree Programs
If you are waiting to get into firefighting, you likely already know that you have to take written, physical, and psychological exams to be admitted to a firefighting training program, which can take some time. If you want to earn a degree to help you enter into a program, this can take even more time.
If you need to get your degree sooner, though, an accelerated online program can help. In fact, there are many benefits to taking an online accelerated fire science degree program.
Start When You Want
You don’t have to wait until September to start taking your classes in many online programs. Many universities offer new start dates each month.
In traditional college programs, students sit in class for 16 weeks to earn 3 credits. An accelerated online class offers you the option of completing your class in just 8 weeks. There is still a set start date and a date for when you will have to finish each class, but you may be able to earn your degree twice as fast.
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Work According to Your Schedule
Many online programs do not have set times for taking your classes. Instead of going to class at a certain time, you may log on and complete your coursework whenever you want. You won’t have to drive to school either!
3 Ways to Accelerate Your Fire Science Degree Even More
It typically takes earning 120 college credits (at least!) to get your degree, and that takes most people 4 years. These 3 powerful and yet simple techniques may burn years off your degree completion time.
1. Test Out of College Classes (Save Up to 1 Year)
Instead of taking classes, you may be able to just skip to the end and take the exam. This is a thing that almost all colleges will give you credit for.
If you are already familiar with the concepts of a class, such as mathematics, why bother sitting through the intro class to earn the credit? The College Level Examination Program (CLEP) can enable you to earn up to 30 credits just by taking the exams.
Each exam costs $89, plus any fees required by the testing center. You can register online and get the study guide. Once you feel you have studied enough, you can head in and take the exam.
You’ll have 90 minutes to complete 100 multiple-choice questions. If you get 50% right, you’ll earn the credits, usually 3, for that class. This means you can earn credits for a class that usually takes weeks to complete in just 90 minutes.
2. Get College Credit for Your Life and Work Experience (Save Up to 1 Semester)
What did you do before you started your fire science degree? Your previous life and work experiences may make you eligible for more college credit.
Military experience is a huge opportunity to earn college credit. The American Council of Education works with the US military to provide recommendations for credit based on military service.
If you don’t have military experience, you may still be able to get college credits faster by applying for Credit for Prior Learning through your employment and past experiences. You can fill out a portfolio listing your credentials and how you have already met the requirements of certain classes.
If you’re approved, you’ll be granted credits. You may earn up to 15 credits with this method.
3. Stay Continuously Enrolled with the Max Course Load
The first two ideas are for credit without taking classes, but now you have to buckle down and take those remaining classes.
You might think it is normal to only take 5 classes, or 15 credits each semester, which means earning 30 credits per year. That is normal, but it is not the only way.
Most universities will let you take up to 6 classes, or 18 credits, each semester. Also, did you know that most schools don’t shut down all summer? You might have the option of taking online classes right through the summer, earning you another 18 credits.
Working overtime year-round could potentially net you 54 credits in just 12 months.
Bonus: Transferring Your Existing College Credits
If you have taken any previous college classes, you might be able to use the credits you earned for your fire science degree. Many schools will allow you to transfer credits in as long as:
- You earned the credit from an accredited school
- You got at least a C in the class
Even if your old class doesn’t fit into your new degree, you may still be able to use it to fill an elective spot. That’s still one less class to take and pay for!
How to Lower Tuition Costs
If you want to save money on tuition, you may try to take fewer classes.
If you use Credit by Exam to earn 30 credits, you’ll only pay around $890, plus testing center fees, for those credits instead of the cost of tuition. Submitting a portfolio for Credit for Prior Learning may cost you $1,500 in processing, but you may also earn up to 15 credits.
Earning credits in this way could potentially save you thousands of dollars.
The next step is to file for financial aid. Filling out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) can allow you to discover which federal grants and loans you are eligible for.
You can also apply for aid from:
- State funds
- University scholarships
- Private organization scholarships
- Employer assistance
All of these sources of funding can add up and may be worth looking into.
Fire Science Degree Accreditation
The one shortcut you should never take is to get a degree from an unaccredited school. Reliable schools will be recognized by other universities and by future employers, so it is important that your college or university is regionally accredited.
You can also look for programmatic accreditation from one of these national specialty boards:
- Fire Administration and the Fire and Emergency Services Higher Education (FESHE) program
- The International Fire Service Accreditation Congress (IFSAC)
Accreditation from a regional board and one of these program-specific boards can help ensure your degree is valid and will be recognized by employers and other schools.
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How Long Does It Take to Get a Degree in Fire Science?
If you enroll in a traditional on-campus program, it will probably take you a full 4 years to earn the necessary 120 credits. You may, however, be able to finish in 18-24 months if you test out of classes, submit a portfolio for prior learning, and take accelerated classes year-round.
What Can I Do with a Degree in Fire Science?
Most fire science graduates work with local fire departments, but you may also find employment in the private sector, working for companies that deal in flammable materials, such as oil companies.
Where Can I Get a Fire Science Degree?
More colleges and universities are offering this degree. You may earn a fire science degree on campus through a 4 year degree plan, or you may take the same classes online in an accelerated program and finish in about half the time.
Which College Has the Best Fire Science Program?
It depends on your educational needs and interests. It is wise to choose schools that have regional accreditation to ensure your school will be recognized.
Some of the best fire science programs will also have programmatic accreditation, such as accreditation from the Fire Administration and the Fire and Emergency Services Higher Education (FESHE) program or the International Fire Service Accreditation Congress (IFSAC).
Answer the Call of Duty!
Fire fighting is a serious and risky business, but the field is no longer just about fighting fires. It is more than that. The field includes public education, fire inspections, training, and community outreach to teach fire prevention and make lasting changes to communities.
If you use the tips above and enroll in an accelerated fire science degree program, you might be able to finish in as little as 18 months from your start date and begin pursuing the career you feel called to.