Colorado’s mountainous landscape and climate conditions—from drought to lightning strikes—create ongoing challenges for fire science professionals. Colorado graduates an average of 311 fire science students every year from programs at seven accredited colleges. These graduates can choose to fight urban or woodland fires, inspect structures for fire safety, or investigate the causes of fires. Some 4,530 firefighters are employed in the state of Colorado. Additionally, there are 150 fire inspectors and investigators in the state and about 3,270 emergency medical technicians and paramedics. Those with the required work experience and academic qualifications can explore leadership roles in the field.
In general, Colorado's fire science professions pay more than the U.S. average for these same occupations. Annual wages, however, can vary depending on factors such as location, education and certification.
|Colorado Fire Service Careers
|Fire Inspectors and Investigators||$49,100||$67,900||$82,020|
|Fire Service Supervisors||$28,100||$49,360||$73,490|
The wild, rugged landscape that is the backdrop of Colorado’s outdoor culture has bred an extensive fire science education system. Six community colleges offer two-year associate degrees and certificates, and Colorado State University is home to a prestigious forest stewardship program. To expand accessibility for professionals already working in the field, institutions such as Colorado State and Red Rocks Community College feature selected fire science-related classes online.
Two-year degrees focus on giving graduates the fundamentals they need to seek work right away, including introductions to fire chemistry and behavior, the basics of investigation and administration, leadership courses, fire safety training, emergency medical skills and familiarity with the legal issues that surround firefighting. After achieving associate degrees, graduates may enter the workforce or use those degrees to transfer to a four-year program that encompasses more advanced coursework. The Bureau of Labor Statistics notes that college degrees are increasingly common for fire investigators and inspectors as well as administrative positions such as fire command and logistics or emergency services management.
Fire science programs are available in Colorado at the certificate, associate and bachelor’s level. Community college degrees can prep aspiring fire professionals for career paths or transfer to four-year schools. Training options include:
Educate yourself—fire/EMS/hazardous materials, wildfire and a college degree or a master’s degree in a related field. Be as diverse as possible. Come to work everyday with passion and compassion.
College and graduate degree in a related field. Learn a second language that is reflective of the community you serve. Create diversity in your certifications—Fire I and II, Hazmat Tech, EMT, wildfire, rescue etc. Seek customer service training as well as leadership and management training.
Served by 90% volunteer forces. Very diverse set of service personnel (responder's participate from all walks of life). We respond to a wide variety of needs from our customers, not just emergencies.
Red Rocks Community College (RRCC) graduates nearly 40 percent of Colorado’s fire science students every year. Tuition is approximately $2,223 annually. Some classes may be available online for the convenience of fire science professionals.
Program Name: Fire Science & Firefighter One Academy
Program Description: Red Rocks Community College offers an associate degree in fire science as well as career training through the Firefighter One Academy. The academy teaches the essentials of firefighting, as well as a “Firefighting Clinical,” which features a ride-along program and education in hazmat operations. Many instructors at the academy work as professionals in Colorado fire departments. Some classes may use the live burn facilities at the West Metro Fire Rescue Training Center in Lakewood. Those who successfully complete the program earn a certificate of completion from RRCC.
The academy program is part of the Emergency and Public Safety Department, which encompasses emergency management and planning, emergency medical services and law-enforcement training. The course preps students for the Denver Regional Council of Governments (DRCOG) exam, which is used by numerous regional fire departments for hiring decisions. Students also can benefit from the job assessment program, which is taught by fire service veterans.
The firefighting academy can serve as one step toward the associate degree in fire science. RRCC features three related associate degrees: fire science technology, fire science management or emergency management and planning. RRCC also offers a range of fire science technology certificate programs: Firefighter I, Fire Instructor, Fire Officer I, II & III, Fire Inspector and HazMat Operations. Certain courses are delivered on-campus or online, such as the Fire Officer certificate programs. Components of the degree program in fire science management are also available online to expand accessibility for busy professionals.
For more details on the Firefighter Academy: http://www.rrcc.edu/fire/FireAcademy.htm
For information on degrees and certificates at RRCC: http://www.rrcc.edu/catalogs/14-15/fire-science-technology.htm
Colorado State University’s online fire science program is designed for both students and professionals employed in the industry. Courses are designed to provide the skills needed to pursue advanced careers in logistics, management and command.
Program Name: Fire and Emergency Services Administration (FESA)
Program Description: Colorado State’s Forest and Rangeland Stewardship division has an entire program dedicated to fire science and first response, aimed at career firefighters and emergency services personnel. The FESA program offers a bachelor’s degree and a “second bachelor’s” track for those who hold a baccalaureate degree in a different subject. There is also a certificate of completion program from FESA that requires taking five courses. The comprehensive degree program includes nine core requirements such as integrated management, fire and emergency budgeting, tactics and strategy, essentials of emergency management and services administration.
FESA is a degree completion program and offers only upper-division (junior and senior) coursework. Students should first complete an associate degree in fire science, emergency services or a related field before enrolling at CSU. The FESA curriculum can be completed in as little as two years, but most students require three or four years to finish.
To offer convenience for professionals with hectic or variable schedules, the FESA program is delivered completely online, using web-based tools for discussions, assignments and learning materials. Students typically are seeking career advancement and already have considerable work experience in roles such as firefighters, paramedics or emergency service managers.
For more information on Colorado State University fire science options: http://warnercnr.colostate.edu/fesa-home
Traditionally, fire science education has been a hands-on endeavor. With recent technological innovations in online education, however, broader options have emerged. As mentioned, CSU’s degree completion program in fire and emergency services administration is available only online. Created for working professionals in related fields, the curriculum focuses on personnel, budgeting and management, and program evaluation.
In some distance learning programs, firefighter education must provide hands-on experience. Hybrid programs allow students to do the bulk of their learning online while attending a physical campus for the remaining portion. Colorado Community Colleges Online gives community colleges in the state the technological support to offer online classes. (For more information, see CCCOnline at www.ccconline.org.) For example, Red Rocks Community College describes a variety of learning modes, including blended and hybrid courses, learning communities, accelerated or self-paced courses and online instruction. Not all these methods of delivery apply for fire science courses, but RRCC offerings such as the fire officer certificate program are available online.