Online Fire Science Associate Degree

What You’ll Learn & What You Can Do After Graduation

The term "fire science" encapsulates both a field of study and a career. As a study, fire science examines aspects like the behavior of fire, fire prevention, fire alarm and suppression systems, firefighting tactics, and fire investigation. Fire science careers include occupational areas such as firefighting, fire code investigation, fire prevention education, and emergency response. Competition for firefighting jobs, in particular, can be fierce. Fire science professionals often find positions in the field to be 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 primarily in an office setting, in roles such as emergency dispatchers. Other professionals — including firefighters, investigators, and educators — engage in frequent travel and fieldwork. Industrialization and urban growth continue to spur demand for firefighters, fire inspectors, and other fire science professionals.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects growth rates for fire science occupations to increase in the coming years. For example, the number of firefighter and fire inspector positions are projected to increase by 7% and 27%, respectively, from 2016-2026. According to the BLS, entry-level salaries for fire science professionals range from $49,000-$62,000, depending on an individual's location, experience, and employer.

Earning Your Associate in Fire Science Online

The rapid growth of distance learning opportunities has allowed a greater number of students to pursue higher education, while still meeting personal and professional obligations. According to data from the National Center for Education Statistics, nearly 15% of all U.S. college students enrolled in courses exclusively online in 2015.

Students earning an associate in fire science online have the flexibility to view lectures and complete assignments from their homes or while traveling. Asynchronous course delivery, which requires no set login times, is especially convenient for busy professionals and students with families. 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 on-site 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 55-70 credits of general education coursework and major classes. Full-time students usually earn their fire science associate degree online in about two years. Alternatively, part-time learners may require 3-5 years, 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.

Admission Requirements for an Online Associate in Fire Science

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 requirements often range from 2.0-3.0, and most schools require applicants to submit ACT or SAT scores. 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.

Applicants should be prepared to supply official or unofficial copies of their transcripts, along with proof of any certifications or training. While associate programs rarely require work experience, students may receive college credit for fire department training or experience.

Courses in an Online Associate in Fire Science 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.

  • Fire Behavior and Combustion: 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.

  • Fundamentals of Fire Prevention: This introductory course provides a survey of 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.

  • Firefighting Strategy and Tactics: Schools often deliver this topic in consecutive introductory and advanced courses, which emphasize vital principles, practices, and practical skill development. Students view lectures, examine case studies, and participate in simulations to prepare to make critical and effective decisions at fire scenes.

  • Building Construction and Inspection: This course may focus on structure design as it relates to firefighting, fire inspection, or both. Coursework introduces students to various building types, constructions, and designs, and learners prepare to assess hazards in different types of buildings. Other topics may include building codes, fire inspection procedures, and firefighter and occupant safety.

  • Fire Service Hydraulics: Students in this class gain theoretical and practical knowledge related to the use of water in fire protection scenarios. The course often covers water supply problems, water distribution systems, design of firefighting apparatus (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 their levels of intensity and personal risk, and require dealing directly or indirectly with fire prevention or suppression activities. Successful fire science professionals often exhibit an interest in public service and safety; possess excellent physical and mental stamina; and believe in the importance of rules, codes, and regulations.

Firefighters

Median Salary: $49,620

Firefighters respond to emergencies; control and extinguish fires; and work to protect life, property, and the 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.

Fire Inspectors

Median Salary: $60,200

Fire inspectors examine buildings and outdoor areas to detect fire hazards and ensure adherence to local, state, and federal fire codes. Fire inspectors typically begin their careers as firefighters before pursuing this more advanced occupation. Earning a fire science associate degree online can increase a candidate's knowledge and hireability.

Police, Fire, and Ambulance Dispatchers

Median Salary: $40,660

Dispatchers answer emergency and nonemergency calls and determine appropriate responses. They also relay information to first-responder personnel 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.

EMTs and Paramedics

Median Salary: $34,320

EMTs and paramedics respond quickly to emergency medical situations, provide necessary care to sick and injured individuals, and transport patients to hospitals as needed. 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.

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

Accreditation for a Fire Science 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.

At the institutional level, schools can hold regional or national accreditation. While both forms of accreditation signal than an institution awards legitimate degrees, regional accreditation is the more popular and prestigious of the two. Public liberal arts institutions commonly hold regional accreditation, while technical schools often pursue national accreditation. 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.