Fire Science Degree Programs in Iowa

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New firefighters in Iowa can join the nearly 1,800 individuals who are already dedicated to protecting residents, property and land from fire loss and destruction. Others providing first response service in the state include the 2,320 emergency medical technicians and paramedics.

In firefighting, as in any career, salary is one factor to consider in addition to the rewards of filling an important role in society. Below are examples of annual earnings for fire services professionals in Iowa:

Iowa Fire Service Careers
10th Percentile
50th Percentile
90th Percentile
Firefighters $17,120 $40,400 $57,450
Fire Service Supervisors $23,280 $36,990 $62,160

Fire Science and EMT Education in Iowa

An abundance of Iowa’s colleges and universities offer education for first responders, whether they’re firefighters or EMTs. For example, Northeast Iowa Community College offers a firefighting specialist associate degree for those already connected with a volunteer or paid fire department. On the other hand, North Iowa Area Community College has programs for emergency medical responders and emergency medical technicians, for those age 17 or older. Many of these schools offer on-site or virtual training as well, such as Des Moines Area Community College’s FLAME-SIM virtual environment.

Most fire science-related associate degree programs take two years of full-time study to complete, while certificate programs may take a year or less. Western Iowa Tech Community College has an entry-level firefighter certificate program that requires 6 credits. Classes vary by institution but often have some overlap covering similar subject matter. Some classes first responders can expect to take include fire investigation, fire strategies and building construction.

Iowa Colleges & Universities for Fire Science Training

Iowa offers degree and certificate training programs for firefighters or EMTs at schools such as the following:

Degree Level
School Type


  • Mike Whitsell Deputy Chief of Fire Prevention/Fire Marshal West Des Moines, IA
    What's the best piece of advice you can give a future firefighter (or fire investigator, inspector, etc.) in your city or state?

    For firefighters: Start applying early. Learn what requirements cities in your area look for to even apply for an entry-level firefighter position. Obtain your Firefighter I and II certifications ASAP. Get in shape, stay in shape and live by the code of ethics this job requires. Be prepared to take several tests and always submit requirements for the application on time. If you have goals for inspector and investigator in the future, start obtaining education (i.e. degrees in construction or fire engineering) or certifications to prepare you for these promotions. Most departments hire within, but some are starting to make inspectors a civilian position.

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

    OBTAIN A COLLEGE DEGREE. Take classes to obtain certifications that will benefit you in your advancement. Make sure the certification applies directly to the desired position. Look into courses at the National Fire Academy, including the EFO program. Be involved, be active and collaborate with other departments and organizations when the opportunity comes up. Additional courses, outside the organization, dealing with leadership are excellent too.

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

    West Des Moines still has Paid on Call Firefighters in addition to career. If you have an opportunity to become a volunteer or Paid on Call firefighter, do it because it will give you valuable experience and certifications to move down the path for a full-time position in that department or another one elsewhere.

Spotlight: Western Iowa Tech Community College

Western Iowa Tech Community College (WITCC) serves six counties in Iowa, for a total of 180,000 residents. The college was started in 1966 and offers students associate degrees and certificates on-campus and online.

Program Name: Fire Science Technology

Program Description: WITCC’s fire science program, available at the Sioux City campus, seeks to serve both aspiring firefighters and those already in the field, particularly firefighters interested in moving up into administrative roles. The program operates cooperatively with local fire departments, which provided input as to what a practicing firefighter needs to know. Students may be able to earn credit for prior certifications or training. WITCC’s website suggests some employment possibilities after graduation, including sprinkler and alarm system installer, firefighter, safety engineering technician or building codes inspector.

The entry-level firefighter certificate program is designed for those looking to break into the field. Completion of the program can prepare students to test for certification with the Iowa Fire Service Training Bureau at the levels of Firefighter I and II.

To earn an associate degree in fire science technology, students usually take four to six courses per semester over four semesters. General education courses like English Composition and Introduction to Computers may be available in a convenient online format or as evening classes. Degree-specific courses at WITCC include fire behavior & combustion, strategy and tactics, emergency medical technician and fundamentals of fire prevention.

More information about the WITCC fire science program can be found at:

Spotlight: Iowa Western Community College

Iowa Western Community College (IWCC) was started in 1964 to meet the growing educational needs of state residents. While the main campus is in Council Bluffs, the college provides accessibility through selected online courses and degrees as well as four other campus locations. However, fire science programs are based on-campus at the Council Bluffs location only.

Program Name: Fire Science Technology

Program Description: IWCC’s Fire Science Technology program has start dates during the fall, spring or summer terms. Six semesters of full-time study are usually required to earn an associate degree. Fire science students must take a number of required courses, including codes and inspection, fire protection systems and equipment, survey of construction, and hydraulics and pumping applications. Program participants complete general education courses and also choose humanities and social science electives to round out their associate degree. One elective must meet the school's requirement for diversity studies.

IWCC offers fire science technology classes only in the evenings because the program was designed with working firefighters in mind. Classes are taught by firefighting professionals. Individuals seeking this degree, like other would-be students, must apply with transcripts and take a placement test. The college reports an average class size of 10, and students can enroll on a part-time or full-time basis depending on their personal and professional commitments.

Career training and continuing education opportunities at IWCC do not encompass fire science but include related certificate programs for EMT, Advanced EMT and Paramedic. For example, the EMT course requires 120 classroom hours in addition to 36 hours of field experience through an internship.

Find out more about the fire science program at IWCC:

Online Education: Fire Science & First Responders

Online learning for a fire science or first responder degree can make sense for any number of reasons. For example, work or family commitments can make it difficult to commute to class daily. And Iowa’s a big state – maybe the perfect program for one student is hours away. It’s natural to be curious about how a fire science program works online. After all, shouldn’t there be some hands-on training involved before students are let loose on a burning building? For this reason, schools may offer blended or hybrid programs that include in-person experience.

Upper Iowa University has online offerings in fire science but students can also visit the Fayette campus or other learning center locations as needed. UIU's related online degree programs include bachelor's degrees in public administration with a fire science emphasis and also in emergency and disaster management. In addition, the Iowa Community College Online Consortium has a searchable list of courses offered online. Web-based classes from the state’s community colleges include occupational safety and health in emergency services, legal aspects of emergency services, fire investigation and principles of emergency services.