Fire Science Degree Programs in Montana

Montana students who seek a degree in fire science have the option of following various career paths post-graduation. For example, they can choose to be firefighters, fire investigators or inspectors, supervisors or EMT/paramedics.


In Montana, 263 fire departments are filled with fire science professionals, including 560 firefighters and 110 first-line supervisors. These trained professionals are tasked to fight and protect people and property against fire loss, damage and death.


Compensation can vary, depending on location and one’s education, and those with advanced training and certification may be eligible for a higher salary potential. Below are salary figures for three fire science occupations in Montana:


Montana Fire Service Careers
10th Percentile
50th Percentile
90th Percentile
Firefighters $18,420 $45,230 $57,940
Fire Inspectors and Investigators $31,900 $43,400 $69,170
Fire Service Supervisors $32,060 $49,600 $70,760

Montana Fire Science Education

Potential fire science students in Montana face two options for training and education at college campuses: certificates and associate degrees. For the entry-level firefighter, the certificate route offers the less time-intensive route to the work force. Both options present knowledge of fire science theory and offer real world opportunities to use that knowledge in a practical way. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that some type of postsecondary training can enhance help firefighters’ career options. For fire inspectors and investigators, employers typically expect a college degree and work experience.

Depending on the program, the core expectations for certificate programs may be nearly the same as for the associate degree, but the associate-level studies go deeper into the coursework. For example, both programs require that students understand the basics of firefighting, EMT services and hazardous materials. The associate degree travels further down the path by exploring fire inspection, incident management, building construction, fire suppression tactics, service training and safety education. Most associate degrees require around 65 hours of fire science education plus general education courses such as English, math, history and so on, while the certificate program requires about 35 hours of fire science-intensive courses.

Fire Science Schools in Montana

One of the least populated states in the U.S., Montana offers two universities with fire science training programs:

SCHOOL
TYPE OF DEGREE
DEGREE LEVEL STATE SCHOOL NAME PROGRAM NAME
Associate Montana Montana State University-Billings Fire Prevention and Safety Technology / Technician
Associate Montana Montana State University-Great Falls College of Technology Fire Science / Fire-fighting
Associate Montana University of Montana-Helena College of Technology Fire Science / Fire-fighting

SPOTLIGHT INTERVIEWS

  • Kelly Tuck Assistant Fire Chief - Operations Helena, MT
    What's the best piece of advice you can give a future firefighter (or fire investigator, inspector, etc.) in your city or state?

    Understand how to do your job safely, ethically, morally, legally, and within a standard format. Always remember your training and inject change into our service to combat the complacency of our culture. Push the culture to change.

    What educational path would you recommend for firefighters or other fire service professionals in your city or state who wish to advance their careers?

    Management training, particularly experience managing small units, and communication training. Also, performance management training.

    What makes firefighting and the fire services unique in your city or state? Please be as specific as you can.

    I'm not certain that we are unique, but we are short staffed.

Spotlight: Helena College

Program Name: Fire and Rescue

Program Description: Students within Helena College’s fire and rescue associate degree program face both academic and physical requirements. Due to the physical demanding nature of the job, potential students are given an agility test, which could entail a one-mile run under 10 minutes, 50 sit-ups in 2 minutes, 25 push-ups in 2 minutes, lifting and dragging a 175-pound mannequin over 50 feet and climbing a 24-foot ladder. The academic requirements consist of coursework based in fire protection, building construction, aircraft rescue, fire inspection and investigation, the national incident management system and basic wildland fire supervision. Coursework is offered in Helena and Missoula, and the program information describes live fire situations for training mock-ups.

For more information, visit http://www.umhelena.edu/catalog/fireandrescue.aspx

Spotlight: Montana State University

Program Name: Fire and Rescue Technology

Program Description: Montana State University has various options for fire science training. The state-level Fire Services Training School (FSTS) provides professional development and is attached to the Extension Service of MSU. These training academies target certifications such as Firefighter I and II or Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) - Basic. FSTS certification is accredited by the International Fire Service Accreditation Congress (IFSAC) and the National Board on Fire Service Professional Qualifications (NPQS). The Bureau of Labor Statistics notes that the EMT - Basic certification is generally required for entry-level firefighters, and job opportunities should be stronger for those with Paramedic certification.

Students seeking to earn an associate of applied science degree in fire and rescue technology should contact the university, as this program may temporarily be on hold. Associate-level programs span general education in areas such as writing, psychology and physical science along with fire science coursework. Students can learn about incident management, tactical operations, EMT and firefighter basics and hydraulics, while completing a field internship.

For further details, see: http://www.montana.edu/wwwfire/firescience.html

Online Learning: Fire Science

Given the state's far-flung communities and heavy-duty winters, Montana’s prospective fire science students can benefit from online learning programs. While some programs are hybrid, requiring online and in-person coursework, students can take advantage of the video conferencing, electronic assignment submission and web-based chat software. Distance learning may suit the variable schedules of practicing professionals in fire science. Certain programs may be exclusively online, such as bachelor's degrees in fire administration or master's-level studies in emergency services management. Firefighting programs may require a field internship, where students can bridge the gap between the theoretical and practical and get their hands dirty in the field of fire science.