Fire prevention is a multifaceted field, and qualified engineers come up with new technologies and architectural innovations that save lives. These engineers work hard to prevent combustion and injury by conducting thorough building inspections, making custom fire prevention suggestions and determining which types of equipment and preventative measures are best for an organization. If you are passionate about this field and working more in-depth with technology, you could get a degree in fire science. This unique path in engineering is filled with purpose, allowing you to take definitive steps each day toward protecting the public.
- Deciding on a Major
Fire science is the most specialized degree path you can choose, but another engineering program can prepare you as well. This degree is ideal as it concentrates on the mechanics, physics and nature of fire as well as the principles of prevention through structural engineering. For those who want to attend college but later work as firefighters, earning this degree is the best choice. It will complement your future training and give you the greatest depth of education to help you on the field. If you decide to earn your bachelor's in engineering instead, you should choose a discipline that prepares you for the daily responsibilities you would face in your career.
You will need a strong background in engineering physics and mathematics to calculate occupancy standards, read and interpret data and understand the science behind chemical suppression and extinguishing flames. You'll need at least a four-year degree to start working, so paying for a bachelor's degree has to be factored into your plan. While the cost of degrees varies, you can manage the costs with student loans. If your child is interested in earning a degree in engineering, you can help by becoming a student loan cosigner. This is the easiest way to cover the cost of tuition and living expenses without having to pay directly out of pocket.
- Gain Experience and Certification
Although it is not mandatory, many aspiring engineers in this field begin working as volunteer firefighters. They could also join an agency and work full-time for a few years to gain hands-on experience. Joining a department after completing your degree will take an additional one to two years of firefighting experience.
Whether or not you have to work on the frontlines depends largely on your career ambitions. Those wishing to join an engineering firm may not need direct experience. You'll also need to learn all of the building codes and prevention tactics that are considered standard. There are different federal, state and local regulations that must always be upheld. This will prepare you for the next stage of your career, which is getting licensed.
- Get Your Fire Protection Engineer License
Although you may not have to become a firefighter to get a job, you will need a license before you can be hired as an engineer. The Professional Engineering exam is an 80-question multiple-choice assessment of your skills and knowledge; the exact requirements vary by state, and you'll have to undergo continued education to ensure that you are always aware of the most effective techniques and prevention technologies. Some areas of continued education you can expect to study include:
- Fire protection management.
- Investigation protocol and best practices.
- Fire suppression techniques and technologies.
- Alarm and extinguishing systems integration and maintenance.
- Hazard identification and response planning.
Choose Your Path
You may continue working as a volunteer firefighter for several years to build your resume, or you could look for jobs in the public or private sectors. You could work at an engineering firm, which gives them the greatest opportunity for career advancement. If you're passionate about training future engineers, you could consider getting a master's degree and becoming a college professor or professional instructor. The average salary of a fire protection engineer is $118,000. All in all, this career offers a good income, reliable work and opportunities to grow.