How and Where to Earn Your Fire Science Degree Online

Fire science is about much more than just fighting fires. It covers everything from what causes them to how they behave and are investigated. Fire science jobs require serious knowledge and skills, like those taught in accredited online fire science degree programs. Keep reading to learn all about online fire science degrees, including how they work and where to find top programs.

Last Updated: 05/11/2022

2022’s Best Fire Science Degrees Online

Earning a fire science degree online is an excellent option for those looking to join the fire services field for the first time and current firefighters, EMTs, and others looking to advance their careers to the next level. Deciding which program to choose, however, can be complex and confusing. So, we’re here to help with our list of the best fire science degrees online for 2022. We’ve ranked programs based on several essential elements, including affordability, the number of online fire science programs available, and student support services. Learn more about this year’s standout schools and programs below.

About the ranking

Methodology for the STEPS Best Online Programs in 2022

Generate List of Eligible Schools and Programs

To be eligible for this ranking, schools were required to meet the following criteria based on government data provided by The Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS).

  • Institutional accreditation from an organization recognized by the U.S. Department of Education.
  • At least one program in subject area offered partially or fully online.

Assign Impact of Data Points

After generating the list of eligible schools, the STEPS data team then assigned weights and ranked schools based on a mix of affordability, support services, and online program availability. Online program availability and overall affordability received the heaviest weightings.

Online Program Availability

  • Number of online programs in subject area reported by school to the U.S. Department of Education. When unable to verify this number, a star-based system was used to signify the number of programs relative to peers.

Affordability

  • Cost:
    Relative cost of attendance compared to peer schools on the list. Based on tuition and fees per academic year.
  • Students w/ Institutional Aid:
    Percentage of students who receive financial aid from the school itself.

Support Services

  • Academic Counseling:
    Existence of this service on campus or online.
  • Career Placement:
    Existence of this service on campus or online.

About Our Data

All STEPS rankings use the latest official data available from The Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS). Most recent data pull: July 2021

1
Albany Technical College

Albany, Georgia

Total online programs: 3

Academic Counseling Yes
Career Placement Yes
Student-to- Faculty Ratio 14:1
Tuition (In-State) $
Institutional Financial Aid 7%
Online Students 330
2
Central New Mexico Community College

Albuquerque, New Mexico

Total online programs: 3

Academic Counseling Yes
Career Placement Yes
Student-to- Faculty Ratio 23:1
Tuition (In-State) $
Institutional Financial Aid 34%
Online Students 3,551
3
Lanier Technical College

Gainesville, Georgia

Total online programs: 3

Academic Counseling Yes
Career Placement Yes
Student-to- Faculty Ratio 16:1
Tuition (In-State) $
Institutional Financial Aid 1%
Online Students 1,437

Total online programs: 3

Academic Counseling Yes
Career Placement Yes
Student-to- Faculty Ratio 12:1
Tuition (In-State) $
Institutional Financial Aid 0%
Online Students 834
5
Navarro College

Corsicana, Texas

Total online programs: 3

Academic Counseling Yes
Career Placement Yes
Student-to- Faculty Ratio 22:1
Tuition (In-State) $
Institutional Financial Aid 12%
Online Students 1,918
6
Delta College

University Center, Michigan

Total online programs: 3

Academic Counseling Yes
Career Placement Yes
Student-to- Faculty Ratio 14:1
Tuition (In-State) $$
Institutional Financial Aid 13%
Online Students 2,480
7
Monroe Community College

Rochester, New York

Total online programs: 3

Academic Counseling Yes
Career Placement Yes
Student-to- Faculty Ratio 19:1
Tuition (In-State) $
Institutional Financial Aid 20%
Online Students 1,411
8
Lincoln Land Community College

Springfield, Illinois

Total online programs: 3

Academic Counseling Yes
Career Placement Yes
Student-to- Faculty Ratio 17:1
Tuition (In-State) $$
Institutional Financial Aid 9%
Online Students 1,226

Total online programs: 2

Academic Counseling Yes
Career Placement Yes
Student-to- Faculty Ratio 9:1
Tuition (In-State) $
Institutional Financial Aid 42%
Online Students 178
10
Hutchinson Community College

Hutchinson, Kansas

Total online programs: 2

Academic Counseling Yes
Career Placement Yes
Student-to- Faculty Ratio 18:1
Tuition (In-State) $
Institutional Financial Aid 73%
Online Students 930
11
Quinsigamond Community College

Worcester, Massachusetts

Total online programs: 2

Academic Counseling Yes
Career Placement Yes
Student-to- Faculty Ratio 15:1
Tuition (In-State) $
Institutional Financial Aid 19%
Online Students 1,741
12

Total online programs: 2

Academic Counseling Yes
Career Placement Yes
Student-to- Faculty Ratio 12:1
Tuition (In-State) $
Institutional Financial Aid 20%
Online Students 1,800
13

Total online programs: 2

Academic Counseling Yes
Career Placement Yes
Student-to- Faculty Ratio 21:1
Tuition (In-State) $
Institutional Financial Aid 12%
Online Students 3,533
14
Passaic County Community College

Paterson, New Jersey

Total online programs: 2

Academic Counseling Yes
Career Placement Yes
Student-to- Faculty Ratio 19:1
Tuition (In-State) $$
Institutional Financial Aid 68%
Online Students 1,107
15
Macomb Community College

Warren, Michigan

Total online programs: 2

Academic Counseling Yes
Career Placement Yes
Student-to- Faculty Ratio 24:1
Tuition (In-State) $$
Institutional Financial Aid 3%
Online Students 5,779

Total online programs: 2

Academic Counseling Yes
Career Placement Yes
Student-to- Faculty Ratio 20:1
Tuition (In-State) $
Institutional Financial Aid 1%
Online Students 1,900
About the ranking

Methodology for the STEPS Best Online Programs in 2022

Generate List of Eligible Schools and Programs

To be eligible for this ranking, schools were required to meet the following criteria based on government data provided by The Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS).

  • Institutional accreditation from an organization recognized by the U.S. Department of Education.
  • At least one program in subject area offered partially or fully online.

Assign Impact of Data Points

After generating the list of eligible schools, the STEPS data team then assigned weights and ranked schools based on a mix of affordability, support services, and online program availability. Online program availability and overall affordability received the heaviest weightings.

Online Program Availability

  • Number of online programs in subject area reported by school to the U.S. Department of Education. When unable to verify this number, a star-based system was used to signify the number of programs relative to peers.

Affordability

  • Cost:
    Relative cost of attendance compared to peer schools on the list. Based on tuition and fees per academic year.
  • Students w/ Institutional Aid:
    Percentage of students who receive financial aid from the school itself.

Support Services

  • Academic Counseling:
    Existence of this service on campus or online.
  • Career Placement:
    Existence of this service on campus or online.

About Our Data

All STEPS rankings use the latest official data available from The Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS). Most recent data pull: July 2021

1
Miami Dade College

Miami, Florida

Total online programs: 2

Academic Counseling Yes
Career Placement Yes
Student-to- Faculty Ratio 19:1
Tuition (In-State) $
Institutional Financial Aid 26%
Online Students 23,927
2
Eastern Kentucky University

Richmond, Kentucky

Total online programs: 3

Academic Counseling Yes
Career Placement Yes
Student-to- Faculty Ratio 15:1
Tuition (In-State) $$
Institutional Financial Aid 77%
Online Students 4,199

Total online programs: 2

Academic Counseling Yes
Career Placement Yes
Student-to- Faculty Ratio 19:1
Tuition (In-State) $$
Institutional Financial Aid 56%
Online Students 17,053
4
St Petersburg College

Clearwater, Florida

Total online programs: 3

Academic Counseling Yes
Career Placement Yes
Student-to- Faculty Ratio 23:1
Tuition (In-State) $
Institutional Financial Aid 21%
Online Students 4,056

Total online programs: 2

Academic Counseling Yes
Career Placement Yes
Student-to- Faculty Ratio 16:1
Tuition (In-State) $$
Institutional Financial Aid 78%
Online Students 9,184
6
Salem State University

Salem, Massachusetts

Total online programs: 1

Academic Counseling Yes
Career Placement Yes
Student-to- Faculty Ratio 14:1
Tuition (In-State) $
Institutional Financial Aid 96%
Online Students 1,863
7
Indian River State College

Fort Pierce, Florida

Total online programs: 2

Academic Counseling Yes
Career Placement Yes
Student-to- Faculty Ratio 25:1
Tuition (In-State) $
Institutional Financial Aid 10%
Online Students 3,688
8
Pikes Peak Community College

Colorado Springs, Colorado

Total online programs: 2

Academic Counseling Yes
Career Placement Yes
Student-to- Faculty Ratio 20:1
Tuition (In-State) $
Institutional Financial Aid 5%
Online Students 2,610
9
University of Florida

Gainesville, Florida

Total online programs: 1

Academic Counseling Yes
Career Placement Yes
Student-to- Faculty Ratio 17:1
Tuition (In-State) $
Institutional Financial Aid 35%
Online Students 8,354
10
Fayetteville State University

Fayetteville, North Carolina

Total online programs: 1

Academic Counseling Yes
Career Placement Yes
Student-to- Faculty Ratio 17:1
Tuition (In-State) $
Institutional Financial Aid 77%
Online Students 2,704
11

Total online programs: 2

Academic Counseling Yes
Career Placement Yes
Student-to- Faculty Ratio 27:1
Tuition (In-State) $
Institutional Financial Aid 19%
Online Students 1,968

Can You Really Earn a Fire Science Degree Online?

Given the hands-on nature of fire science, prospective students are often surprised to learn that distance learning fire science degree programs exist, especially those that can be completed entirely online. The study of fire science, however, lends itself well to fully-online coursework, often employing virtual “hands-on” investigations and situation analyses in place of in-person participation.

Potential In-Person Requirements for Online Fire Science Students

Most online fire science degree programs today, both undergraduate and graduate, can be completed entirely through online study, with no on-campus visits or any other in-person participation required. A few programs, however, include some on-campus or in-person components, such as:

  • Hybrid coursework
    Hybrid courses are those that combine online study with some amount of on-campus participation, such as lab work.
  • Internships
    Internships are typically with local fire departments, and include activities like “ride-alongs” on responses to alarms.
  • Orientation sessions
    On-campus orientation sessions typically take place at the beginning of a term, and last from one to two days.

4 Ways to Study Fire Science Online

There are four basic options for online fire science postsecondary study: professional certificates, associate degrees, bachelor’s degrees, and master’s degrees. Each has its own prerequisites, learning objectives, and post-grad career opportunities. Here’s a detailed look at what’s available:

Online Fire Science Programs at a Glance

Certificate

Credit Hours
10-30

Time to Complete
Varies from a few weeks to one year.

Career Opportunities
• Firefighter
• EMT (some employers)

Associate

Credit Hours
60-90

Time to Complete
Two years of full-time study. Part-time programs allow more time for completion.

Career Opportunities
• Firefighter
• Firefighting and Prevention Supervisor
• Fire Inspector
• Fire Instructor
• Fire Investigator
• EMT (some employers)

Bachelor’s

Credit Hours
120-180

Time to Complete
Four years of full-time study. Part-time programs allow more time for completion. Some accelerated programs are available with typical completion times of 15 to 18 months.

Career Opportunities
• Firefighter
• Firefighting and Prevention Supervisor
• Fire Inspector
• Fire Instructor
• Fire Investigator
• Fire Chief / Deputy Fire Chief
• Fire Marshal / Deputy Fire Marshal
• EMT (some employers)

Master’s

Credit Hours
30-36

Time to Complete
Typically two years of full-time study. Additional completion time (up to seven years in some programs) is often provided.

Career Opportunities
• Fire Chief / Captain / Lieutenant
• Director, Emergency Management

Undergraduate Fire Science Certificates Online

Undergraduate certificates in fire science provide students with foundational knowledge of the field, covering topics such as fire combustion and behavior, fire safety and prevention, and emergency services. Fire science undergrad certificates prepare students for entry-level jobs as firefighters and (in some cases) EMTs. Additional training (firefighter academy, EMT licensing courses) is required.

Fire certificate programs are commonly offered by community colleges and technical/vocational schools, and can be found both online and on-campus. Requirements for earning a certificate vary, with most requiring completion of 10 to 30 credit hours of coursework. Program lengths vary from a few weeks to one year.

Online Fire Science Associate Degrees

An associate degree in fire science prepares graduates for entry-level employment as firefighters, fire inspectors, fire investigators, fire instructors, and (in some instances) EMTs. Additional training, however, is required for all of these jobs. Both Associate of Science (A.S.) and Associate of Applied Science (A.A.S.) fire science degree programs can be found online. A.S. programs are traditionally geared toward students interested in continuing their educations into bachelor’s degree programs, while A.A.S. programs are aimed at students who want to move directly into their careers upon graduation.

Fire science associate degrees typically require two years of full-time study, which includes both general education and major-specific coursework. They’re offered online most often by community and technical colleges but are also available from some four-year colleges and universities. In most cases, coursework is presented in an asynchronous format, and most programs can be completed entirely online without any in-person requirements.

Bachelor’s in Fire Science Online

A bachelor’s degree in fire science can provide a leg-up to graduates seeking entry-level jobs as firefighters, fire inspectors, and EMTs (all requiring additional training), but are more often designed for current fire services professionals seeking to advance their careers into management and supervisory positions. Online degree programs are available in specialized areas of study such as investigation, administration, fire technology, emergency services, and more.

Online fire science bachelor’s degree programs are offered by public and private colleges and universities, and typically require four years of full-time study that includes general education and major-specific core and elective coursework. Most online programs feature confer a Bachelor of Science (B.S.) degree, although a few Bachelor of Applied Science (B.A.S.) programs are available. The majority of programs feature all of their coursework online, but some include a few classes in a hybrid (online/on-campus) format.

Online Fire Science Master’s Degree

Online master’s fire science degrees are designed for working professionals with several years of experience in firefighting, fire protection, fire investigation or a similar field who want to advance into top-tier leadership positions – most commonly in administration or investigation. Advanced and specialized education and training are the hallmarks of master’s-level fire science degree programs, and prospective students will be looking at Master of Science (M.S.) degree titles such as:

  • M.S. in Emergency Management
  • M.S. in Fire Protection Engineering
  • M.S. in Public Administration (with Fire and Emergency Services specialization)
  • M.S. in Public Safety Leadership and Administration (with Executive Fire Administration concentration)

As with fire science undergrad degrees, most master’s programs feature fully-online coursework, most often in an asynchronous format.

Earning Your Bachelor’s in Fire Science Online: A Detailed Look

Bachelor’s degree programs are especially popular in the fire science field because of their flexibility in the job market. Like job seekers with an associate degree or certificate, fire science bachelor’s degree grads are attractive candidates for entry-level fire-services positions, with the extra two years of education giving them a leg up on the competition. Bachelor’s graduates additionally appeal to employers seeking experienced fire science professionals with specialized training. Here’s more on what fire science bachelor’s degree programs are all about.

What do you study?

Fire science bachelor’s degree curriculums include general education coursework along with both core and elective courses in subjects such as:

  • Community risk reduction and fire prevention
  • Emergency planning
  • Fire combustion and behavior
  • Fire investigation and analysis
  • Fire protection structure and system design
  • Fire safety and regulation
  • Law, public policy and administration
  • Professional leadership
  • Risk reduction in fire and emergency services

What skills do you learn?

Fire science bachelor’s students develop a wide range of important, practical skills throughout their degree programs. By the time they graduate, students will be able to successfully:

  • Apply theory and practice methods to real fire science issues and events.
  • Analyze the policies, practices, and strategies employed in fire protection and investigation.
  • Apply principles of fire dynamics and chemistry to emergency situations.
  • Assess and apply planning tactics for fire-risk reduction in the community.
  • Properly interpret and apply legal and regulatory duties and responsibilities related to the fire science field.
  • Demonstrate a clear understanding of the leadership, management, and collaborative roles of the fire science professional with peers and within the community.

Is it possible to have a concentration?

Some fire science bachelor’s programs offer concentration or specialization options, and some do not. Also, schools may offer fire science-related bachelor’s degrees with specialized titles in place of concentration or specialization options. Here are a few examples of fire science concentrations and specializations currently being offered by online bachelor’s programs:

  • Emergency management
  • Emergency medical services
  • Fire administration
  • Fire, arson and explosion investigation
  • Fire services management

How much does an online bachelor’s degree in fire science cost?

The costs associated with earning a bachelor’s degree in fire science vary substantially depending on the specific program, as well as factors such as whether the program is offered by a public or private school, and whether or not the student is a resident of state in which the program is based. The chart below provides examples of the tuition costs (as of summer 2019) for several online fire science bachelor’s degree programs. Keep in mind that these are tuition costs only, and do not include additional costs and fees.

School NameNo. of CreditsCost/CreditEst. Total Tuition Cost
Colorado State University120$476$57,120
Eastern Kentucky University120$409$49,080
University of Florida120$129.18 in-state
$300 out-of-state
$15,502 in-state
$36,000 out-of-state
University of Wisconsin Oshkosh120$360$43,200
Western Illinois University120$296.10$35,532

Need help paying for your online fire science degree? Check out our in-depth financial aid and scholarship guides.

Accreditation for Online Fire Science Programs

It is crucial for prospective students to make sure that the online fire science program and college they’re considering are both properly accredited. This ensures the curriculum meets high standards of academic quality. Accreditation information can normally be found on a school’s website. It can also be determined by searching for schools on the DOE’s database of accredited schools.

Fire science degree programs are accredited in the U.S. by the International Fire Service Accreditation Congress (IFSAC). Programs may additionally be certified by the U.S. Fire Administration’s Fire and Emergency Services Higher Education (FESHE) recognition program.

What Are My Career Options with an Online Fire Science Degree?

Fire science encompasses a wide range of career fields and dozens of job titles, from the entry-level firefighter to advanced positions in research, investigation and management. Minimum education, training, and experience requirements vary greatly by occupation, and professionals often find themselves returning to school to earn advanced degrees in order to gain specialized skills and move up the career ladder. Here are some of the most common career positions available to individuals with a fire science degree.

Firefighter

Firefighters respond to fires and other emergency events where life, property, and/or the environment are in danger. Firefighters control and extinguish fires, and locate, rescue and treat victims. They also clean and maintain equipment, and participate in practice drills and physical fitness training.

Fire Marshal

Fire marshals are sworn law-enforcement officers employed by city, county, provincial, and state governments. Their duties may include overseeing fire code enforcement, investigating the origins and causes of fires, and making arrests of individuals for arson and related offenses.

Wildland Firefighter

Wildland firefighters control and put out non-structure fires occurring in vegetation or natural fuel sources. Wildland firefighters are members of highly-skilled crews and are typically employed by federal, state, and local park, forestry, and wildlife government agencies.

Fire Chief

A fire chief is the commanding officer or top-ranked executive in a fire department. Duties include supervising fire and emergency personnel and equipment, assisting and consulting with city leaders (mayor, city manager, etc.), and representing their agency in the community.

Fire Inspector

Fire inspectors search for and detect hazards in buildings to ensure that applicable fire and safety codes are being met. Job tasks include testing fire protection equipment, reviewing emergency evacuation plans, conducting fire and safety education programs, and more.

Fire Investigator

The main job of the fire investigator is to determine the origins and causes of fires and explosions. Fire investigators collect and analyze evidence, interview witnesses, conduct scene reconstructions, testify in court proceedings, and make arrests and exercise other police powers.

Arson Investigator

The job duties and responsibilities of the arson investigator are very similar to those of the fire investigator. The main difference is that arson investigators are typically called into service only after criminal activity at the scene of a fire or explosion is suspected.

Fire Protection Engineer

Fire protection engineers apply engineering and scientific principles to identify risks and design safeguards to prevent, mitigate, and control fires and their effects. They also assist building owners, developers and architects in their efforts to meet safety and protection goals.

EMT/Paramedic

EMTs and paramedics respond to 911 calls for emergency medical assistance, provide first-aid and life support care to sick and injured individuals in emergency situations, and transport those individuals to hospitals or other healthcare facilities for further treatment.