Guide to Getting Your Fire Science Associate Degree Online
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The term "fire science" encapsulates both a field of study and a career. Fire science careers include occupational areas such as:
- Fire code investigation
- Fire prevention education
- Emergency response
Fire science professionals often find positions in the field challenging but rewarding, as they help minimize risk to life, property, and the environment.
Graduates who earn an online fire science associate degree can find work that takes place in an office setting, in roles such as emergency dispatchers. Other professionals — including firefighters, investigators, and educators — engage in frequent travel and fieldwork.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects growth rates for fire science occupations to increase in the coming years. For example, the BLS projects firefighter and fire inspector positions to increase by 8% and 11%, respectively, from 2020 to 2030.
Earning Your Fire Science Associate Degree Online
The rapid growth of distance learning opportunities has allowed more students to pursue higher education while still meeting personal and professional obligations. According to National Center for Education Statistics data, nearly 18% of all U.S. college students enrolled in courses exclusively online.
Students earning an associate degree in fire science online have the flexibility to:
- View lectures remotely
- Complete assignments from home or while traveling
- Have no set log in times
Additionally, online learning often eliminates costs associated with commuting and on-campus housing.
Though most online fire science associate degree programs do not require on-campus participation, some do include internships, which distance learners can complete locally. Similarly, online students may need to complete some proctored exams at approved testing centers.
How Long Does It Take to Earn Your Fire Science Associate Degree Online?
Associate degrees typically require 55 to 70 credits of general education coursework and major classes. Full-time students usually earn their fire science associate degree online in about two years. Part-time learners may require more time, depending on how many courses they take each term.
Prospective students should keep in mind that some fire science careers require training or education in addition to an associate degree, such as EMT and paramedic certification for firefighters and state certification for fire inspectors.
Admissions Requirements for a Fire Science Associate Degree Online
Associate programs typically offer relatively simple entrance procedures for college degree seekers. Prospective students typically need to possess:
- A high school diploma or GED
- Minimum GPA from 2.0-3.0
- ACT or SAT scores
- Official or unofficial copies of their transcripts
- Proof of any certifications or training
Schools with open admissions policies may not require standardized test scores, and others may waive this requirement for certain students, such as those with some previous college experience.
While associate programs rarely require work experience, students may receive college credit for fire department training or experience.
Courses in a Fire Science Associate Degree Online Program
Students completing a fire science associate degree online usually take general education courses in areas including science and math, along with classes in their major. Fire science students develop an understanding of fire behavior, chemistry, and safety. They also learn to analyze and apply fire prevention and protection strategies.
Curricula vary by school, but the fire science courses listed below are common among many of the best associate programs in the field.
This course introduces students to the basic principles of fire chemistry, the combustion process, and fire behavior. The class may cover the effects of fire behavior on individual firefighter safety, compare fire fuels, and discuss different fire extinguishers and suppression agents.
This introductory course teaches fire prevention history and philosophy. Students learn about the historical development of fire prevention methods, examine the organization and structure of modern fire prevention bureaus, study fire safety codes and standards, and develop a basic understanding of fire inspection procedures.
Schools often deliver this topic in consecutive introductory and advanced courses, emphasizing vital principles, practices, and practical skill development. Students view lectures, examine case studies, and participate in simulations to make critical and effective decisions at fire scenes.
This course may focus on structural design related to firefighting, fire inspection, or both. Coursework introduces students to various building types, constructions, and designs, and learners prepare to assess hazards in different buildings. Other topics may include building codes, fire inspection procedures, and firefighter and occupant safety.
Students in this class gain theoretical and practical knowledge on water use in fire protection scenarios. The course often covers water supply problems, water distribution systems, firefighting apparatus design (e.g., hoses and pumps), and forces that affect water at rest and in motion.
Job and Salary Outlook for Online Associate in Fire Science Graduates
After earning an associate in fire science online, graduates qualify for job opportunities that involve indoor or outdoor work, vary in intensity and personal risk, and require dealing directly or indirectly with fire prevention or suppression activities.
Potential Careers and Salaries
Firefighters respond to emergencies, control and extinguish fires, and protect the community and environment. Basic entry-level requirements typically include a high school diploma and EMT certification. An online fire science associate degree can increase a candidate's marketability and responsibilities on the job.
Median Salary: $52,500
Fire inspectors examine buildings and outdoor areas to detect fire hazards and adherence to local, state, and federal fire codes. Fire inspectors typically start as firefighters before pursuing this more advanced occupation. Earning an associate degree in fire science online can increase a candidate's knowledge and employability.
Median Salary: $62,120
Dispatchers answer emergency and non-emergency calls and determine appropriate responses. They also relay information to first-responders and coordinate their dispatch. Training requirements for this position vary by state, but earning an associate in fire science online can improve an aspiring dispatcher's job opportunities.
Median Salary: $43,290
EMTs and paramedics respond to emergency medical situations, provide necessary care to sick and injured individuals, and transport patients to hospitals. Medical first responders must complete postsecondary training and maintain licensure. EMTs can improve their public safety knowledge by earning an associate in fire science online.
Median Salary: $36,650
Accreditation for a Fire Science Associate Degree Online Program
When selecting an online school, accreditation should be one of the most important considerations for prospective students. Accreditation involves a third-party evaluation of a school's policies, curricula, faculty, and student resources.
Most regionally accredited schools only accept transfer credits from other regionally accredited institutions.
Online fire science associate degree programs may also hold field-specific accreditation. Programmatic accreditation requires a focused, career-specific evaluation of departmental standards and program offerings. Fire science programs may hold accreditation from the International Fire Service Accreditation Congress or the Fire and Emergency Services Higher Education recognition program. Programmatic accreditation is voluntary, and some reputable fire science programs do not hold field-specific accreditation.
Online Associate in Fire Science Scholarships
Associate degrees require fewer credits than bachelor's degrees and are often available at affordable community colleges. Nonetheless, the cost of higher education can still be overwhelming. Fortunately, students can apply for scholarships to help ease the financial burden of pursuing an online fire science degree. Students can pursue scholarships through their school's financial aid department and by applying for awards offered by private individuals, nonprofit organizations, and companies.
Who Can Apply: This award supports undergraduates taking at least 12 credits of classes at one of CSHEMA's member institutions. Students in a program leading toward an EHS career, such as fire protection, receive preference.
Who Can Apply: The IAFC Foundation offers several annual scholarships to assist the educational pursuits of current and future fire service leaders. Applicants must have paid or volunteer experience with a fire department.
Who Can Apply: Applicants must be Phi Theta Kappa members in good standing who have completed at least 50% of the coursework of an eligible public safety program. Students must also hold a minimum 3.5 GPA.
Who Can Apply: Phi Theta Kappa members in good standing can apply for this award. Applicants must have completed at least 50% of the coursework of an eligible public safety associate degree program with a minimum 3.5 GPA.
Who Can Apply: This annual, merit-based scholarship is open to students who are currently attending or who plan to attend an accredited two-year or four-year program in any field of study. Applicants must submit a 250-word personal statement.
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