Fire and Forestry Scholarships and Financial Aid Funding Post-Secondary Education in Fire Science

Firefighting and forestry careers can be extremely gratifying, albeit challenging. From the fire department to the national park system, the jobs available require specialized training that can be obtained by completing a fire science or forestry degree program on the undergraduate level. Similar to most post-secondary degrees, getting further education comes at a cost. From scholarships to grants and loans, fire science and forestry students have many financial aid opportunities available to support their education goals.

Fire Science Scholarships

Scholarships are the prized form of financial aid for students. While they usually require more work in the forms of possible essays and interviews, students don’t have to worry about repaying the money they receive. In some cases, listing scholarships can help students get a job after graduation and reduce the cost of education.

Types of Fire Science Scholarships

Students working on their forestry and fire science degrees have many scholarship opportunities. Professional organizations, charitable foundations, and even schools themselves understand the need to encourage students to pursue these degrees—and many of them earmark funding each year to allow students to do so. These scholarships are a great way for students to supplement other types of financial aid, so it can be well worth the time and effort for them to investigate opportunities and apply to as many scholarships as they qualify for.

Professional Associations

Professional associations contribute to people in a specific industry by offering professional services—including networking opportunities, lobbying services, and continuing education courses. In addition, professional associations contribute to the future of an occupation by giving scholarships to students. The following are examples of scholarships available to fire science and forestry students that are awarded through these kinds of organizations.

Heather Westphal Memorial Scholarship Award

Heather Westphal Memorial Scholarship Award honors the memory of Heather Westphal who died in October 2008. This scholarship supports female first responders to encourage their participation in this male-dominated field.

Supporting Organization: International Association of Fire Chiefs Foundation (IAFC)

Amount: $2,000

Application Deadline: June 1

Ben Meadows Scholarship

Ben Meadows Scholarship offers two $2,500 scholarships for students in undergraduate forestry programs. These awards are given to college juniors or seniors who have demonstrated high academic achievement or leadership abilities.

Supporting Organization: Society of American Foresters (SAF)

Amount: $2,500

Deadline: June 30

“Ned Carter” Scholarships

“Ned Carter” Scholarships awards four scholarships to graduating high school students who plan to enter a service-related profession, such as fire service, when they complete their degree program.

Supporting Organization: Association of Fire Districts of the State of New York

Amount: $1,500

Application Deadline: First Saturday of March

The Floyd B. Heimer Memorial Scholarship Award

The Floyd B. Heimer Memorial Scholarship Award gives scholarships to students in the state who are studying fire science or emergency medical services.

Supporting Organization: Maryland State Firemen’s Association (MSFA)

Amount: $2,000

Application Deadline: April 15

John Mabry Forestry Scholarships

John Mabry Forestry Scholarships awards scholarships to forestry students enrolled in two- or four-year degree programs.

Supporting Organization: Railway Tie Association

Amount: $2,000

Application Deadline: June 30

The Oregon Farm Bureau Memorial Scholarship Project

The Oregon Farm Bureau Memorial Scholarship Project offers scholarships to any Oregon high school graduate with a full year of college transcripts who plans to study agriculture and/or a forestry related major.

Supporting Organization: Oregon Farm Bureau

Amount: Varies

Application Deadline: See Website for Details


Colleges often offer scholarships to forestry and fire science students in order to attract new students to their programs, as well as retain the ones they already have. Here are some examples of schools that offer such scholarships.

The Stephen (Steve) Bell Memorial Scholarship is for fire science students who are at least in the second year of the degree program at Lake Superior State University. In order to be eligible, students must have a minimum 3.0 grade point average.

Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University

Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University offers several scholarships to forestry students ranging from $1,000 to $5,000 per year. Some scholarships are awarded to one student annually, while others choose multiple winners each year.

Supporting Organization: Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University

Amount: $1,000 – $5,000

Deadline: February 15

Michigan State University

Michigan State University offers scholarships worth $200,000 to its forestry majors each year. These awards are for various amounts, generally ranging from $2,000 up to the full cost of tuition. Awards may be renewable for up to four years.

Supporting Organization: Michigan State University

Amount: Varies

Deadline: Contact for more details

Eastern Kentucky University’s

Eastern Kentucky University’s College of Justice and Safety has two scholarships for students studying fire science. These awards can be renewed up to seven times.

Supporting Organization: Eastern Kentucky University

Amount: $1,300 per semester

Deadline: October 15 for spring awards and March 15 for fall awards

The Edwin W. Mogren Annual Scholarship

The Edwin W. Mogren Annual Scholarship is available to students in their sophomore or junior year at Colorado State University. Applicants must have a minimum 2.5 grade point average. A written statement about the importance of forestry is also required.

Supporting Organization: Colorado State University

Amount: $1,000

Deadline: March 4

Charitable Foundations

Students who earn fire science and forestry degrees contribute a lot to their local communities when they enter their careers. Charitable foundations understand the importance of educating qualified workers for these jobs, so they often create scholarship programs to invest in those who will use their degrees to give back. These scholarships are some examples of this.

Zach Myers Memorial Firefighter Scholarship

The Zach Myers Memorial Firefighter Scholarship is for graduating high school students from Johnson County, Kansas who plan to study fire science in order to become a fire fighter or emergency medical technician.

Supporting Organization: Greater Kansas City Community Foundation

Amount: $1,000

Application Deadline: July 1

Yvorra Leadership Development (YLD) Foundation

The Yvorra Leadership Development (YLD) Foundation scholarship is designed to promote leadership development in the emergency services profession. This award is for those in the field enrolled in degree programs to advance their careers.

Supporting Organization: Yvorra Leadership Development (YLD) Foundation

Amount: Varies

Application Deadline: October 30

Criteria for Fire Science Scholarships

As with any degree, fire science and forestry scholarships are generally competitive and require that students meet certain criteria in order to receive funding. Some scholarship criteria are obvious – one must meet the GPA requirements. An interview may be required. However, fire science and forestry students may have to make a few extra steps when applying for industry specific scholarships when it comes to essays and memberships.


Just like a college admissions essay, students should approach a scholarship essay carefully. For fire science and forestry scholarships, many require the prospective recipients to demonstrate their passion and dedication for the industry. Some may require students to demonstrate achievements specific to these fields.

As for writing the essays, it is important that an essay is free from spelling and grammatical errors, just as students would when applying for college or a job. In addition, applicants should carefully follow the essay directions and create an outline to organize key points.

  • According to Monica Matthews, author of “How to Win College Scholarships,” many students avoid scholarships that require essays. As a result, these awards have less competition.
  • The University of California, Irvine urges students to avoid telling sob stories in their scholarship essays. The essay should be used to impress an organization with a student’s accomplishments and potential, not try to elicit sympathy.
  • suggests that students address shortcomings in their scholarship essay. If they have a reason why their GPA is not as high as it could be, students should be honest about their mistakes and discuss how they plan to improve.

Professional Organizations

Due to the specialized nature of fire science and forestry programs, professional organizations may require that students be a member in order to obtain a scholarship. This is especially prevalent when unions offer scholarships. Others require that students enrolled in a school that is a part of the organization or have received a certification to qualify. The following are a few examples of how memberships can offer scholarships opportunities:

  • Unions: Large firefighting unions, such as the International Association of Fire Fighters, offer multiple scholarship opportunities to their members.
  • Departments: to promote continuing education of their firehouses, many departments offer scholarships to their annually two IAFF members to attend this program. Award is $1,000 plus tuition.

Where to Find Grants and Loans

When looking for ways to fund their education, forestry and fire science students should not forget about grants and loans. Grants, like scholarships, can come from different sources and do not have to be paid back. Loans can also be obtained from different sources, including the federal or state government, colleges and universities, or directly from banks.

The following tips can help students apply for grants and loans for college.

Professional Organizations

Each year, the National Forest Foundation gives selected groups, students and professors money so they can work to create market-based solutions for natural resource issues affecting national forests and grasslands. Other fire science and forestry professional organizations offer similar opportunities.

Government grants

The first place that students should start when applying for grants is to fill out a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), which is used to evaluate their eligibility for a Federal Pell Grant and a Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant. These grant awards are based on student need, so applicants are required to include information about their expected family contribution in their application. In some cases, the federal government issues grants based on the field students plan to enter after graduation.

In addition, students may be able to receive grants that are issued by their state. These awards may be based on need, or may be given to applicants who are members of specific racial or ethnic groups. Students can find information about these grants from their school or the educational organizations in their state.

College-sponsored grants

Colleges may offer grants based on need, academic performance, athletic ability, or intended career. Students should check with their college’s financial aid office to find out about these opportunities.

Federal loans

Like federal grants, students are considered for federal loans by filling out an FAFSA. Perkins Loans are given to students who demonstrate the highest financial need, while Stafford Loans can be needs-based or non-needs-based. Parents may also borrow federal Direct PLUS Loans on behalf of their dependent children.

State loans

The availability of state loans, as well as the application process, depends on where students attend school. In some cases, applicants can be considered for state loans through their FAFSA, while other states require a separate application. Students can find out about state-funded student loans from their school’s financial aid office.

Institutional loans

Colleges and universities may offer student loans to cover remaining costs after students are awarded a federal loan. These loans may be used for tuition, room and board, or other expenses.

Private loans

Banks offer educational loans directly to students. Those who apply for private loans are generally expected to undergo a credit check, and they can expect to pay higher interest rates.

Benefits of Pursuing Degrees in Fire Science

Degrees in fire science and forestry aren’t the only path to a rewarding career in these industries, but they do provide in-depth training that can help jumpstart a new career. Although degrees aren’t necessary to pursue these jobs, those who earn fire science or forestry degrees do reap a number of benefits.

  • Career opportunities

    Some employers will hire entry-level workers who have not earned a degree. However, in many cases, employers actually prefer candidates who have completed degree programs. In this competitive job market, a degree can capture employers’ interest and make candidates stand out in the applicant pool.

  • Advancement

    For those who landed a job without attending college, a degree can help them advance in their careers, especially if they’ve been stuck in entry-level jobs. In fact, when organizations look for employees to fill higher-level positions, they often seek out people who have earned a degree. Similarly, workers who already have bachelor’s degrees often enroll in graduate programs in order to advance into managerial positions.

  • Health benefits

    According to the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, those who spend time in forests are healthier than those who don’t. Spending time around trees has been associated with increased immune systems and reduced stress and blood pressure. As a result, forestry graduates who get jobs that allow them to spend time in forests enjoy these vocation-related health benefits.

  • Job security

    There is a lot of job security that comes with working in the fire service sector. Fire departments rarely lay off workers, so even when there are budget cuts, employees can usually count on their jobs being safe.

  • Job satisfaction

    Those who work in forestry and fire service professions do a great deal to help their local communities. It can give employees a great sense of pride and increased job satisfaction knowing that the work they do benefits others.

  • Earning potential

    Although job candidates can sometimes land a position with a high school diploma, they tend to earn less than their college graduate counterparts. According to the Pew Research Center, workers who have completed undergraduate degrees earn about $17,500 more than those who ended their education after high school. In addition, college graduates have a lower unemployment rate.