Alabama offers tremendous opportunity to earn a degree and find a solid career in fire science. For example, the state has an estimated 800 fire stations and 6,000 total fire services employees -- from inspectors and investigators to those on the front lines fighting urban and wild fires. Firefighters respond to medical emergencies, as well, and most are required to hold EMT or paramedic certification in their state.
Alabama salaries may reflect the state's relatively low cost of living. However, current and future fire service employees can achieve above-average incomes through additional education and experience. Here's a look at salaries for three core fire service occupations at the entry (10th percentile), median (50th percentile) and advanced (90th percentile) levels:
Alabama Fire Service Careers
|Fire Inspectors and Investigators
|Forest Fire Inspectors and Prevention
*Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2013
Employment for firefighters is projected to grow somewhat slowly between 2012 to 2022, making it important to take advantage of well-respected fire science programs. Though most fire departments hold a training academy for new recruits, post-secondary studies in fire science can help increase the chances of gaining employment. Students may choose from among a variety of degree or certificate levels, depending on where they are in their career and where they would like to go. Those starting out may choose to attend a certificate or associate program while employed firefighters may want to earn a bachelor’s or master’s degree as a way to qualify for more advanced positions.
At the certificate and associate levels, students learn the history of fire service and the basic skills needed on the job, better preparing them for the field’s rigorous requirements. A bachelor’s or master’s degree allows students to specialize in investigations, hazardous materials, fire science law, emergency services management and other areas to prepare for administrative roles.
Since the fire service is 80% EMS and other services, I would recommend to an aspiring firefighter to get a paramedic license. Also, formal education is very important especially if a young firefighter wishes to become a company officer or higher.
Paramedic education and national registry > Associate degree in Fire Science > Bachelor's degree in Safety Administration > Master’s degree in management or public administration.
Our department will pay tuition, buy books, and give a raise to those that complete related degrees. Our department has a high rate of bachelor’s and associate degree holders.
Finding the right fire science or related program is critical to receiving the quality education needed to enter the field.
Program Name: Bachelor of Science in Technology
Program Description: With specializations in fire science, emergency medical services and emergency medical technology, students enjoy a variety of options at University of West Alabama. This program is a partnership between UWA and the Alabama Fire College and allows students from diverse professional and academic levels to earn a degree designed to boost career opportunities. The founders of this cooperative program underline the need for academic training, saying that firefighting has evolved into an all-hazards response service in the United States, impacted by technological innovations and political considerations such as terrorism.
Applicants to the bachelor's degree program may submit credits from an accredited two-year fire services or emergency services program for consideration. According to the UWA website, the program offers a combination of online and on-campus classes, with distance learning options providing scheduling flexibility for firefighters who work variable shifts.
Postsecondary studies can improve the employment outlook for firefighters, and an associate degree gives graduates a foot in the door when applying for positions in the fire science field.
Program Name: Associate of Applied Science in Fire Science
Program Description: Columbia Southern University boasts a fire science program recognized by the U.S. Fire Administration’s National Fire Academy. While the university's headquarters are located in Alabama, coursework is delivered online. In the associate degree program, students learn about fire behavior, prevention and protection as well as how to stay safe on the job. Studies may also cover topics such as building codes and ordinances or fire loss analysis.
Columbia Southern offers a range of study options, including an undergraduate certificate in fire science, which requires four courses in fields such as fire prevention and code enforcement, legal aspects of fire protection or incendiary fire analysis and investigation. An online bachelor's degree program is available in fire administration, encompassing subjects like community risk reduction and management of incident command. Those aspiring to administrative positions can explore graduate studies such as a master's degree program in emergency services management.
Earning a fire science degree through online or hybrid programs is a convenient option for many students. With web-based education, students take core classes such as English, mathematics and even many fire science courses on their own time. Assignments are submitted virtually and students communicate with peers and instructors via Skype, email and other online methods. While most assignments are completed in a flexible, asynchronous format, the nature of fire science requires some practical work. Students can look for opportunities to complete physical agility and hands-on projects through a partner institution or fire department, gaining the real-world experience necessary in the fire science field.