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Top 10 Online Associate’s Degree Programs in Fire Science

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The most popular degrees in fire science occur at the associate level. Two-year programs in fire science introduce students to the basics of emergency services, including fire personnel, first-response medical (EMTs and paramedics), police officers and federal agencies involved in emergencies and disasters. Coursework then progresses into fire behavior, building construction, protection systems, prevention techniques and strategy and tactics. Most fire science associate degrees do require firefighting experience, meaning they are open to those employed in the profession.

Associate-level programs in fire science may have less hands-on components than bachelor’s degree programs. Reason being, many two-year degrees have a similar goal: to prepare graduates for fire service examinations. Aspiring firefighters, for example, generally have three exams to pass before they can join 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 all can be learned and honed online.

The following ranking has been established by taking into consideration a variety of factors. These include but are not limited to the school’s history and curriculum as it pertains to this specific degree; reviews and recognition by sources as U.S. News & World Report, Forbes Magazine, and BusinessWeek; each school’s accreditation, particularly with pertinent state and national organizations; plus a dose of subjectivity based upon our assessment of each program.

1. University of Cincinnati

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In September 2016, the University of Cincinnati was again named in the Top Tier of the country’s “Best National Universities,” placing at 135 in the 2017 special issue. UC is ranked at 64 among top public universities and it has the unique distinction of being named among the world’s most beautiful campuses by Forbes magazine. UC has been named as one of the nation’s best institutions for undergraduate education for the 10th straight year, according to the Princeton’s Review’s 2017 edition of “The Best 381 Colleges.” The list of awards and accolades is too numerous to state, however other sources of esteemed recognition have come from: BusinessWeek, CEO World Magazine, Academic Ranking of World Universities, and National Science Foundation.

You can earn a Bachelor of Science in Fire And Safety Engineering Technology, or an Associate of Applied Science in Fire Service Technology, by taking “accelerated” 7-week online courses, and optional 1-week residencies.  The Open Learning Fire Service Program adds a high degree of flexibility and convenience to your professional development while maintaining the level of quality and effectiveness consistent with a traditional approach.

The Open Learning Fire Service Program is offered in conjunction with the National Fire Academy ‘s FESHE Program (Fire & Emergency Services Higher Education).  Students may receive Advanced Standing credit for Paramedic, Fire Inspector and other state certifications. UC is accredited by the North Central Association of Colleges & Secondary Schools.

The Associate’s degree, offered by their College of Engineering and Applied Science, is a total of 60 credits of which there are 12 hours of Fire Science, 18 of Fire and Other Electives, and 30 hours of General Education. Examples of courses in the latter are: English Composition, Intro to Psychology, and Budget, Finance & Efficient Communication.

Tuition: $501 per credit hour (Ohio resident); $516 (non-resident)

2. Kaplan University

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The school is recognized by the U.S. Fire Administration as an official Fire and Emergency Services Higher Education (FESHE) institution. The Associate of Applied Science in Fire Science closely follows the FESHE model and is designed to provide students with foundational skills in firefighter safety, building codes, fire prevention, code inspection, and firefighting strategy and tactics. This Associate of Applied Science in Fire Science degree (90 total credits)serves fire service professionals seeking enhanced skills and a broad spectrum of knowledge in the field of fire science. Additionally, their  College of Social and Behavioral Sciences has received programmatic accreditation from the International Fire Service Accreditation Congress (IFSAC) for the Associate of Applied Science in Fire Science.

For those with firefighting experience, Kaplan has Articulation Agreements. The purpose of these agreements is to help streamline the process for awarding credit for fire service-related certifications you may have already earned to be considered fit for duty. If you earned your certifications though an organization that is accredited by the IFSAC or the Pro Board, including the U.S. Department of Defense Firefighter Certification System, you may be eligible to receive credit toward a Kaplan University degree program.

Eligible certifications include:

  • Fire Fighter II
  • Fire Service Instructor I, II, and III
  • Fire Officer I, II, and III
  • Hazardous Materials-Technician
  • And many more

Select International Association of Fire Fighters (IAFF) training programs and certifications offered through California State Fire Marshal (CSFM) and California Fire Fighters Joint Apprenticeship Committee (CFFJAC) are also eligible for credit. Applicants are encouraged to contact an Admissions Advisor for details.

Tuition: $371 per credit; $165 Active Duty Military; $230 Military Veteran; $333.90 Current Military Spouse

3. Columbia Southern University

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Founded in 1993 by Robert Mayes Sr. who started by presenting training programs in environmental compliance and occupational safety for small businesses led to the establishment of two certificate programs in the field. In 1996, Columbia Southern University online programs beyond the safety and environmental career fields were developed and included business administration, computer science, criminal justice administration and health administration. Achieving accreditation had been a goal for CSU since its inception and that goal became a reality on Jan. 15, 2001, when the Distance Education and Training Council granted national accreditation to CSU.

Their College of Safety and Emergency Services offers an Associate of Science (A.S.) in Fire Science is a degree which will build a strong foundation of the essentials needed to work in the fire industry, while also allowing for a better understanding of rudimentary technical skills. By incorporating a comprehensive curriculum of fire prevention and fire protection, the Associate of Science in Fire Science degree takes a multi-professional approach to policy integration and academic preparation in specialized fire service equipment and apparatus applications.

The curriculum consists of 21 General Education Requirements, 18 Major Requirements and 21 Electives for a total of 60 credits for graduation. The General Education courses are in Humanities and Fine Arts, Behavioral and Social Sciences, Natural Sciences, Math, and English Composition. The 21 Major courses deal with Principles of Fire and Emergency Services, Fire Behavior, Fire Protect and Prevention, and Fire Structure and Systems. This program has been developed by some of the most distinguished names in the U.S. fire industry, the Fire Science program reflects the knowledge of individuals who have an extensive amount of experience in fire services.

Their A.S. Fire Science & B.S. Fire Administration programs are Fire and Emergency Services Higher Education (FESHE) recognized through the U.S. Fire Administration’s National Fire Academy (NFA).

Tuition: $220 per credit hour

4. Pikes Peak Community College

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Established in 1968 as El Paso County Community College and accredited by the Higher Learning Commission, PPCC offers 158 associate degrees and certifications in career and technical fields. Their 20,000 students range from high school grads seeking an excellent cost-effective transfer path to four-year schools to veterans transitioning into the civilian workforce to the unemployed or under-employed looking for fresh starts in a variety of careers.

The college has provided educational opportunities over the last twenty five years for fire service professionals and students wanting to complete an Associate of Applied Science (AAS) in Fire Science Technology. This program is designed to prepare individuals who have little or no experience with the firefighting profession for entry level positions in the fire service industry, including fire protection, emergency management, firefighting, and wild land firefighter knowledge; and also designed to allow experienced firefighters to receive awarded credits for knowledge gained through experience and training through the Fire Science Credit for Prior Learning Program, after which their learning can be expanded by successfully completing additional courses to complete the degree.

A two-year Associate of Applied Science (AAS) with a Fire Science Technology designation is a terminal degree designed for those seeking entry-level Firefighter positions, or for those already working in the Firefighting profession.

Also, Science Technology Program is accredited by the Fire and Emergency Services Higher Education (FESHE) via the National Fire Academy.

Tuition: $361.95 (Colorado resident); $368.90 (on-resident)

5. Waldorf College

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The college was founded in 1903 as a result of “The Great Hotel War of Forest City, Iowa.” This fierce, competitive battle between the two first-class hotels, built simultaneously, left the beautiful Waldorf Hotel vacant after only four months of operation. This provided the opportunity for the Rev. C. S. Salveson to muster the necessary resources to found a Christian college.  In the spring of 1994, the college was accredited by the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools to offer its first bachelor’s degrees.

The school offers an Associate in Arts in Fire Science that is designed with the flexibility to allow students to choose topics of greatest interests. From risk reduction to fire dynamics to investigation, this concentration allows students to explore a broad range of fire science topics. For students who may wish to pursue a bachelor’s degree in fire science administration in the future, the associate degree program is designed to prepare for entry into Waldorf’s bachelor’s degree programs with upper division standing. Waldorf’s bachelor’s degree program in fire science administration is recognized by the U.S. Fire Administration.

The curriculum consists of 48 hours of Core Courses under the headings of: Humanities, Natural Sciences, Mathematics, Fine Arts, English Composition, Behavioral & Social Sciences, and Religion & Philosophy. In addition, there are 15 hours of General Education Electives. The Fire Science Concentration is comprised of 12 credits of Major Requirements: Intro to Fire Protection Strategies, Community Risk Reduction for Fire and EMS, Fire Dynamics, and Fire Investigation and Analysis.

Tuition: $285 per credit hour; Active-duty members of the military using tuition assistance (TA) are eligible to receive the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) tuition rate of $250 per credit hour.

7. American Military University

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In 1991, retired Marine Corps officer James P. Etter founded American Military University and broke new ground by offering career-relevant, distance education for a mobile population of military learners with unique needs. Since 2002, AMU was reorganized into the American Public University System. The university has built a reputation on providing highly recognized online programs that commence monthly and run 8-16 weeks. AMU has been a top provider of education to the U.S. Military with over 65,000 students past and present. The school offers over 200 degrees and certificates from undergraduate to graduate level.

AMU’s Associate of Science degree in Fire Science provides you with scientific knowledge of fire behavior, prevention, suppression, and equipment. In addition to learning how and why fires start, spread, and are controlled, you’ll examine the history and philosophy of fire prevention bureaus, use of fire codes, and identification and correction of fire hazards. This online associate degree provides you with the academic courses needed to support your advancement in the field, in careers such as a firefighter, fire inspector, arson investigator, or related public safety occupations.

The curriculum is comprised primarily of 38 semester hours of General Education Requirements, in the areas of English, History, Humanities, Literature, Math, Political Science, Science, and Social Sciences. These are followed by 18 hours of Core courses focusing on subjects, such as: Fire Behavior, Prevention, Protection, Combustion, and Building Construction.

The degree can be completed in 2 years by attending full time. There is a maximum of 7 years allowed for completion. Students may transfer up to 46 credits.

Tuition: $270 per credit; $250 with military grant

8. St. Petersburg College

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In September 1927, with the backing of local business and political leaders, Florida’s first two-year institution of higher learning, St. Petersburg Junior College, opened in an unused wing of the then-new St. Petersburg High School. Enrollment: 102, taught by a faculty of 14. In 1931, the college, which was now in its own building overlooking Mirror Lake in downtown St. Petersburg, became accredited and has remained so to this day. St. Petersburg College (SPC) continues its long tradition of excellence wrought by dedicated faculty and visionary leadership. The College is part of the Florida College System, consisting of 28 public post-secondary educational institutions that were previously known as the Florida Community College System. These two- and four-year institutions offer GED training, developmental/remedial studies, adult education, certificates, associate degrees, and selected bachelor’s degrees.

This college offers a Fire Science Technology Associate in Science degree online where you’ll learn a scientific understanding of fire hazards and how to control and prevent them. The 21 credits of General Education are included to prepare the graduate to communicate and work effectively with all levels of society. There are 24 credits of Major Core Courses in topics ranging from Fire Chemistry to Firefighting Tactics. This is followed by the Major Elective Courses totaling 15 credits in subjects as Fire Codes and Standards, Fire Cause and Origin Determination, and Blueprint Reading. There are a total of 60 credits or 64 inclusive of the pre-requisite of Exploration of Mathematics and Quantitative Reasoning and Computer Competency.

Unique to SPC, is that it has its own training center is one of the most advanced in the state. All of the training begins with this most critical concept: keeping firefighters safe. The training center is a state credentialed and its classes are approved by the Florida State Fire College. Built in 2004, the facility includes a seven-story fire drill tower that allows students and professionals to practice high-rise building rescue and survival techniques.

In 2013, St. Petersburg was recognized as Most Affordable Fire Science degree program by FireScienceOnline.org.

Tuition: $111.75 per credit hour (lower division: 0001-2999)-Florida residents; $386.90 (non-residents).  Residency documents must be filed before the first day of classes and require 2 of the following: FL driver’s license, Florida vehicle registration and/or Florida voter’s registration. 

9. Northern Virginia Community College

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Northern Virginia Community College was established in 1964 under the name Northern Virginia Technical College. In the fall of 1965, the College opened with 761 students in a single. Expanding the goal to serve students of all types, NOVA opened the Extended Learning Institute in 1975 to accommodate individuals who wanted an education but could not accommodate a traditional program into their schedule. Today NOVA offers more than 160 associate degree and certificate programs to more than 75,000 students from 150 countries. Also, they are accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges to award associate degrees.

NOVA’s Extended Learning Institute (ELI) gives you the flexibility to fit education into your busy lifestyle from anywhere in the world. They offer online courses in a variety of disciplines. The structure of the courses is similar to traditional classroom instruction and assignments; you can even get help from online librarians. One of these courses is the Associate of Applied Science in Fire Science Technology. The overall goal of this program is to prepare individuals for entry or advancement in the fire service or a related field by providing them with knowledge of the fire protection profession and giving them the general education necessary to function and advance in one of these professions.

The two year/4 semester program is comprised of a blend of subjects as Mathematics, Technical Writing, Humanities, and Fine Arts, as well as those more specific to fire science: Principles of Fire and Emergency Services, Fire Administration, and Firefighting Strategy and Tactics.

Tuition: $163.15 (Virginia residents); $342.50 (non-residents); Students who have been legally domiciled in Virginia for at least one year prior to the first day of classes for a term are eligible to pay tuition at the in-state rate. Domicile means the present, fixed home of an individual who returns following temporary absences and at which he/she intends to stay indefinitely. 

10. John Wood Community College

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Located in Quincy, Illinois, John Wood Community College (JWCC) was founded in 1974; its first 668 students were admitted. It was named after John Wood, an early pioneer who played a key role in the settlement and development of West Central Illinois. He was born in New York but came west seeking adventure. Upon the death of Governor William Bissell in 1860, John Wood became Governor of Illinois, fulfilling a life of adventure and pioneer vision.

Their Fire Science Program has been in existence since 1979, with the online/distance learning commenced in the spring of 2001. The curriculum leads to an Associate of Applied Science (AAS) degree that is intended to prepare students for entry-level employment in the field of fire service. Students are trained in fire suppression, protection, and prevention techniques. The online program is designed to accommodate firefighters in areas where no Fire Science degree is available, as well as students who want to take Fire Science or even general education classes on the Internet. This allows students to work at their own pace, with the only time requirements being the class’ starting and ending dates. Many of the courses are Illinois State Fire Marshal approved, with end of course exams approved as state exams for certification to Illinois firefighters.

The general education classes may be taken at John Wood or the firefighter’s local college and may be applied toward the degree. Firefighters will need to complete a minimum of 12 of their last 15 hours at JWCC to attain their AAS in Fire Science. The Fire Science Program also caters to individuals currently employed in the fire service field that are seeking additional training. Also, JWCC offers Fire Officer level courses that are now available online.

Tuition: $5,070 In-district; $8,370 Out-of-district (2 semesters, 15 hours each)

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