Virginia offers a range of opportunities for fire science and related professionals. The state is home to 8,420 firefighters, 1,620 first-line supervisors, and 4,630 emergency medical technicians (EMTs) and paramedics. Other potential career paths include joining the state’s 190 fire inspectors and investigators to ensure that buildings are safe and to determine the cause of fires and explosions.
Wages for Virginia firefighters, supervisors, and investigators/inspectors may vary by specific location, educational attainment, and certification. The table below indicates annual wages for fire science careers at the 10th, 50th and 90th percentile:
|Virginia Fire Service Careers
|Fire Inspectors and Investigators
|Fire Service Supervisors
Emergency service workers are in demand in the Virginia, with 4,630 emergency medical technicians (EMTs) and paramedics employed at an average yearly salary of $31,610. There are opportunities in white-collar positions as well, namely for emergency management directors. This position carries a variety of responsibilities including planning disaster response and crisis management, providing disaster preparedness training, and preparing emergency plans and procedures for disasters. Virginia has 440 emergency management directors who earn an average annual salary of $83,020. The Bureau of Labor Statistics expects employment for EMTs and paramedics to expand much faster than the average growth rate for all U.S. occupations in the 2012-2022 period. Firefighting could see slower than average job growth during that timeframe, but the BLS notes that postsecondary education and paramedic certification could boost the outlook for firefighters.
Virginia offers many options for non-degree training in firefighting. Direct training from fire departments is available at fire academies across the state, such as Herico County Firefighter Recruit Academy, Tidewater Regional Fire Academy, and Fairfax County Fire and Rescue Academy. Many counties require attendance at their fire academy, regardless of prior education and training in the fire sciences. Some academies have a wide variety of training programs, such as Fairfax County, which offers basic and field training, volunteer training, an explorer program for students between 14 and 20 years old, and EMS training including a simulation center.
Beyond fire academies, students in fire science can pursue a relevant degree at a Virginia college or university. Many of Virginia’s public two-year institutions offer an Associate of Applied Science in Fire Technology, for example, Germanna Community College and Tidewater Community College. These programs combine general education courses with specific training on topics including hazardous materials, fire prevention and legal aspects of fire service.
There are additional bachelor’s degree programs related to the fire sciences in Virginia. Hampton University has a bachelor’s degree program in public safety with an optional paramedic/firefighter track. The program requires EMT and Firefighter I certification as well as classes in fire administration and information technology for fire and emergency services. A bachelor’s degree program in emergency services is available from Jefferson College of Health and Sciences. EMT and paramedic training is widespread in Virginia, with programs at community colleges as well as the University of Virginia and Southern Virginia University.
Students looking for a college degree in fire science, public safety or emergency services management can consider attending a program at schools such as the following:
Northern Virginia Community College strives to prepare students for a variety of careers -- including fire science -- by offering associate degrees, certificates and specialized training at a relatively affordable price.
Program Name: Fire Science
Program Description: At Northern Virginia Community College (NOVA), the fire science program offers an associate degree in Fire Science Technology, preparing students for advancement in technical or administrative careers in the fire service and emergency management fields. The program is designed for working firefighters looking to further their training and career development. However, many non-firefighters participate in the program as well, and go on to work in public fire departments, safety and risk management. NOVA suggests that students who have completed the program and are interested in further career training can transfer their credits to a four-year institution and earn a bachelor's in public administration, fire science, public safety, or emergency management and planning. The school also offers EMS training.
NOVA may grant students credits for relevant training and professional experiences outside of the traditional classroom environment, including certifications such as Firefighter I and II.
To learn more about fire science education at NOVA, visit: http://www.nvcc.edu/catalog/cat2013/academics/programs/programdetail.aspx?prog_id=2100&subprog_id=0&level=1.
With its fire science program based in Virginia Beach, Tidewater Community College serves the state's residents and aspiring firefighters.
Program Name: Fire Science
Program Description: The associate degree program in fire science typically takes full-time participants two years to complete. The program embraces both the theory and the practical application of fire suppression, fire science management, fire prevention techniques, arson investigation and hazardous material handling. Classes may have online or hybrid components.
Incoming students can apply for credit for previous non-college credentials, including military training, national or state fire certification, or certificates received on the job or for volunteer work. In partnership with the Virginia Department of Fire Programs, Tidewater can administer test for state certificates after completion of selected classes and course prerequisites.
For graduation, students must demonstrate computer competency in addition to other requirements. It is recommended for graduating students to have Emergency Medical Technician-B certification.
Additional information is available: https://www.tcc.edu/academics/professional-services/programs/fire-science-technology-degree
Jefferson College of Health Sciences has one of Virginia's few bachelor's degree programs in emergency services, tailored for aspiring EMS directors, fire administrators and leaders in disaster preparedness.
Program Name: Emergency Services
Program Description: One of the few private health care colleges in the southern United States, JCHS has over 1,000 undergraduate and graduate students and choices for degree options, clinical opportunities, distance education and continuing education. JCHS offers a bachelor's of science in emergency services for students interested in pursuing management-level careers in fire, disaster and emergency services or related roles such as risk management coordinators. Students are required to earn EMT and Firefighter I certification. Individuals focused on fire science can choose a paramedic/firefighter track or concentration within this program.
The program allows students to customize their plans of study to fit long-term career goals while preparing them for traditional and all-hazards disaster responses. Classroom, laboratory, clinical and field internship experiences are components of the program. In addition to the paramedic/firefighter track, students can choose from two other tracks within the emergency services degree: paramedic/critical care or degree completion, which may be suited for individuals already employed in emergency services. JCHS emphasizes the importance of meeting the mental, physical and communicative demands of emergency services careers, including sensitivity to cultural differences and collaboration during stressful times.
For more information, see: http://www.jchs.edu/degree/bachelor-science-emergency-services.
As a whole, fire science is a topic that requires primarily in-person, on-the-scene training. However, many elements of fire science and emergency management studies -- as well as general education subjects -- can be taught online. Information about legal issues pertaining to fire science or risk analysis can be conveyed through online modules, discussion boards and other e-learning modes of delivery. At Southside Virginia Community College, for example, the principles of emergency services class is given online, while most other classes are on-campus. Online learning may be ideal for professionals who have on-the-job experience but desire further education. North Virginia Community College provides its associate degree in fire science program online as part of its Extended Learning Institute. Online colleges based outside the state offer additional opportunities ranging from undergraduate to graduate degrees, for example, a master's degree program in emergency services management.