What is a Fire Science degree?

We will look at what is involved in the study of fire science at the Associate level. This examination will provide an understanding of the opportunities afforded to graduates.

Anyone interested in working in fire prevention, fire investigation, fire safety, and fire fighting will benefit from a degree in fire science. A study of this subject encompasses all of the aforestated. You will learn about the chemical reaction that releases light and heat, resulting in a fire. A range of knowledge allows the individual, in any job in this field, to be a more valuable firefighter.


A sample of the major requirements in an Associate degree includes:

  • Fire Behavior and Combustion
  • Fire Protection Systems and Structure
  • Principles of Fire and Emergency Services
  • Building Construction
  • Hazardous Materials Operations
  • Fire Hydraulics and Water Supply

In addition to the science-related courses, you should expect at least three credit hours of English Composition, American Government, History, Communication, and Mathematics or Algebra. These subjects typically fall under the heading of General Education Requirements. These may also include Political and Social Sciences, Natural Sciences, and Arts & Humanities. In some programs, such as Lanier Technical College in Georgia, the category of Humanities/Fine Arts offers a choice of seven three-hour courses. You select one from the list that includes Literature, Music, Theater, World Religions, and Art.

The weight of the General Requirements (GE) to the Majors varies per program. The online AAS in Fire Science at American Military University has 30 hours of GE and 21 hours of major requirements.

Therefore, the typical 60-credit program comprises core coursework in fire arson investigation, fire service tactics, legal aspects of fire service, and fire administration, to name a few. The coursework intends to develop professional skills and training for current and future fire professionals.

The purpose of the GE courses, which have topics unrelated to fire science, is to provide a well-rounded education. Graduates of an AAS in Fire Science program have the option of progressing to a bachelor’s degree.

Do I need a degree?

A degree is optional to become a volunteer firefighter. Many fire departments and districts administer training standards and help with certifications. You may attend a fire academy that provides all the training required. Some fire departments may require Firefighter I and II Certification. The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) certifications consist of two parts – an online study program and an in-person skills portion. The former allows you ten weeks to finish, and the boot camp lasts three weeks. The second portion is physically demanding. Candidates must be in shape to tackle the challenges of drill practice and training. These two certifications (I & II) are referenced as the NFPA 1001 levels.

Types of Volunteers

A volunteer fire department (VFD) may consist of a limited number of full-time firefighters and a group of volunteers. Generally, a VFD is more prevalent in rural areas where there is less demand for firefighting services. The volunteers’ compensation could be on a paid-on-call basis. Their duties extend beyond fighting fires, as the volunteer may also perform fundraising, equipment maintenance, and training. Rural volunteers respond to structure fires, as wells as forest fires when needed.

The NFPA reported that approximately 70% of firefighters are volunteers. Other research showed that 60% of fire chiefs have problems recruiting and retaining volunteer firefighters. The decline in volunteers over the past thirty years is 12%, whereas the number of service calls increased by over 200%!

Local fire departments may have opportunities for volunteer services. Though you may not be an official member of the firehouse, it does offer insight into what the job entails. You would become involved in local firefighting community activities, such as fundraising events. The experience also affords the chance to see the physical demands and stress of one’s role as a firefighter.

Opens doors

Your AAS is a step to advance to other aspects of the industry. These include arson investigation, fire safety inspection, leadership, training, EMS, and hazardous materials response. Those interested in leadership positions may prefer an AAS in fire science management. An example of this specialty is available online at Southern Arkansas University Tech.  Its 60-credit program covers arson investigation, fire tactics, legal aspects of fire service, and fire administration.

With so many online AAS degrees offered in fire science, you can start as a volunteer firefighter by taking their in-house or academy training. The degree remains a viable option once established in the profession.

The National Volunteer Fire Council is a non-profit membership ($18/year) organization. It represents the volunteer fire, EMS, and rescue services. It also has an array of free online training via the Virtual Classroom.

Additional Resources:

Do I need a degree to be a Fire Inspector?

What Degree Do I Need to Be a Safety Engineer?

What Specializations are there in an Emergency Management Degree?

How much Science is in a Fire Science Degree? 

What is the Benefit of a Degree in Fire Science vs. Emergency Management?

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