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In the United States in 2014, there were 1,298,000 fires which resulted in an estimated $11.6 billion in property damage, according to the National Fire Protection Association. These staggering figures prove how vital public service careers in fire science are to our society.
This resource guide is an introduction to careers in fire science and fire science management. The associate degree in fire science provides a foundation on the history and fundamentals of fire science along with the regulatory and legal knowledge necessary for today’s fire department. The bachelor’s in fire science management is an extension of the associate program, but expands into administrative and operative functions along with leadership and management principles as it relates to a fire service organization. This guide is also an informational tool for internship opportunities, related federal agencies, and academic and professional organizations.
To identify what education or training is typical for careers within the fire science field, use the O*Net hyperlinks below and click on “Job Zone.”
As with all majors, the education you receive serves as a foundation of knowledge that prepares you for what you may face in the professional world. The career field you choose may require additional education or experience.
Fire investigators review scenes and collect evidence in order to determine the cause of fires or explosions.
How to Become a Fire Investigator
Get Educated: Most fire investigators require a minimum of a high school diploma, though applicants possessing a two- or four-year degree in fields such as fire science are preferred.
Get Certified: Many employers prefer that fire investigators either be certified or in the process of obtaining their certification. In addition to the fire investigator specific certifications below, applicants interested in working for private companies will usually be required to have a private investigation license. Among the most common certifications are:
Gain Experience: Fire investigators usually undergo both further classroom training as well as on the job training at police or fire stations in order to further learn the position.
Get Connected: Join networking sites like LinkedIn to connect with professionals working in the industry, stay up-to-date on what subjects are popular to research, join professional organizations, and read literary publications.
Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2016-17 Edition, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/protective-service/fire-inspectors-and-investigators.htm
Gaining real-life experience is an ideal way to start a new career. One of the best ways to gain experience is through your local volunteer fire department. In addition to your local fire departments, you may also want to check out your state and local fire academies. The U.S. Fire Administration also has an internship program available for students.
In addition, there are government-organized internship programs which provide students or recent graduates the opportunity to gain real-life experience. Many require students to maintain either a half-time or full-time student status. The best ways to identify potential opportunities such as these is to contact branch offices directly, to search USAJobs.gov, or to look at the agencies’ career portals. Keep in mind that these positions are not always posted online, so direct contact with the agency is key.
The Pathways Program is a federal initiative that offers internship programs for current students and training and career development opportunities for recent graduates. Recent graduates must apply within two years of degree or certificate completion (except for veterans, due to their military service obligation, will have up to six years to apply).The internship program for current students replaces the former Student Career Experience Program (SCEP) and Student Temporary Employment Program (STEP).
PMF is designed to attract to federal service outstanding men and women from a wide variety of academic disciplines who have a clear interest in, and commitment to, a career in the analysis and management of public policies and programs. To be eligible for nomination, an individual must be a graduate student completing or expected to complete, during the current academic year, an advanced degree from a qualifying college or university.
WRP is coordinated by the Office of Disability Employment Policy and the U.S. Department of Defense, and aims to provide summer work experience, and in some cases full-time employment, to college students with disabilities. The program develops partnerships with other federal agencies, each of whom makes a commitment to provide summer jobs and a staff recruiter. Each year, recruiters interview about 1,500 students with disabilities at college and university campuses across the nation, and develop a database listing the qualifications of each student.
There are several government agencies and organizations that seek candidates with degrees in fire science. The list below provides a few examples of those federal agencies. Each position within the federal government is classified under a series of numbers. For example, “Fire Protection and Prevention” is within the 0081 series. You can narrow down the exact series number based on your interests and search for it on USAjobs.gov across hundreds of federal agencies. Click here to see a list of federal positions by major.
While many of the major job search engines will have positions in several fields to choose from, the following search engine is specific to the fire science field:
Involvement in professional organizations is a great way to stay up-to-date on new technology, tools, and best practices in your field. Professional organizations are also a great networking opportunity. Below are a few professional organizations you may be interested in as a fire science major.