Online Associate Degree Programs in Fire Science

The Most Affordable Paths & Career Potential in Fire Science

To work as a firefighter you can earn either a post-secondary certificate or an associate degree in fire science; however, earning an associate degree qualifies you to make more per year on average. For instance, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that firefighters make $49,620 per year, while PayScale shows that professionals with associate degrees in fire science can make an average of $63,000 per year.

Earning a fire science associate degree online introduces students to how fire behaves, basic firefighting techniques, and types of fire safety codes. This guide introduces what you can expect from a fire science degree, as well as the jobs available to graduates.

What Will You Learn in an Online Associate Fire Science Program?

Associate degrees in fire science usually include general education courses, as well as core coursework to prepare you to work as a firefighter. Students learn the tactics that firefighters use to put out flames in the wild, in residential houses, and larger buildings. You also learn how to keep yourself and others safe during emergencies, inspect buildings for fire hazards, and investigate the causes of fires. While the coursework that fire science programs require may vary slightly, there are several common courses that colleges include in their fire science plans. Below are some of the classes you can expect to take, along with a summary of course content.

Common Classes and Coursework

Fire Behavior and Combustion

This introductory course explores how fires start, spread, and are put out. Students learn the physics and chemistry of fire in order to effectively fight fires.

Firefighting Strategy

Students examine the methods used to combat flames, including the type of structures and the kinds of fire they may face. This course also outlines how firefighting teams work together in these emergencies, and how to react quickly to changing situations.

Fire Prevention and Inspection

The best way to fight a fire is to keep it from ever happening. These courses teach firefighter candidates to conduct inspections of buildings, look for potential fire hazards, and make recommendations for change.

Arson Investigation

After a fire subsides, professionals use fire science technology to gather and analyze evidence from the site of the fire in order to determine its origins. This course is particularly useful for candidates who want to move into leadership positions.

Fire Administration and Leadership

Learners explore the dynamics that affect fire fighting teams, as well as how to complete the required paperwork in firefighting. This course prepares future fire captains or other management jobs in fire science.

Skills You Will Gain

A fire science associate degree online provides comprehensive preparation to work as a firefighter. Students learn the characteristics and behavior of fire, and then explore the numerous strategies that firefighters can use to put out different types of flames. These skills allow you to quickly assess a scene, determine the kind of fire you are facing, and determine what steps you need to take to stop the inferno.

Learners also gain emergency management skills in order to assess the immediate danger of a situation, keep people calm, and rescue those in need. The investigation skills you learn can also help you determine whether a fire started from natural causes or arson. Additionally, firefighters must inspect buildings for potential fire hazards, such as blocked exits and exposed wires. Many programs also require candidates to complete some in-person hours, which teach students some of the physical aspects of fire fighting, including putting on the gear and carrying the hose.

Average Degree Length

Most fire science associate degrees can be completed in about two years, provided students begin with no transferable credits, enroll full-time, and choose a traditional semester schedule. However, this timeline can vary if you take courses part-time due to professional or personal commitments. Some students may also earn their associate degree in fewer than two years if they:

  • Already have general education credits from an accredited college
  • Earn credits through testing
  • Enroll in an accelerated program
  • Take summer classes

It's important to note that schools may not accept all transfer credits. For example, some institutions only accept credits from regionally accredited schools, or credits that were earned recently. Schools may be more likely to accept transfer credits only if they cover similar subjects to those in a fire science program. Additionally, accelerated programs offer alternative schedules that allow you to graduate in fewer than two years, if taken full-time.

Career Opportunities With an Associate Degree in Fire Science

While many students complete a fire science associate degrees online to work as firefighters, this is not the only available career path. This degree can prepare you for many emergency management and prevention careers. Below, you can find more information on the types of jobs available and different fire science salary levels.

Potential Careers and Salaries

Most careers in fire science are found through government organizations. For example, firefighters, fire inspectors, and fire captains often work for municipal governments, such as cities and counties. Forest and conservation workers work for national parks and state government agencies, while hazardous material removal workers can work for agencies or contracted private companies.

The information below details the average pay for several fire science jobs, along with a brief description of their responsibilities. It's important to note that several factors influence a fire science salary, including location, years of experience, and level of education.

Firefighter

These professionals work for municipal governments to put out fires and complete inspections. They often work in long shifts that require them to stay at the firehouse for 24-48 hours at a time.

Average Annual Salary: $49,620

Fire Inspector

Fire inspectors investigate the causes of fires. They may work alongside police and detectives if they suspect arson. Unlike other fire science professionals, these workers typically do not work shifts in the fire house.

Average Annual Salary: $60,200

Forest and Conservation Worker

While many employers only require a high school diploma, an associate degree can help make candidates more competitive. Forest and conservation workers work to prevent fires and other disasters in forests. They spend most of their day outdoors.

Average Annual Salary: $27,460

Fire Captain

After several years of experience as a firefighter, you may earn a promotion to fire captain. These professionals oversee firefighters both at the station and during emergencies.

Average Annual Salary: $68,897

Hazardous Materials Removal Worker

Many employers require these workers to hold high school diplomas and finish on-the-job training; however, a fire science associate degree online can help you stand out in the application pool.

Average Annual Salary: $42,030

Fire Science Scholarships to Apply For

Students have numerous options to pay for their education, such as loans, grants, and scholarships. While loans are a traditional source of funding that students need to repay, scholarships are essentially free money that students can use to cover the cost of tuition, books, and living expenses. Scholarships are available through both public and private organizations, and can be distributed based on merit, cultural background, or financial need. You can also find scholarships through professional organizations, colleges, or your employer.

International Association of Fire Chiefs Foundation

  • Who Can Apply: The IAFCF offers several scholarships for students who want to become first responders, and current fire fighters who wish to continue their education.
  • Amount: Varies


Chief James G. Yvorra Award for Fire and Emergency Services Responders

  • Who Can Apply: The Yvorra Leadership Development Foundation invites fire science students to apply with three letters of reference, and an essay about how they plan to use their education.
  • Amount: Varies


Employer-Sponsored Scholarships

  • Who Can Apply: If you currently work as a firefighter with a certificate, your department may cover tuition for you to earn your associate degree. Depending on the department policies, you may receive an award to cover your full tuition.
  • Amount: Varies


Scholarships from Professional Associations

  • Who Can Apply: Statewide or regional professional associations for firefighters often provide scholarships for fire science students. These organizations may require applicants to provide references, write an essay, or send transcripts.
  • Amount: Varies

Educational Advancement in Fire Science

A fire science associate degree online provides firefighters a great start to their career; however, an associate degree is also terrific preparation for further education. For example, additional certificates and degrees can help you earn more money, move up in the chain of command, and give you more flexibility in your career. Below are just a few of the options available after you earn an associate degree in fire science.

Should You Transfer to a Four-Year Degree Program?

A bachelor's degree in fire science can give you a deeper understanding of fire, emergency management, and fire prevention. Many associate degrees in fire science transfer into four-year degrees, and degrees from regionally accredited colleges have the best chance of transferring. If your credits apply, you can earn a four-year degree in just two more years. Accelerated programs can help you earn this diploma even faster. Many of the scholarship opportunities apply to bachelor's degrees as well.

What Degree Paths Should You Consider?

A bachelor's degree in fire science is not the only education option after you earn an associate degree. Depending on your career goals, you may wish to earn one or more of the following degrees or certificates. These credentials can allow you to grow in your career and earn a higher fire science salary.

    Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) Certificate

    Many emergency departments want their firefighters to work as EMTs or paramedics. You can often earn additional pay if you take on both roles.

    Paramedic Associate Degree

    With an additional associate degree, you can work as both a firefighter and a paramedic. Many municipalities include increased pay for professionals who hold this degree.

    Bachelor's Degree in Emergency Management

    A four-year degree in emergency management can allow you to fill management positions in emergency departments at the local and state levels. Many credits from associate degrees in fire science transfer to these programs.

Professional Organizations and Resources

Professional organizations, industry publications, and job boards can help students and established firefighters alike connect with one another and stay up-to-date on trends in the field. Listed below are a few resources.

Everyone Goes Home

This organization aims to improve safety conditions for emergency workers. The website outlines ways you can stay safe in the line of duty.

Fire Jobs

This online job board guarantees the accuracy of every posting on the site. You can find jobs from around the country, as well as resources for getting hired for your first fire science job.

Fire Rescue Magazine

This online and in-print magazine gives you access to articles about the state of firefighting, web series for rescue professionals, and professional development resources. You can also connect with others in the online community.

Firefighter Nation

This website promises to bring you the latest news on fire science, community resources, and professional development training. You can also watch firefighting videos and order their print magazine.

Firehouse

This online magazine covers topics such as leadership, equipment, fire science technology, training, and safety. The articles can help you stay up-to-date on firefighting topics and best practices.

FireRecruit

This website lists firefighting jobs and related careers across the United States. You can also find a list of fire academies and financial assistance opportunities.

FireRescue1

This website includes a shop for safety equipment, training tips, grants for education, and firefighting news. The website also includes a job board for positions from across the country.

Government Jobs

This website includes jobs from all levels of government, including municipalities and states. You can find firefighting, emergency management, and EMT positions. Search by job function or location.

International Association of Firefighters

This professional association gives members access to training tools, safety programs, pension information, and financial help. Members can apply for a Union Plus credit card or scholarships.

National Volunteer Fire Council

Firefighters can join this association and their state association. The organization lobbies for the interests of firefighters, helps keep rescue workers safe, and recruits new graduates.