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Fire­fight­ing is one of the most dan­ger­ous occu­pa­tions in the world – and in much of the US, it’s a vol­un­teer posi­tion. In most larg­er cities and munic­i­pal­i­ties, though, the fire pro­tec­tion ser­vice is high­ly pro­fes­sion­al­ized, and that is becom­ing more and more com­mon. Fire pro­tec­tion is com­plex, from the tech­nol­o­gy and tech­niques of actu­al fire-fight­ing to the orga­ni­za­tion­al chal­lenges of col­lab­o­rat­ing between cities, espe­cial­ly for major events like for­est fires. That’s why more fire ser­vices are requir­ing a bachelor’s degree for fire­fight­ers and admin­is­tra­tors, and work­ing pro­fes­sion­als are under pres­sure to catch up.

Col­leges and uni­ver­si­ties have devel­oped all sorts of ways to make an online fire sci­ence bach­e­lor degree con­ve­nient for work­ing fire­fight­ers. In addi­tion to accel­er­at­ed sched­ules (cours­es that take only 6–8 weeks instead of the con­ven­tion­al 16), fire sci­ence pro­grams offer gen­er­ous cred­it trans­fers. Since many fire­fight­ers already have associate’s degrees, they are halfway to a bachelor’s; they can fin­ish in as lit­tle as 18 months. When cred­it for work expe­ri­ence and cer­ti­fi­ca­tions is added in, a fire sci­ence bach­e­lor degree can take as lit­tle as a year.

Methodology: How We Ranked the Best Online Fire Science Degree Accelerated Programs

For our rank­ing of the Fastest Online Fire Sci­ence Degree pro­grams, Bachelor’s Degree Cen­ter began with a list of all rep­utable, accred­it­ed online fire sci­ence degree pro­grams, as well as fire and pub­lic ser­vices admin­is­tra­tion, fire inves­ti­ga­tion, and relat­ed pro­grams. From there, we searched for fire sci­ence online degree pro­grams that took the needs of work­ing fire ser­vice pro­fes­sion­als seri­ous­ly, with accel­er­at­ed class­es, help­ful trans­fer pro­grams, and oth­er oppor­tu­ni­ties to speed up the process.

Final­ly, pro­grams were ranked accord­ing to five fac­tors: Cost, Grad­u­a­tion Rate, Job Place­ment Rate, Rep­u­ta­tion, and Salary Expec­ta­tions. Data came from IPEDS, Col­lege Score­card, and Niche, for a rank­ing that focus­es on job mar­ket val­ue and returns on invest­ment. These are the best in fire and emer­gency ser­vices high­er education.

1. American Public University

Amer­i­can Pub­lic University’s BS in Fire Sci­ence Man­age­ment degree pro­gram can be com­plet­ed 100% online. Stu­dents explore the the­o­ry and prac­tices of the fire sci­ence dis­ci­pline. Amer­i­can Pub­lic University’s Fire Admin­is­tra­tion degree pro­gram requires the com­ple­tion of 120 cred­it units in the areas of pre­ven­tion, safe­ty, fire sup­pres­sion, and fire behav­ior. APU offers a gen­er­ous trans­fer pol­i­cy that allows for up to 90 eli­gi­ble credits.

Amer­i­can Pub­lic Uni­ver­si­ty was estab­lished in 1991 and oper­ates inde­pen­dent­ly of the Unit­ed States fed­er­al gov­ern­ment. APU is a pri­vate, for-prof­it insti­tu­tion of high­er learn­ing where more than 55+% of the 48,000+-student pop­u­la­tion have pre­vi­ous­ly served in the US mil­i­tary. APU is accred­it­ed by the High­er Learn­ing Com­mis­sion and endorsed by the Coun­cil on Edu­ca­tion for Pub­lic Health, the Soci­ety for Human Resource Man­age­ment, and the Nation­al Coun­cil on Fam­i­ly Rela­tions. Wendy B. Lawrence, a space shut­tle vet­er­an, is a fac­ul­ty mem­ber at the Amer­i­can Pub­lic University

Degree: BS in Fire Sci­ence Man­age­ment
For­mat: Online — trans­fer 90 credits

Amer­i­can Pub­lic University

2. Anna Maria College

One of the few col­leges with a ded­i­cat­ed School of Fire & Health Sci­ences, Anna Maria Col­lege offers an online BS in Fire Sci­ence degree pro­gram that is avail­able entire­ly online. The FESHE approved course­work (AMC was the first in the coun­try to earn this cer­ti­fi­ca­tion) includes fire dynam­ics, fire­fight­ing skills, haz­ardous mate­ri­als han­dling, and man­age­ment the­o­ries. Anna Maria College’s trans­fer cred­it pol­i­cy accepts up to 900 eli­gi­ble cred­its. They also offer stu­dents an accel­er­at­ed Mas­ter of Pub­lic Admin­is­tra­tion that can be earned dur­ing an agreed-upon 5th Year of instruction.

Anna Maria is a pri­vate insti­tu­tion of high­er learn­ing that was estab­lished in 1946. The school was found­ed by the Sis­ters of Saint Anne and remains affil­i­at­ed with the Roman Catholic Church. The school’s 175+-acre rur­al cam­pus is home to near­ly 1,500 stu­dents. The school is locat­ed in the beau­ti­ful cen­tral por­tion of Mass­a­chu­setts. Boston, Cape Cod, Con­necti­cut, Albany, Ver­mont, and Even New York City are with­in dri­ving distances.

Degree: BS in Fire Sci­ence
For­mat: Online — accel­er­at­ed — FESHE Certificate

Anna Maria College

3. Bowling Green State University

Bowl­ing Green State University’s BS in Fire Admin­is­tra­tion (FIAD) can be com­plet­ed 100% online. BGSU’s pro­gram is rec­og­nized among the best online fire sci­ence degree pro­grams in the region. The school allows for up to 90 trans­fer cred­its for incom­ing stu­dents. BGSU holds the dis­tinc­tion as being the State Fire School since the ear­ly 1970s. The program’s cur­ricu­lum includes requires the com­ple­tion of 122 cred­it units and a cap­stone cul­mi­nat­ing project; which is com­plet­ed, on aver­age, in two-three years.

Bowl­ing Green State Uni­ver­si­ty is a pub­lic insti­tu­tion of high­er edu­ca­tion that was estab­lished in 1910. US News, Forbes, and Wash­ing­ton Month­ly have nation­al­ly rec­og­nized Bowl­ing Green State Uni­ver­si­ty. The school oper­ates with mul­ti­ple cam­pus­es but over­all, the school’s stu­dent enroll­ment nears 23,000. The school is home to the Dorothy and Lil­lian Gish Film Theater/Museum, a col­lec­tion of keep­sakes ded­i­cat­ed the Gish sis­ters of ear­ly film.

Degree: BS in Fire Admin­is­tra­tion
For­mat: Online — only 30 cred­its at BGSU

Bowl­ing Green State University

4. Eastern Kentucky University

East­ern Ken­tucky Uni­ver­si­ty offers a BS in Fire, Arson, and Explo­sion Inves­ti­ga­tion that can be com­plet­ed online entire­ly. The Inter­na­tion­al Fire Ser­vice Accred­i­ta­tion Con­gress (IFASAC) accred­its the fire admin­is­tra­tion degree pro­grams offered by East­ern Ken­tucky Uni­ver­si­ty. EKU’s fire sci­ence bach­e­lor’s degree pro­gram requires the com­ple­tion of 120 cred­it units. EKU’s allows for the trans­fer of up to 90 cred­it hours and reduce tuition prices for active ser­vice mem­bers. US News & World Report rec­og­nizes East­ern Ken­tucky University’s fire sci­ence pro­gram among the top online pro­gram in the nation.

East­ern Ken­tucky Uni­ver­si­ty is a pub­lic, region­al insti­tu­tion of high­er learn­ing that was estab­lished in 1874. EKU is a dis­tance-learn­ing school and also offers on-cam­pus class­es on sev­er­al cam­pus­es in Rich­mond, Lan­cast­er, Corbin, Man­ches­ter, and Haz­ard. Includ­ing online learn­ers, East­ern Ken­tucky is home to near­ly 17,000 stu­dents. US News, Forbes Mag­a­zine and the Chron­i­cle of High­er Edu­ca­tion have rec­og­nized many degree pro­grams offered by East­ern Ken­tucky University.

Degree: BS in Fire, Arson and Explo­sion Inves­ti­ga­tion
For­mat: Online — trans­fer up to 90 credits

East­ern Ken­tucky University 

5. Lewis University

Lewis Uni­ver­si­ty offers an online BA in Fire Ser­vice Admin­is­tra­tion degree pro­gram that is deliv­ered as an accel­er­at­ed pro­gram. Stu­dents expe­ri­ence real-world fire-relat­ed cir­cum­stances along­side pro­fes­sion­al fire­fight­ers in the Chica­go area. Core cours­es include Fire Ser­vice Ethics, Fire Ser­vice Risk Man­age­ment, Fire Ser­vice Finan­cial Man­age­ment, and Emer­gency Med­ical Ser­vices Admin­is­tra­tion, among others.

Lewis Uni­ver­si­ty is a pri­vate uni­ver­si­ty that was estab­lished in 1932 by the Arch­dio­cese of Chica­go. The school’s sub­ur­ban cam­pus is home to more than 4,600 stu­dents study­ing from the more than 75 degree pro­grams offered by Lewis Uni­ver­si­ty. LU’s fire admin­is­tra­tion degree pro­gram requires incom­ing stu­dents to be a min­i­mum of 24 years old, and either 3 years of full-time work or hold an asso­ciates degree in a fire-relat­ed sub­ject. The school accepts up to 72 eli­gi­ble trans­fer cred­it units.

Degree: BA in Fire Ser­vice Admin­is­tra­tion
For­mat: On-Cam­pus or Online — Accelerated

Lewis Uni­ver­si­ty

6. Liberty University

Lib­er­ty Uni­ver­si­ty offers a BS in Fire Admin­is­tra­tion degree pro­gram that is avail­able 100% online. LU’s fire sci­ence bach­e­lor degree pro­gram requires the com­ple­tion of 120 cred­it units across 3.6 to 4 years. Course­work includes Fire Pre­ven­tion, Fire Ser­vice Orga­ni­za­tions, Lead­er­ship in Fire Ser­vices, Inci­dent Com­mand, and Emer­gency Plan­ning, among oth­ers. Lib­er­ty University’s fire admin­is­tra­tion degree allows for the trans­fer of up to 90 cred­it units and pre­pares grad­u­ates for a career in the field of fire ser­vice, fire admin­is­tra­tion, and emer­gency ser­vices management.

LU is an evan­gel­i­cal Chris­t­ian insti­tu­tion of high­er edu­ca­tion that was estab­lished in 1971. The school’s sub­ur­ban cam­pus is home to more than 15,000 stu­dents; how­ev­er, Lib­er­ty University’s online stu­dent enroll­ment exceeds more than 94,000. Lib­er­ty University’s recent­ly built Free­dom Tow­er holds the dis­tinc­tion of being the tallest struc­ture in Lynch­burg, VA.

Degree: BS in Fire Admin­is­tra­tion
For­mat: Online — trans­fer 90 credits

Lib­er­ty University

7. Neumann University

Neu­mann University’s offers a BS in Pub­lic Safe­ty Admin­is­tra­tion degree pro­gram that is avail­able online, and in an accel­er­at­ed for­mat through the Adult Edu­ca­tion divi­sion. The school offers trans­fer cred­its of up to 90 and cred­it for pre­vi­ous­ly earned cer­ti­fi­ca­tions. Stu­dents attend­ing Neu­mann University’s fire sci­ence degree pro­gram either online, or on-cam­pus fol­low the Fran­cis­can tra­di­tion of social respon­si­bil­i­ty, envi­ron­men­tal pro­tec­tion, and respect for everyone.

The Fran­cis­can Sis­ters from the City of Broth­er­ly love – Philadel­phia estab­lished Neu­mann Uni­ver­si­ty in 1965. The school is affil­i­at­ed with the Fran­cis­can Roman Catholic Church and was ini­tial­ly an all-girl insti­tu­tion of high­er learn­ing. The school is orga­nized into five divi­sions cov­er­ing the dis­ci­plines of Nurs­ing, Edu­ca­tion, Busi­ness, Arts & Sci­ences, and Pro­fes­sion­als Stud­ies. The school’s south­east­ern Penn­syl­va­nia cam­pus is home to more than 3,000 students.

Degree: BS in Pub­lic Safe­ty Admin­is­tra­tion
For­mat: Online — accelerated

Neu­mann University

8. Northern Arizona University

North­ern Ari­zona Uni­ver­si­ty offers an inter­dis­ci­pli­nary Bach­e­lor of Applied Sci­ence degree pro­gram in Emer­gency Man­age­ment that is avail­able com­plete­ly online. Stu­dents attend­ing the fire sci­ence bach­e­lor degree explore the con­cepts of Emer­gency Plan­ning, Dis­as­ter recov­ery, Home­land Secu­ri­ty, and Inci­dent Man­age­ment, among oth­ers. The school’s gen­er­ous trans­fer cred­it pol­i­cy allows for up to 90 eli­gi­ble cred­its that can be applied to the program’s 120-cred­it unit requirement.

North­ern Ari­zona Uni­ver­si­ty is a research insti­tu­tion of high­er edu­ca­tion that was estab­lished in 1889. The school’s 700+-acre ‘small city’ cam­pus is home to more than 31,000 stu­dents and sits at near­ly 7,000 feet above sea lev­el. NAU holds the dis­tinc­tion of being the first uni­ver­si­ty that applied cred­its to degree pro­grams for life expe­ri­ence. North­ern Ari­zona Uni­ver­si­ty ranks among the top world­wide .5% uni­ver­si­ties accord­ing to the Cen­ter for World Uni­ver­si­ty Rankings.

Degree: BAS in Emer­gency man­age­ment
For­mat: Online — trans­fer 90 credits

North­ern Ari­zona University 

9. St Thomas University

St Thomas Uni­ver­si­ty offers a BS in Emer­gency Ser­vices Man­age­ment degree pro­gram that is avail­able online and in an accel­er­at­ed for­mat. STU’s course­work mir­rors the stan­dards set forth by FESHE — the Fire and Emer­gency High­er Edu­ca­tion Pro­gram. Cur­ricu­lum course­work includes Res­cue Oper­a­tions, Fire Sup­pres­sion, Con­flict Res­o­lu­tion, Fire Ser­vices Tech­nol­o­gy, and Emer­gency Ser­vices Per­son­nel Man­age­ment, among others.

The Arch­dio­cese of Mia­mi estab­lished St Thomas Uni­ver­si­ty in 1961. St Thomas Uni­ver­si­ty traces its roots to Havana Cuba in the mid-1940s. The school’s 150-acre urban cam­pus is home to near­ly 4,700 stu­dents and min­utes from the infa­mous Mia­mi beach­es and the Mag­ic City’s nightlife. Col­lege Fac­tu­al rec­og­nizes STU’s fire sci­ence bach­e­lor degree among the top 15% of Law Enforce­ment, Home­land Secu­ri­ty and Fire­fight­ing online pro­grams countrywide.

Degree: BS in Fire and Emer­gency Ser­vices Man­age­ment
For­mat: Online — Accelerated

St Thomas University

10. University of Maryland University College

The Uni­ver­si­ty of Mary­land Uni­ver­si­ty College’s Glob­al Cam­pus offers a BS in Pub­lic Safe­ty Admin­is­tra­tion degree pro­gram that deliv­ers all the flex­i­bil­i­ty and con­ve­nience of a qual­i­ty dis­tance-learn­ing pro­gram. The Glob­al Cam­pus’ fire sci­ence bach­e­lor degree pro­gram requires the com­ple­tion of 120 cred­it units – of which up to 90 eli­gi­ble cred­its can be trans­ferred. Course­work includes Pub­lic Safe­ty Ethics, Pub­lic Safe­ty Lead­er­ship, Legal Issues, Pub­lic Pol­i­cy, and Pub­lic Ser­vice Tech­nol­o­gy, among oth­ers. FESHE — the Fire and Emer­gency High­er Edu­ca­tion over­sight pro­gram — accred­its UMUC’s pub­lic safe­ty bac­calau­re­ate degree program.

The Uni­ver­si­ty of Mary­land Uni­ver­si­ty Col­lege is a pub­lic insti­tu­tion of high­er learn­ing that focus­es on online edu­ca­tion. UMUC’s online stu­dent body totals more than 90,000 stu­dents, world­wide. UMUC is one of eleven mem­ber schools of the Uni­ver­si­ty of Mary­land Sys­tem. The Uni­ver­si­ty of Mary­land Uni­ver­si­ty Col­lege is con­sid­ered a pio­neer in dis­tance edu­ca­tion as it orig­i­nal­ly offered dis­tance-learn­ing pro­grams using dial-up access.

Degree: BS in Pub­lic Safe­ty Admin­is­tra­tion
For­mat: Online — trans­fer 90 cred­its — FESHE Certificate

Uni­ver­si­ty of Mary­land Uni­ver­si­ty College

What If I Don’t Want a Full Bachelor’s Degree?

You don’t need a full Bachelor’s degree to start your fire safe­ty career. After all, how long does a fire sci­ence degree take? Instead, you can earn a cer­tifi­cate of fire safe­ty by get­ting your fire sci­ence cer­tifi­cate online. A fire safe­ty offi­cer course can jump­start your career. Keep in mind that a cer­tifi­cate is a bit dif­fer­ent from a Bachelor’s degree. For one thing, a cer­tifi­cate takes far less time to earn. Instead of stay­ing in school for four years, you could earn your cer­tifi­cate in two years or less. While a Bachelor’s degree requires some core cours­es, a cer­tifi­cate does not. Instead, you only take the cours­es that are absolute­ly required for your cer­tifi­cate of fire safe­ty. Instead of study­ing math, Eng­lish, and oth­er sub­jects, you’ll go straight to your online fire pro­tec­tion courses.

There’s one more dif­fer­ence between get­ting a bach­e­lor of sci­ence and get­ting a fire sci­ence cer­tifi­cate online. Bachelor’s degrees come from col­leges and uni­ver­si­ties. Cer­tifi­cates, on the oth­er hand, come from a licens­ing orga­ni­za­tion. With either choice, you’ll learn all of the basics and gain rel­e­vant skills to get your career off the ground. That said, you should note that a Bachelor’s degree is required for cer­tain pro­mo­tions. Those who reach the high­est offices in fire safe­ty usu­al­ly have a Bachelor’s degree or high­er. How­ev­er, online fire pro­tec­tion cours­es pro­vide great places to start.

Most of the time, becom­ing an EMT or para­medic requires only an associate’s degree.

If you want to jump­start your career now, save some mon­ey (and have less in finan­cial aid to pay back), and then get a Bachelor’s degree when you’re ready to move for­ward with your career path, you can absolute­ly do so. Start by search­ing for a fire safe­ty offi­cer course near you.

What Will I Learn in a Fire Science Program?

Whether you get your fire sci­ence degree online or on-cam­pus, your fire sci­ence degree require­ments will cov­er a lot of ground. A fire sci­ence pro­gram will cov­er every­thing from the fire sci­ence def­i­n­i­tion to fire sci­ence tech­nol­o­gy. Essen­tial­ly, you’ll learn every­thing that you need to know to start your fire­fight­ing career. Fire sci­ence degree require­ments vary from one school to the next. How­ev­er, most of these pro­grams are very sim­i­lar to one another.

Com­mon fire sci­ence degree require­ments include cours­es on safe­ty, fire sci­ence tech­nol­o­gy, pre­ven­tion, and com­bus­tion. Keep in mind that the fire sci­ence def­i­n­i­tion cov­ers all aspects of fire. You’ll study how fires start, how they behave, and how they react to dif­fer­ent conditions.

If you’re inter­est­ed in becom­ing a fire inspec­tor or fire chief, a bachelor’s or master’s degree will be real­ly key. Com­bin­ing crim­i­nal jus­tice with fire sci­ence or emer­gency man­age­ment can help get into high­er posi­tions. Choos­ing your elec­tives wise­ly can also help you spe­cial­ize. Look into degree com­ple­tion if you already have an associate’s degree; the admis­sion require­ments are usu­al­ly much eas­i­er when you already have col­lege cred­it for gen­er­al education.

Do I Need a Certification or License to be a Firefighter?

Gen­er­al­ly speak­ing, yes. Of course, all munic­i­pal­i­ties and fire depart­ments have their own rules and reg­u­la­tions for their fire­fight­ers. Your best choice is to look up the munic­i­pal­i­ty where you want to work so that you can find out what the require­ments are there. In some places, you need only a high school diplo­ma. In some places, an asso­ciate of applied sci­ence (A.A.S.) from a com­mu­ni­ty col­lege is required. If you’re not sure where you’ll end up work­ing, then it’s best to go ahead and get your fire sci­ence cer­ti­fi­ca­tion. Most munic­i­pal­i­ties will require that you do. Even if your munic­i­pal­i­ty doesn’t require it, hav­ing your cer­ti­fi­ca­tion will give you con­fi­dence and a com­pet­i­tive edge.

Fur­ther­more, fire­fight­ing is a dan­ger­ous pro­fes­sion. When you have cer­ti­fi­ca­tion, you can be sure that you have all of the skills that you’ll need to fight fires effec­tive­ly. Get­ting your cer­ti­fi­ca­tion will require tak­ing an exam. An online fire sci­ence bach­e­lor’s degree will help you pre­pare for that exam. With all of the class­es that go into an online bach­e­lor degree, you’ll feel more con­fi­dent when you aim for your fire sci­ence certification.

How­ev­er, you don’t nec­es­sar­i­ly need a full Bachelor’s degree, as stat­ed above. You can find online fire sci­ence class­es to help you study for your fire safe­ty cer­ti­fi­ca­tion online. These often have mul­ti­ple start dates and part­ner­ships with orga­ni­za­tions like the U.S. Fire Admin­is­tra­tion. How­ev­er, when you look for that fire safe­ty cer­ti­fi­ca­tion online, make sure that you only use legit­i­mate sources for your fire sci­ence class­es online. For exam­ple, the Nation­al Fire Pro­tec­tion Asso­ci­a­tion or the Nation­al Fire Acad­e­my are great places to start.

Relat­ed Rank­ings:
25 Best Online Fire Sci­ence Degree Bach­e­lor’s Pro­grams
15 Best Bach­e­lor’s in Fire Sci­ence Degree Pro­grams
10 Most Afford­able Fire Sci­ence Degree Bach­e­lor Programs