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Fire Science/Fire-fighting

Program Description

Just the Facts

Fire Science/Fire-fighting. A program focusing on the theory and practice of fires and fire-fighting. Includes instruction in fire chemistry and physics, combustible materials, computer science, building construction, fire codes and related laws, fire hydraulics, fire command, fire prevention/inspection, fire protection systems, fire suppression systems, fire/arson investigation, occupational safety, equipment operation, emergency medicine and communications.

This program is available in these options:

  • Certificate / Diploma
  • Associate degree
  • Bachelor's degree
  • Graduate Certificate
  • Master's degree

High School Courses

See the high school courses recommended for programs in this career cluster:

See the high school courses recommended for programs in this pathway:

Additional Information

It used to be that all you needed to become a firefighter was the desire to do the job and a certain level of physical fitness. But formal training is becoming increasingly important.

Dave Schafer is an instructor at an emergency services college. "Departments are quickly recognizing the benefits of having candidates trained when they walk through the door," he says.

You can get your basic training at a firefighter academy, or you can do more in-depth study at college or university. Hundreds of colleges offer two-year fire science programs. A handful of universities offer four-year bachelor's degrees, but these tend to be for people who've already done their basic training.

Glenn Corbett is a professor at John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York. He says the program doesn't duplicate training already provided by the fire department's fire academy.

"We offer courses that complement a firefighter's basic training," he says. "We offer a rigorous curriculum of technical and management courses that prepare the student for leadership roles in the fire service."

Corbett's students take a year of physics and chemistry before moving on to courses such as risk management, fire safety engineering, analysis of urban hazardous materials, tactics and strategy and fire service hydraulics.

If it's mostly hands-on training you're after, a fire academy or emergency services training college is your best bet. Schafer says only 25 to 35 percent of the eight-month course at his college is spent learning theory in a classroom. The rest is spent on practical skills, such as how to deal with hazardous materials, drive a fire truck and perform vehicle extrication.

Physical fitness is very important. Schafer suggests getting into a structured workout program while you're still in high school in order to prepare for the tough strength and endurance requirements you'll be expected to meet.

"It is suggested that high school students take as many science, mathematics and writing courses as their high school schedules will permit," says Corbett.

Outside of school, there are other things you can do to prepare. "Try to become an auxiliary firefighter in the city where you intend to apply for a career position," says Corbett. "Take an emergency medical technician (EMT) course."

The International Fire Service Accreditation Congress (IFSAC) accredits fire service certification programs as well as fire-related degree programs in Canada and the United States.

Tuition fees vary, depending on what type of course you select. If you're training with a local fire service, your employer may cover your costs. Students may also be required to purchase or rent a set of personal protective clothing, including a helmet, firefighting pants, coat and suspenders.


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