3 Reasons a Fire Science Degree is Worth It

FirefighterThe decision to become a firefighter is a brave one – every time you go to work you’ll be saving the lives of strangers and maybe even risking your own. You’ll be looked up to by the neighborhood kids and bragged about by your son on the playground. But apart from the social accolades, being a firefighter is a challenging and exhausting job, and you’ll need more than bravery to succeed.

You can read all about the job duties of a firefighter, but those descriptions can only tell so much. To start to really understand what it takes, these firefighter testimonials can let you know what you’re getting into.

Still interested? Good.

It’s true that a high school diploma is often the minimum requirement to become a firefighter. But you’ll need more than that if you want to stand out, and especially if you dream of one day becoming a fire chief. Everyone applying for the job will have the minimum education required, so what can you do to move your resume to the top of the pile?

A fire science degree is the best place to start. But is a degree really worth it? We say yes. Here’s why.

1. A fire science degree is the best way to start your career

Breaking into the firefighting business might be more difficult than you think. It is, after all, a rewarding job that will leave you with a sense of accomplishment, as these testimonials from Fort Lauderdale (Fla.) firefighters illustrate.

You can work your way up from an entry-level position, but the first hurdle is simply getting hired. Most fire departments have far more candidates than open positions, making each slot extremely competitive, the Houston Chronicle reports.

Just how competitive can these positions be? Use the City of Boston as an example. The city has 618,000 residents, of which 1,611 are firefighters. And if you want to be a Boston firefighter? The city takes on only about 100 new firefighters each year.

The bottom line is your fire science degree can help you stand out from other applicants and get your foot in the door.

2. Firefighter jobs are growing

Speaking of jobs, are you wondering if you’ll even be able to find one after earning your degree? That’s a valid concern, but recent data shows your chances are good.

First, jobs for firefighters are expected to grow nine percent by 2020, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). The BLS attributes this, in part, to population growth in rural areas, creating a need for full-time firefighters rather than volunteers. Why are full-timers important? They have the training and experience necessary to handle the quick pace of a profession  in which communication and organizational skills are essential.

Second, an analysis of 1,957 job firefighter job postings over the last 12 months* shows that 25 percent require an associate or bachelor’s degree. But that also means that 75 percent of departments are hiring high school kids. What’s the best way to stand out among a group of high school diploma holders? Bring a degree to the table.  You also need to think further ahead in your career, too. If firefighting is your second career or you’re joining the ranks later in life, you need to decide how long you can afford to be in one of those entry-level positions, working with colleagues who are fresh out of school.

3. A degree can help advance your career

Once you’ve scored your first firefighting position you’ll naturally think about what comes next – promotions.

For firefighters, the promotion process can be a lengthy one, and education is one of the things taken into consideration, according to Monster.com. Education means any number of certifications and, of course, a degree. The skills learned with additional education can be helpful when promotion time comes – not to mention being crucial to a job where you’ll often have to perform EMT duties in addition your firefighting ones.

Most departments require an associate’s degree to even be considered for promotional testing, says Jon Ibrahim, Battalion Chief and Director of Operations for the Romeoville Fire Academy (RFA) in Romeoville, Illinois. Further he says that the two points allotted to degree holders in the testing process can be a huge advantage when those being considered for a promotion are separated by fractions of a point when testing’s done.

What job titles can those promotions lead to? While rankings depend on each department, common titles include:

  • Driver
  • Lieutenant
  • Captain
  • Assistant chief
  • Fire chief

As you can see from these rank descriptions, those in the upper ranks are often in supervisor roles, which can mean a higher salary, additional responsibilities and more prestige.

The bottom line

It’s true that you don’t need a degree to become a firefighter. A high school diploma and a good dose of bravery can serve you just fine. But remember that hundreds, maybe even thousands, of other applicants have those qualifications, too. A fire science degree is worth it to help you stand out from the crowd.

Interested in learning more before you make your final decision? Learn about the unique features of the Rasmussen College Justice Studies Program!

*Source: Burning Glass (An analysis of 1,957 online job postings between Aug. 1, 2012 and Aug. 3, 2013)

External links provided on Rasmussen.edu are for reference only. Rasmussen College does not guarantee, approve, control, or specifically endorse the information or products available on websites linked to, and is not endorsed by website owners, authors and/or organizations referenced.

Elizabeth is a freelance writer for Collegis education who writes student-focused articles on behalf of Rasmussen College. She enjoys writing engaging content to help former, current and future students on their path to a rewarding education.

Receive Personalized Information Today

  • Personalized financial aid
  • Customized support services
  • Detailed program plan
  • Attend a no-obiligation Nursing Information Session
  • Meet the Dean of Nursing
  • Enrollment application
  • Personalized financial aid
  • Career path guidance

What would you like to study?

How may we contact you?

Please complete all fields

By requesting information, I authorize Rasmussen College to contact me by email, phone or text message at the number provided.

Share Your Story Ideas
Our campuses and online community have stories to tell and we want to hear them! Did your campus raise the most money in the community for an organization? Do you have online study tips for other students? Would you like to share a personal success story about overcoming an obstacle while earning your degree?
To have your story idea considered:
  • You must be a faculty member, current student or graduate
  • Story ideas must be regarding Rasmussen College or an inspiring story about a student at Rasmussen College
  • Your submission must be original and may not have been published elsewhere online already
Please Note: Your story idea may be featured on the Rasmussen College News Beat or on one of our social networks. A member of our news team will contact you should we move forward with a blog post.
Feel free to suggest an idea for a blog post to be featured on the Rasmussen College News Beat by filling out the form below:

First Name: (required)

Last Name: (required)

Email Address: (required)

Phone Number: (required)

500 characters or less


Your Story Idea Has Been Submitted

Thank you for sending us a story idea! We’re reviewing submissions and may contact you soon to learn more about your story. In the meantime, make sure to check out our current blogs to see what’s happening on campus.