Fire Science Degree Programs in Rhode Island

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Rhode Island may be the nation’s smallest state in area, but it still has strict career requirements for its fire and emergency response professionals. Fire science professionals at the state’s 76 fire stations are responsible for protecting all cities and wilderness areas. In order to join the network of 1,620 firefighters and 610 emergency medical technicians and paramedics, completion of a fire science degree or certificate program is required.

Rhode Island Options for Fire Science Training

Several decades ago, fire service training was considered an on-the-job event, with firefighters earning their EMT or paramedic licenses, then learning to be a firefighter through many years of experience. Today, formal education can be a way for an individual to move into fire service. Two colleges in Rhode Island offer fire science degrees, and so do online institutions, some of which may have campuses in Rhode Island.

Entry-level firefighters typically need EMT credentials. Students who want to earn their EMT can begin with a certificate. Certificate programs are also available for those who want to specialize in certain areas of fire science. The general associate degree in fire science is available for those who intend to later pursue a bachelor’s degree, while the applied associate degree targets those seeking to move directly into the workforce upon graduation. Those who choose to pursue the bachelor’s degree can specialize in many areas, including fire protection, prevention, investigation and more.

In addition to formal education, students undergo extensive training on the job. This training can be intense, but is very valuable to any firefighter or other first responder. Some academic programs incorporate this training into the curriculum, but regardless of the amount of training received during college, rookies should expect several years working under the watchful eye of veteran firefighters before they are considered seasoned.

Fire Science College Programs in Rhode Island

Rhode Island is a small state, so naturally there are fewer colleges and universities than might be found in larger states. Two colleges in Rhode Island offer fire science programs:

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  • Robert W. Seltzer Fire Chief Smithfield, RI
    What's the best piece of advice you can give a future firefighter (or fire investigator, inspector, etc.) in your city or state?

    Educate yourself. Learn as much as you can about the fire service as well as other vocations that are encountered in your daily work. Put that education to work by applying it practically and with common sense.

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

    Associate degree or bachelor's degree in fire science or engineering. Then work towards a master's in public administration. The Executive Fire Officer Program (EFOP) at the National Fire Academy is another must have for education.

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

    The uniqueness in our state is the small communities we serve and the ability to develop close working relationships with members, politicians, and businesses in our community.

The spotlight section below looks at a few of Rhode Island's opportunities for fire science and emergency services studies.

Spotlight: Providence College

Program Name: Fire Science

Program Description: This Catholic and Dominican college offers a bachelor’s degree in fire science that targets specialized or managerial roles such as fire service administrators and investigators. The curriculum covers fire protection, state codes and ordinances, firefighting techniques and tactics, and fire investigations. The in-depth class sequence on fire protection spans theory, application, systems and equipment. In addition to electives and the core requirements for general studies, students explore subjects such as collective bargaining, business management, public speaking, communications and the like. With electives, general education requirements and program requirements, a minimum of 120 credit hours are needed.

To learn more, visit the Providence College program page:

Spotlight: Community College of Rhode Island

Program Name: Fire Science

Program Description: The Community College of Rhode Island, based in Warwick, offers the fire science degree through the College of Nursing. This AAS degree program is available on both a part-time and full-time basis, with evening, weekend and daytime class schedules. The college is pursing articulation agreements with the Massachusetts Fire Academy and the Rhode Island Fire Academy to offer certifications to qualified students. The program includes courses that could lead to certificates from the National Fire Academy. New FESHE-recognized courses cover firefighter safety and survival and fire behavior. Required courses include environmental chemistry and chemistry of hazardous materials as well as Emergency Medical Technician – Basic. The college's aim is to provide graduates with a strong working knowledge of fire sciences, as well as their EMT certification.

To learn more about CCRI, start here:

Fire Science Online Degree Programs

Fire science programs used to be offered only in brick-and-mortar schools, but with the rise of online technology, classes can now be taken from anywhere in the nation, as long as students have an Internet connection and a reliable computer. Fire science programs are offered as traditional classroom courses, fully online programs or a hybrid of both. In fire science programs, the hybrid format may be preferred, as it allows students to take advantage of online technology to complete some classes, but still gives them hands-on training for classes that demand physical participation. Alternatively, students can supplement online studies with real-world training from the Rhode Island Fire Academy.

In some cases, students who have extensive experience can cash that in on “experience credits” that make up for the hands-on component of the hybrid program. If so, students can use their ample experience as the proof that they already understand the concepts taught in the hands-on classes. This leaves the online courses, which can be completed at their own pace.

Online education is an option for those who live in rural areas, have a difficult time getting to a campus, juggle family and work obligations, and face other constraints that prevent them from pursuing a traditional college education. No matter the format, choosing an accredited school or program is an important step.