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Why Earn a Master’s in Fire Science?

This is a hot topic these days. While the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) now shows that the field is expected to grow at an average rate of 7% percent, the explosion of wildfires in the West and the rising tide of hurricanes indicate that demand for emergency services professionals, including fire services, is due for a dramatic uptick. Those who are looking to move into the field or boost their career might choose to earn an online degree while they continue to work.

While this is still a relatively young field in the world of academia, if you are able to complete an online or traditional master's degree program in fire administration or fire management, or even an emergency management program, you will be primed for top-paying leadership and administration positions in your local fire department, state government, emergency response agency, and more. With your academic experience and professional skills, you could even move into fire prevention and consult with developers and property managers who need to update their approach to fire safety.

Every master's degree differs a little bit from program to program, especially between online, traditional, and hybrid (a mix of online and in-person courses) programs. Some focus clearly on the science of fire – how it starts, spreads, and what to do in the aftermath. Other programs are chiefly focused on the administrative, public service, and policy aspects of emergency services and fire management. However, by the time that you are ready to seek out a graduate degree in your field, you should have a solid idea of how you wish to proceed, perhaps gained from an associate degree you may earn or the bachelor's degree you must earn before applying to online or traditional master's degree programs. You'll know if you are best suited to a big-picture administrative career or a ground-level career in building inspection, arson, or explosion investigation.

Regardless of your focus area, your degree in fire science will put you at the top of your field and prepare you for leadership positions. Where in the past, most in this field relied on professional skills and experience alone to get ahead, your advanced degree will leapfrog your career over several years gaining required experience and will garner you a higher salary, more responsibility, and greater professional status in a shorter period of time. Since these degrees have a strong focus on emergency management, online options are relatively common.


There is much to recommend graduate degree programs in fire science. One of the largest positive aspects is that you will learn a great deal about the career through your academic experience. When you dive deep into the myriad issues related to public safety, public service, new technology, building inspection, emergency medical services, fire administration, and arson and explosion investigation, the intellectual rewards will be astounding.

On top of the personal rewards, you will also find that your master’s degree will help your career immensely. Your opportunities will multiply, and your salary potential will increase. Whether you are working in leadership and administration or an investigative capacity, you should be able to move up the ladder in no time.

Finally, an online master's degree in this field will enable you to teach fire science education at the college level, which can be a rewarding addition to either your current work or your later retirement.


Though a graduate degree is generally seen as a positive addition to any career, there can be downsides. The first concern hinges on your true passion for the field. A graduate degree will be a period of intensive study, so you will need to make sure that you have a deep, abiding desire to become a true master of the field. Even an online, accelerated degree will take at least 18 months to complete.

There is also no iron-clad guarantee that your master's degree will pay off in the ways that you anticipate. While you are sure to be one of few in your area with such an advanced degree, your academic credentials might not carry the status you seek.

Then there is the financial aspect. Unless you are lucky enough to have an employer who is interested in offering tuition reimbursement for your master's degree, you will likely need to shoulder that burden yourself, and even online programs can cost a significant amount. That means you will likely graduate with student loans to repay. Though you should see a subsequent pay raise that offsets this added expense, there is no guarantee.

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Top 10 Best Online Masters in Fire Science Programs


University of Maryland

Score: 91.98

  • Graduate Tuition
    • In-State: $16,560
    • Out-of-State: $36,100
  • Net Price: $16,210
  • Acceptance Rate: 45%
  • Retention Rate: 95%
  • Graduation Rate: 89%
  • Total Enrollment: 40,792
  • Undergrad Students: 30,353
  • Graduate Students: 10,439
  • Grads Salary: $83,000
  • Student-to-faculty: 18:1
  • University of Maryland

Worcester Polytechnic Institute

Score: 83.37

  • Graduate Tuition
    • In-State: $28,980
    • Out-of-State: $28,980
  • Net Price: $46,876
  • Acceptance Rate: 57%
  • Retention Rate: 91%
  • Graduation Rate: 89%
  • Total Enrollment: 7,308
  • Undergrad Students: 5,246
  • Graduate Students: 2,062
  • Grads Salary: $95,000
  • Student-to-faculty: 13:1
  • Worcester Polytechnic Institute

University of Florida-Online

Score: 83.32

  • Graduate Tuition
    • In-State: N/A
    • Out-of-State: $0
  • Net Price: $10,791
  • Acceptance Rate: 65%
  • Retention Rate: 92%
  • Graduation Rate: 79%
  • Total Enrollment: 5,356
  • Undergrad Students: 5,356
  • Graduate Students: N/A
  • Grads Salary: $79,000
  • Student-to-faculty: 54:1
  • University of Florida-Online

Oklahoma State University

Score: 77.61

  • Graduate Tuition
    • In-State: $5,611
    • Out-of-State: $21,114
  • Net Price: $16,718
  • Acceptance Rate: 71%
  • Retention Rate: 83%
  • Graduation Rate: 65%
  • Total Enrollment: 25,372
  • Undergrad Students: 20,786
  • Graduate Students: 4,586
  • Grads Salary: $74,000
  • Student-to-faculty: 18:1
  • Oklahoma State University

Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University-Daytona Beach

Score: 74.13

  • Graduate Tuition
    • In-State: $20,340
    • Out-of-State: $20,340
  • Net Price: $38,983
  • Acceptance Rate: 65%
  • Retention Rate: 82%
  • Graduation Rate: 63%
  • Total Enrollment: 10,301
  • Undergrad Students: 9,533
  • Graduate Students: 768
  • Grads Salary: $88,000
  • Student-to-faculty: 18:1
  • Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University-Daytona Beach

Jacksonville State University

Score: 72.55

  • Graduate Tuition
    • In-State: $10,128
    • Out-of-State: $16,464
  • Net Price: $11,953
  • Acceptance Rate: 78%
  • Retention Rate: 66%
  • Graduation Rate: 52%
  • Total Enrollment: 9,632
  • Undergrad Students: 8,310
  • Graduate Students: 1,322
  • Grads Salary: $72,000
  • Student-to-faculty: 19:1
  • Jacksonville State University

Arkansas State University

Score: 72.33

  • Graduate Tuition
    • In-State: $6,534
    • Out-of-State: $11,970
  • Net Price: $12,011
  • Acceptance Rate: 70%
  • Retention Rate: 78%
  • Graduation Rate: 53%
  • Total Enrollment: 13,190
  • Undergrad Students: 8,201
  • Graduate Students: 4,989
  • Grads Salary: $65,000
  • Student-to-faculty: 15:1
  • Arkansas State University

Lander University

Score: 68.78

  • Graduate Tuition
    • In-State: $9,810
    • Out-of-State: $9,910
  • Net Price: $15,524
  • Acceptance Rate: 67%
  • Retention Rate: 66%
  • Graduation Rate: 45%
  • Total Enrollment: 4,167
  • Undergrad Students: 3,562
  • Graduate Students: 605
  • Grads Salary: $68,000
  • Student-to-faculty: 16:1
  • Lander University

University of New Haven

Score: 68.74

  • Graduate Tuition
    • In-State: $18,990
    • Out-of-State: $18,990
  • Net Price: $33,135
  • Acceptance Rate: 91%
  • Retention Rate: 74%
  • Graduation Rate: 62%
  • Total Enrollment: 8,819
  • Undergrad Students: 4,817
  • Graduate Students: 4,002
  • Grads Salary: $78,000
  • Student-to-faculty: 19:1
  • University of New Haven

Saint Leo University

Score: 68.56

  • Graduate Tuition
    • In-State: $15,840
    • Out-of-State: $15,840
  • Net Price: $20,390
  • Acceptance Rate: 80%
  • Retention Rate: 54%
  • Graduation Rate: 49%
  • Total Enrollment: 10,242
  • Undergrad Students: 7,320
  • Graduate Students: 2,922
  • Grads Salary: $76,000
  • Student-to-faculty: 18:1
  • Saint Leo University

Overview of a Master's in Fire Science

What Fire Science Master’s Degrees are Available?

Master of Science in Fire Science: An MS in Fire Science is a degree that will focus on the analytical and scientific aspects of the field. However, keep in mind that some programs might include courses in emergency management or public safety. Other programs may have stringent science and math requirements for admission. Most of these do not have a lot of hands-on learning, meaning that they are easily accessible through online learning.

Master of Arts in Fire Science: An MA in Fire Science is a degree that can take many forms. Some programs are weighted heavily towards topics such as leadership and administrative issues, much like an MBA. Other programs are designed to focus on investigations, which might require some hands-on rather than online learning. Always be sure to examine a program's curriculum before applying.

Master of Applied Science in Fire Science: Applied science degrees are generally aimed towards teaching topics that directly apply to your occupational life. The content of the courses thus will not be as concerned with researched facts or theories as it will be on detailing trends and procedures in the field.

Master of Applied Arts in Fire Science: There are not likely to be very many programs that fall under this title, but there may be a few. Applied arts programs will generally focus on issues related to emergency management, public safety management, and occupational issues in general. That is, these degrees are less concerned with academic research standards and more focused on issues related to the working world, making them less accessible to online learners.

Fire Science Masters Admission Requirements

To enter a master’s degree program for fire science, you will likely need to provide your official undergraduate fire science transcripts, a completed application, GRE scores, your resume, letters of recommendation, and an entrance essay. Each program will have its own standards regarding your undergraduate GPA, GRE scores, and even your stated goals. However, each program should have its standards posted on its website. In fact, some professional degree programs are more concerned with your history as a professional than your academic achievements. Make sure you thoroughly investigate and compare your top choices on the basis of their admissions standards. Seek to enroll in the most competitive program possible.

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How long does it take to earn a Fire Science Master’s?

Most master’s degrees in fire science are designed to take two years. That assumes that you attend courses full-time and take the typical breaks. However, other programs are accelerated and may take only a year.

That said, the duration of a master’s degree largely depends on you, the student. You should strive to maintain a full-time schedule of courses so that you can graduate in a timely fashion. Sometimes when students lose their momentum with classes, they find it difficult to get back on track. Some are unable to complete their degree at all. So, you’ll need to strive to prioritize your schooling so that you can put it behind you and thus focus on your career.

Potential Careers in Fire Science with a Master’s

  • Safety Manager
    In this position, you will likely spend a good deal of time inspecting buildings or other properties to ensure that they are fireproof and otherwise safe for their inhabitants. You may also spend time reviewing new safety protocols and technologies that are designed to maintain safety. Part of your job might even involve educating the public as to the best practices to maintain a safe environment.
    This profession earns an average salary of $71,400.
  • Fire Investigator
    Arson is a crime that impacts municipal services and private insurers alike. Your job as an investigator will be to determine whether a fire has been the result of natural causes, some sort of preventable accident, or the crime of arson. While accidents may not be criminal, they might nullify an insurance claim. Your education in fire science will help you get to the bottom of suspicious fires.
    Professionals in this occupation earn an average of $52,100.
  • Director of Emergency Management
    With an MA in Fire Science, or a related field, you can oversee the emergency services of a city or region to assure citizens that there are policies and procedures in place in the event of an emergency. The scope of your work can vary depending on geography. For instance, coastal areas along the Atlantic might be more concerned with hurricanes while on the west coast the concerns are more likely to be forest fires and earthquakes.
    Salaries vary for this field, but the national average is $80,100.
  • Fire Protection Engineer
    You will need to have intimate familiarity with the National Fire Protection Code (NFPA) to land a job as a Fire Protection Engineer. In this job you will work in the building trades to ensure that new construction is up to code relative to fire safety. You might also work with manufacturers to create new fire detection equipment.
    The national average salary for this job is $74,700.
  • Fire Chief
    Your graduate degree in fire science, or a related field, may one day help you rise to the status of fire chief. Your duties will be primarily administrative, but your intimate knowledge of how fires start and spread will be useful when you make decisions regarding new hiring or new equipment.
    The average pay for a fire chief is $79,700.

Options to Advance

With an online or traditional Master's Degree in Fire Science, you will have many opportunities to advance your career. Depending on the exact degree you complete, you can move up into your local city government, state government, or even work at the federal level with FEMA. Some students go on to work with the Department of Homeland Security.

There are also opportunities to work in the private sector. Construction management companies often need consultants to oversee the safety features in their projects. Your expertise can help them cut costs with new technologies while also meeting relevant fire and safety codes. Your special knowledge and insights will be invaluable to them as they finish buildings.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is a degree even necessary to become a firefighter?

The short answer to this is no. There are no post-secondary degree requirements to become a firefighter in most places. In fact, most of those who become firefighters do so purely through the training the department offers, without any college degree. However, those who wish to add to their credentials, work with the fire department as EMTs, move into supervisory positions, etc. can do so by earning some type of college degree in fire science. Fire departments are actively looking for those who have earned any degree in fire science, and those who have earned higher-level degrees are more likely to be considered for, and prepared for, higher-level positions in these departments.

Why earn a master’s degree instead of just a bachelor’s?

For one thing, post-secondary degrees in this field are becoming more common. Because of this, a bachelor’s degree in the field will likely mean less and less as time goes on. Additionally, you likely won’t be able to work as a firefighter in the thick of things for your entire working career. These roles are active, hands-on, and dangerous. They require strength and skills that you may lose over time, especially if you suffer any injuries on or off the job over the years. By earning a master’s degree, you set yourself up to work in supervisory positions, move into new roles, or even work as an emergency management coordinator for somewhere that often deals with wildfires and other disasters.

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