Getting Started: Associate Degree in Fire Science
Fire science degrees at the associate level are widely popular. Two-year programs in fire science introduce students to the fundamentals of emergency services, including fire personnel, first-response medical (EMTs and paramedics), police officers, and federal agencies involved in emergencies and disasters. The coursework then progresses into fire behavior, building construction, protection systems, prevention techniques, and strategy and tactics. Most associate degrees in fire science consist of 60 to 90 credits, with one-half to two-thirds of the credits focused on the fire science major.
Some associate degree programs allow students to specialize in a specific area of fire science. For example, students interested in the chemistry of fires may choose to specialize in fire investigation. This specialization can include classes such as Introduction to Chemistry, Chemical Concepts, and Advanced Fire Investigation. Students aspiring for leadership positions may be recommended to take courses in leadership, psychology, and interpersonal communication.
The A.S. in Fire Science Online: How (and Why) It Works
Associate-level programs in fire science may have fewer hands-on components compared to bachelor’s degree programs. This is because many two-year degrees aim to prepare graduates for fire service examinations. Aspiring firefighters, for instance, generally need to pass three exams before joining a firehouse: a written exam, a physical exam, and a psychological exam. The written test covers mathematics, human relations, problem-solving, memory, reasoning, and other knowledge, skills, and attributes. These elements can all be learned and honed online, similar to any distance learning program, through live video lectures, Skype chats with peers, virtual office hours with instructors, and various technologies and techniques.
In some cases, however, students may be required to spend a short time on campus or at a training facility to complete certain tasks. For example, in the case of the aforementioned student interested in fire investigation, the class in Chemical Concepts may require in-person lab work. This means that the online program is officially a “hybrid,” with most of the work completed online but with occasional visits to campus for face-to-face activities.
Featured Online Schools
Moving Up: The Fire Science Bachelor’s Degree
While an associate degree may be sufficient for many aspiring firefighters or fire investigators, some may seek further advanced study. Earning a bachelor’s degree in fire science, either on campus or online, can enhance knowledge in the field and, depending on specialization, prepare graduates for supervisory roles such as fire chief or fire marshal. In addition to basic fire and emergency services coursework, bachelor’s degrees may include engineering, environmental science, HAZMAT, OSHA regulations, and more. The specific courses taken depend on the college and program, many of which offer specific tracks based on geography and instructor availability. For example, western states may have more comprehensive wildland firefighting programs, while East Coast urban centers may offer more sophisticated opportunities in anti-terrorism and emergency management.
The Fire Science Bachelor’s Online
Online bachelor’s degrees in fire science operate similarly to online associate programs. However, four-year programs may require students to visit campus for a week or two at the beginning of each semester. For instance, the University of Cincinnati’s Open Learning Fire Service Program is primarily based online, but includes a one-week residency each July. During this residency, students complete necessary hands-on training requirements and experience living and working with peers in the profession.
Online bachelor’s programs in fire science can also be taken simultaneously with fire academy training. The University of Cincinnati’s four-year program, for example, emphasizes its value as a tool for promotional opportunities within the department, promotion through transfer, and for pursuing related careers outside of the department, such as fire insurance or industrial safety.
Fire Science Program Accreditation
Regardless of the type of program a student is considering, accreditation is crucial. It indicates ongoing quality and peer review by a qualified, unbiased agency. Most community colleges and four-year universities hold regional accreditation from one of the six Department of Education-approved agencies. Each agency assesses a school’s curricula, faculty, resources, leadership, infrastructure, and other factors. It is the ultimate stamp of approval that covers the institution’s individual programs as well.
Some programs, including business, nursing, engineering, and fire science, may also seek additional accreditation from specialized agencies. For fire science, the primary agency is the Fire and Emergency Services Higher Education (FESHE) Programs. The International Fire Service Accreditation Congress (IFSAC) may also endorse various fire science certification programs.