- An associate degree program prepares students for entry-level roles in the fire science field and is the most sought-after degree program in this industry, according to Education-Portal.com. This two-year program is available at community colleges, vocational schools and technical/trade schools. To get into this type of program, students must have their high school diploma or GED. Some fire departments additionally offer accredited apprenticeship programs lasting up to four years, which includes programs in fighting forest fires, according to the U.S. Department of Labor Bureau of Labor Statistics. In addition, many entry-level firefighters receive training at a fire department's training center or academy, where they learn local building codes and how to use axes, fire extinguishers, ladders, chainsaws and other equipment. Almost all departments also require employees to complete emergency medical technician training. The U.S. National Fire Academy additionally offers fire training sessions.
- Students who are interested in fire science also can pursue a bachelor's degree. A bachelor's degree program in this field gives students the skills they need to fulfill leadership roles in the firefighting and fire technology industries. Some fire departments require employees to complete a four-year degree to become officers. To get into a bachelor's degree program, students usually need to submit personal essays, recommendation letters and even standardized test scores. Some colleges also provide online programs in this area of study. For example, Columbia Southern University in Alabama offers online bachelor's degree programs in fire science along with certificates and associate degrees.
- Entry-level courses in a fire science degree program might include firefighting tactics and strategy, fire protection, emergency services training in first aid and cardiopulmonary resuscitation, fire suppression, basic chemistry and fire hydraulics. More advanced courses might cover fire administration, public policy, fire prevention management, principles of fire behavior and management of fire incidents. Students also might study fire personnel management, safety leadership, arson investigation and management of hazardous materials.
- With a degree in fire science, individuals can find work in fire investigation, firefighting or fire inspection and become fire equipment specialists or fire marshals. Applicants for municipal firefighting jobs typically must pass a written exam, medical examination and physical tests. Bachelor's degree-holders also can work as fire officers/chiefs, fire safety officers, fire prevention officers or designers of fire protection systems. Program graduates can even work for government agencies such as the Joint Fire Science Program.
- The median annual wage of fire prevention and protection engineers in 2008 was $72,490, while the median annual wages of firefighters were $44,260, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Employment of firefighters is expected to grow by 19 percent from 2008 to 2018.