Fire Science Degree Programs in South Dakota

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South Dakota employs approximately 500 firefighters and 900 emergency medical technicians and paramedics. Those interested in protecting residents and land from fire loss and damage can earn a fire science certificate or degree to become eligible for employment at one of the state’s 282 fire departments. Other places of employment may include hospitals and private ambulatory agencies.

Fire Science Training in South Dakota

Fire science training in South Dakota is primarily facilitated through fire training academies at fire departments and stations; however, there are some programs available at community colleges. At community colleges, fire science is offered as an academic major in associate’s degree programs. Most associate’s degree programs in fire science are 18-24 months in length and typically include traditional courses, hands-on training and an internship. A typical associate’s degree program consists of general education courses, such as English, math and science, as well as fire science courses, such as fire prevention and suppression and hazardous materials. Most programs also include medical training, with courses from EMT and paramedic programs incorporated into the fire science curriculum. The technical portion of fire science programs place students in fire labs where they receive hands-on training in firefighting.

Firefighter schools and academies may be offered at a local fire department, or they may be separate entities or programs offered at a community organization or a high school. The South Dakota Fire Marshal Office, for example, is a portal to firefighter training courses and programs across the state. In these training environments, student firefighters focus entirely on firefighter training, rather than academics. These programs provide intensive training in firefighting and emergency medical care. Firefighter training at both colleges and firefighter training schools are often designed to meet national and state certification requirements. For example, the fire science program at Western Dakota Technical Institute prepares students to take certification exams administered by the National Wildfire Coordinating Group and The ProBoard Fire Service Professional Qualification System.

Fire Science Colleges in South Dakota

Fire science programs at community colleges can be completed in 18-24 months, while programs at fire training schools have few academic requirements and may require less of a time commitment. Below is a list of two-year colleges offering fire science programs in South Dakota:

Degree Level
School Type


  • Doug Kranz Fire Chief Watertown, SD
    What's the best piece of advice you can give a future firefighter (or fire investigator, inspector, etc.) in your city or state?

    Positive attitude, ownership, pride, and honesty will get you places. You will start on the bottom, but be patient. Learn all you can, improve every day, train hard. If you get passed over for a promotion, stay positive and focused. Don't hurt your chance at the next promotional opportunity because of your attitude or comments.

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

    Try to get a degree, if you can. It will help you in your career. If you don't have a degree, work as hard as you can and don't be afraid to take classes.

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

    South Dakota is a very rural area. You will be asked to work hard and work well with other agencies to solve the emergency. It is rewarding to work in a different situation every day and to be able to help people.

Spotlight: Western Dakota Technical Institute

Program Name: Associate in Applied Science in Fire Science

The fire science program at Western Dakota Technical Institute (WDTC) combines a standard general education curriculum with practical training in fire science. Comprising 67 credits and 18 months of training, the fire science program includes general courses, such as sociology, writing and math, along with fire science courses, such as fire investigation, wildfire suppression and building construction. In the technical phase of the program, students develop firefighting skills in fire labs, with an emphasis on emergency medical response, fire safety, fire suppression tactics and rescue efforts. Toward the end of the program, students complete an internship and may qualify for NWCG certification. WDTC’s fire science program was developed to produce firefighters capable of meeting all standards set by South Dakota firefighting agencies.

For more information on WDTC’s fire science program, including the application process and program requirements, visit the WDTC Fire Science page:

Spotlight: Lake Area Technical Institute

Program Name: Associate of Applied Science in Med/Fire Rescue

The program at Lake Area Technical Institute (LATI) is a combination EMT/firefighter program. Five semesters in duration, the program begins with EMT - Basic training, including courses in pharmacology, medical terminology and CPR. The final phase of the program contains the firefighting portion of the program, with more than 700 clock hours devoted to firefighting and fire rescue training. The associate’s degree program is 20 months in length and requires 76 credits for graduation.

Visit LATI’s Med Fire Rescue page to learn more about the school’s fire rescue, EMT and paramedic programs:

Online Programs in Fire Science

Online fire science programs may be offered as undergraduate degree programs, or they may be offered as certificate programs or continuing education programs for current firefighters and others already working in the field. In certificate and continuing education programs, the online fire science curriculum may combine traditional coursework with visual training, such as videos and other visual presentations of real life and simulated fire and rescue operations. Some programs may offer continuing education units (CEU’s), which some state and national certification agencies may require for recertification.

Other online programs focus on the administrative aspects of fire science, including managing public policies and developing emergency management strategies. This is typical of online bachelor’s degree programs related to fire science. They are primarily designed for individuals working the field who are looking to move into administrative and management positions in the field of public safety.

Students considering online fire science programs should check with the South Dakota Fire Marshal Office (SDFMO), which facilities firefighter training and certification in South Dakota.