Getting A Master’s Degree In Fire Science
Overview: The Master’s Degree
Students wishing to take on managerial or supervisory roles within the fire department will benefit greatly with a Master’s degree. The Master’s degree programs are designed to equip graduate students with the advanced skills necessary for advancement to leadership positions. Master’s degrees usually take anywhere from two to three years to complete, depending on the scope of the program. Those already with an undergraduate degree can transition into their master’s degree studies, or can choose to work a few years to gain some experience as an entry-level firefighter before returning to finish a graduate degree. The master’s degree in fire science requires students to complete a graduate project or thesis, in addition to 36-64 semester credits.
Master’s Degree in Fire Science
Students at the Master’s level will expand on topics covered in the Bachelor’s level, and also delve into more advanced topics such as structural engineering, operations management, and post-incident investigations, to name a few. The main difference between the Master’s level and the Bachelor’s level is that students will focus on building strong management and leadership skills so that they are prepared to take on relevant positions within their fire department upon graduation. Some of these required skills include strategic planning, public finance, and team management. Graduates with these skills have power to advance to managerial roles within fire and emergency service organizations at the local, state, federal, and regional levels.
There are several directions students can take when it comes to earning a fire science Master’s degree. Here are a few popular MS degree avenues offered in most fire science schools:
- Fire Science
- Fire Management
- Fire Protection Engineering
- Arson Investigations
- Emergency Services Administration
- Public Administration
- General Fire Engineering
Of course, degrees will vary by school from state to state, but students are able to pick a specialization within fire science studies depending on their career goals, strengths, and interests.
When is a Master’s Degree in Fire Science Useful?
A Master’s degree can bring a firefighter pretty far up on the rankings. For example, an entry-level firefighter may start working a few years to gain experience and pursue a MS degree on the side. By building up years of work experience and eventually completing the Master’s degree from an accredited college, he or she can work their way up to chief, department specialist, commander, financial officer, or human resources roles. Many employers will consider filling the following roles with people holding Master’s degrees in fire science:
- Emergency & Disaster Preparedness Specialists
- Fire Insurance Managers
- Executive Fire Officers & Chiefs
- Arson Investigators & Forensic Specialists
- Construction Trades Fire Consultants
Fire Science Master’s Degree: Coursework Breakdown
A majority of the Master’s degree program is theory-based. Unlike at the Associate and Bachelor’s level, students are not expected to take elective or general education classes. Instead, they focus on taking classes within the major. Let’s take a quick look at the types of classes a fire science Master’s student may take:
- Emergency Crisis Communication Skills
- This course is useful for prospective managers, as it provides a close look at tactics and strategies in guiding crisis communications to the public. Topics covered include public relations research, targeted community response, stakeholder messaging, law enforcement, and interagency communications.
- Capstone in Strategic Management
- Learn about leadership theory for public service and how to set goals, form strategies, and change management.
- Financial Management
- Fire departments have managers that oversee the financial resources, so it’s important to be well-acquainted with seeking, securing, and allocating these resources and establishing performance standards and goals for employees.
- Community Risk Reduction
- Familiarize yourself with the different risk reduction programs designed to establish guidelines for success and implement change within the fire department.
- Strategic Issue Management
- Get some insight on decision-making, conflict resolution, data evaluation, workforce development, and more in this class.
- Multiple Alarm Command & Control
- Learn what the command officer’s tactical responsibilities are when it comes to complex multi-alarm units in emergency situations that may take place in high-rise buildings, hotels, shopping malls, commercial buildings, wildlands, and more.
Distance Learning: Master’s Degree in Fire Science
Innovative technology has encouraged schools to implement distance learning programs for college students to earn their degrees while accommodating their work, family, and personal obligations. As a result, working professionals don’t have to give up their jobs just to pursue higher education. In fact, they can study from the comfort of their own homes and “attend” lectures, participate in virtual classroom discussions, and turn in their assignments all online, 24 hours a day.
Students who live in remote areas will benefit greatly from online fire science degree programs. Nowadays, online classes are of high quality, comparable to those taught in the traditional classroom setting. The flexibility and convenience that comes with online learning makes it a great way for students to learn at their own pace, and in their own time. Online students can virtually learn from anywhere in the world!
When it comes to online education, students have two choices: entirely online or hybrid courses. Hybrid classes combine both online and hands-on learning. Hands-on learning gives aspiring firefighters the chance to apply what they have learned from lectures and the textbooks in the working world. Students taking hybrid classes are expected to meet occasionally in a training facility to practice equipment training, fire scene investigations, emergency medical procedures, and more.
The Importance of Accreditation
To make sure you are getting the bang for your buck in terms of quality education, you’ll want to verify that your potential colleges are accredited. Accredited schools are reviewed extensively by independent agencies to ensure that the colleges and class materials are up-to-date and of high quality. By attending a college that meets or exceeds training standards for fire science education, potential employers are sure to recognize your degree after graduation.
It’s also important to keep in mind that previous credits taken at different colleges are most likely only transferrable between accredited schools. By making sure that your school is accredited, you avoid running into graduation delays and having to retake courses that have already been completed.