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.
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.
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 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 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)
Application Deadline: June 1
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)
Deadline: June 30
“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
Application Deadline: First Saturday of March
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)
Application Deadline: April 15
John Mabry Forestry Scholarships awards scholarships to forestry students enrolled in two- or four-year degree programs.
Supporting Organization: Railway Tie Association
Application Deadline: June 30
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.
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 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 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.
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 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
Deadline: March 4
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.
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
Application Deadline: July 1
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
Application Deadline: October 30
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Advice on how to get scholarships.
Includes tips on how to win scholarships.
A nonprofit organization interested in protecting and expanding forests.
This nonprofit organization arranges conferences, provides new research, and issues certifications to people in the fire science field.
Includes information on different kinds of scholarships and how to apply for them.
Includes comprehensive information on scholarships, loans, and other forms of financial aid.
From podcasts to forums to blogs, this site has a wealth of information related to the fire service industry.
Provides resources to help fire and rescue workers advance in their careers.
This journal features articles about the latest research, policy, and practice in the forest and tree management sectors.
Includes information about forestry research, educational opportunities, and industry associations.
Features articles on how to secure financial aid.
Allows users to search and apply for grants issued by the federal government.
Includes comprehensive information on forestry careers.
This association is concerned with encouraging fire science research.
This organization offers several services to firefighters, including training programs, job listings, and advocacy efforts.
Journal that educates managers in the forestry industry about economic, technology, and communication topics.
A professional association that works on behalf of state and territorial foresters.
Includes articles on college funding and a financial aid calculator.
Informative article on how private college loans work.
Allows users to search for scholarships and colleges. Also includes tips on winning financial aid, adjusting to campus life, and adopting effective study skills.
Works on behalf of foresters, providing education and networking opportunities for these professionals.
Provides scholarship listings and information on how to successfully apply for college funding.
Explains the types of scholarships and grants available and how to apply for them.
As the world’s largest forestry research institution, the United States Forest Service conducts studies on topics like fire ecology, atmospheric science, and wildland fire management.