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.Read More
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 master’s 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.
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 accesible to online learners.
To enter a Master’s Degree program for Fire Science, you will likely need to provide your official undergraduate 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.
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.
Best Master of Science in Fire Science Programs
University of New Haven
New Haven, CT
The fire science graduate program at the University of New Haven is clearly focused for the professional who wishes to develop their investigatory skills. The program covers the chemistry of fires, fire investigation, arson, terrorism, and more. You can concentrate in Public Safety Management or Fire/Arson Investigation, and there are graduate certificates available for both areas.
- Master of Science in Fire Science – Public Safety Management
- Master of Science in Fire Science – Fire/Arson Investigation
John Jay College of Criminal Justice
New York, NY
John Jay College is famous for producing detectives and other law enforcement professionals who work to keep the public safe. Their MS in Protection Management allows you to select one of three tracks – fire protection, security management, and emergency management. Your fire protection courses will cover topics such as: fire codes, issues in fire protection, and fire protection systems.
- Master of Science in Protection Management – Fire Protection
- Master of Science in Protection Management – Security Management
- Master of Science in Protection Management – Emergency Management
University of Maryland
College Park, MD
The University of Maryland's Department of Fire Protection Engineering offers a STEM degree that covers a wide range of topics related to fires and prevention. Students have the opportunity to work with simulations and computer models to test hypotheses related to fire protection.
- Master of Science in Fire Protection Engineering
- Master of Engineering in Fire Protection (online)
You will need a minimum GPA of 3.0 to gain admission to the Oklahoma State's Master of Science in Fire and Emergency Management Administration program. This degree is essential for professionals who wish to work as administrators of emergency services. If you wish, you can continue at Oklahoma State for your Ph.D.
- Master of Science in Fire and Emergency Management Administration
- PhD in Fire and Emergency Management Administration
Traditional Schools Offering a MS in Fire Science
University of Maryland
The University of Maryland offers classes to online students. Their highly technical approach to fire includes topic such as fire dynamics, forensic analysis, industrial fire safety, and fire assessment methods. Once you have completed your graduate degree, you can pursue a Ph.D. in fire protection.
- Master of Engineering in Fire Protection
- Ph.D. in Fire Protection Engineering (campus)
Anna Maria College
Anna Maria College claims that its online Master of Public Administration program in Fire and Emergency Services is among the best in the nation. Your MPA from Anna Maria will help you attain high level positions such as Fire Chief, Fire Captain, or Lieutenant. You may even find that you are in demand in the private sector.
- Master of Public Administration – Fire and Emergency Services
- Master of Public Administration – Emergency Management
Waldorf University offers three levels of fire science degree: associates, bachelor's, and master's. The coursework covers a range of topics including fire dynamics and fire investigation. Since their program is recognized by FEMA's FESHE program, you are assured a top-notch degree that will open new opportunities for a lifetime.
- Master of Arts in Organizational Leadership – Fire/Rescue Executive Leadership
- Bachelor of Science in Fire Science Administration
Saint Leo's Master of Science in Emergency and Disaster Management degree is designed for working professionals. If you have a bachelor's degree and have time while you're stationed in the firehouse, you can log into courses that cover a range of public safety topics.
- Master of Science in Emergency and Disaster Management
University of Florida
Your University of Florida Master of Fire and Emergency Sciences degree will consist of 33 credits over 11 courses that will prepare you for success in the fire-science field. In the course of your studies, you'll cover fire department management, emergency response, and crisis management, among other topics.
- Master of Fire and Emergency Sciences
Criminal Justice & Law Degrees & Career Paths