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a forester touching a tree trunk in a forest

7 Fire Science Jobs To Keep The Environment Safe

Fires are a huge risk for people and animals, and they can destroy large swaths of land in a few days and be difficult to control due to undeveloped terrain. Fire science jobs are essential to managing and preventing deadly fires. 

Because of climate change, wildfires are only getting worse, and the demand for qualified workers in fire science careers is increasing. This list of top fire science jobs includes answers to the common questions: what can you do with a fire science degree, and is a fire science degree worth it?

the fire science jobs blog cover for Unity Environmental University with a person pouring water on a fire outside

Jumpstart a fire science career with an online bachelor’s degree in wildland fire science from Unity.

What Is A Fire Science Degree?

Fire science involves the study of fire management and prevention. A degree in fire science prepares you to understand how fire behaves, how different materials respond to fire, and how to manage or control fire in various circumstances. Because wildland fire management includes controlled burns, fire science also includes how to start fires. 

A fire science degree will include a strong background in:

  • Biology
  • Ecology
  • Chemistry
  • Physics
  • Fire laws and codes
  • Emergency management

What Can You Do With A Fire Science Degree?

Whether you want to help protect people, ecosystems, or both, a fire science degree is a great place to start. While becoming a firefighter does not require a degree, if you want to advance to a higher position, such as supervisor or fire inspector, a bachelor’s degree in fire science will likely be needed. A fire science degree is versatile and opens up a range of career opportunities, from conservation to sales. 

What jobs can you get with a fire science degree?

an infographic showing a bar chart of the salaries of different fire science jobs

Forestry Technician

Are you looking for a job working outside in nature? A forestry tech position may be the right choice for you. Forestry technicians help to maintain and protect forests. Forestry work is often physically demanding and requires travel to remote locations. State governments employ most forestry technicians. 

In areas where there is a high risk of wildfires, this job includes fire prevention and suppression. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) expects increased demand for forest workers in state-owned forests as wildfires increase. California has the largest number of forestry technicians of any state. However, if you are looking for the highest-paying state for forestry jobs, head to Idaho. The average annual salary for forest workers in Idaho in 2021 was $50,040.

For more detailed information on how to become a forestry technician, check out Unity Environmental University’s career guide. Our B.S. in Wildland Fire Science and Management can be completed 100% online and prepare you for a rewarding career as a forestry technician.

Average Salary: $36,010 (2022)

Wildland Fire Specialist

Wildland fire specialist is a leadership position. The job involves working with different stakeholders, organizations, and agencies to develop plans for wildfire prevention and suppression. Wildland fire specialists may need to respond to emergencies after hours and coordinate the execution of various procedures. They may manage multiple teams, including Hotshot crews and Smokejumpers. Lastly, specialists are often responsible for developing and coordinating wildland firefighter training for new and returning employees. 

Most wildland fire specialists work for state or local governments. They usually do a mix of office work and fieldwork. California has the most employed forest fire specialists, which is not surprising because California has more wildfires than any other state and some of the deadliest wildfires in the nation. The state also has the highest average salary for forest fire specialists at $91,630 a year. 

Average Salary: $56,780 (2022)

Burn Coordinator

Many fire science degree careers focus on how to prevent and put out fires. Burn coordinators actually start fires called prescribed burns. Many ecosystems depend on wildfires to survive, so suppressing all fires immediately could have devastating effects. Therefore, burn coordinators plan controlled fires during times when the weather is tame and the area is cleared of people and property. This also helps reduce overgrowth that fuels large wildfires and makes them more difficult to put out. 

Understanding how fire behaves is key to this job. The burn must remain controlled at all times. Often prescribed burns happen near roads, trails, and campgrounds. Keeping people safe is the top priority. A fire science degree will teach you about fire ignition, burn times, and meteorology – all vital to coordinating successful prescribed burns. Burn coordinator jobs will be most available in places where wildfires are common such as western states. Like wildland fire specialists, burn coordinators often work for the government in local, state, or national forests. 

Average Salary: $56,780 (2022)

What is a fire science degree good for? It can prepare you for a fulfilling career working in nature

Fire Inspector

Fire inspectors may inspect buildings or natural areas to determine the cause of a fire. It is essential to determine the cause of all fires, whether it was accidental or intentional, to prevent future unwanted fires from occurring. Causes of wildfires could be natural such as lightning strikes or human-made such as arson or leaving a campfire unattended. Even when a wildfire is started accidentally, if a person is responsible, they will often be held accountable for all fire suppression costs. Fire inspectors play a key role in finding out who or what started a fire.

Additional duties of fire inspectors may include:

  • Identifying potential fire hazards in building designs
  • Making recommendations to reduce fire risk
  • Ensuring compliance with all fire codes and laws
  • Investigating the causes of explosions
  • Maintaining and repairing fire safety equipment

The majority of fire inspectors work for local governments. Others work for state governments, private security services, and colleges and universities. According to the BLS, Florida has the most fire inspector jobs. The highest-paying states for fire inspectors are Oregon and Washington. Their average salaries for fire inspectors in 2022 were over six figures!

Average Salary: $76,910 (2022)

a fire protection engineer looking at his clipboard while standing by pipes

Fire Protection Engineer

Fire protection engineers help design buildings, fire detection systems, fire suppression equipment, and more. They focus on reducing the risk of fire hazards as much as possible using engineering principles. Most often, you will need a bachelor’s in engineering, like civil or mechanical, with a focus on fire protection or an additional degree in fire science to be well qualified for this job. Engineers in all fields have high earning potential. If you are looking for high-paying fire science degree careers, consider becoming a fire protection engineer. 

Many fire protection engineers work in the oil and gas industry because this industry deals with extracting, refining, and transporting highly flammable resources. While the BLS does not have specific data on fire protection engineers, they do have overall data on all health and safety engineers. Alaska has the highest concentration of these jobs, but Louisiana has the highest average salary. 

Average Salary: $103,570 (2022)

Emergency Management Specialist

Fire is a destructive and deadly force. Whether it happens in urban areas or in nature, damage control afterward requires a lot of planning and teamwork. Emergency management specialists, also called emergency management directors, are in charge of creating plans for various natural disasters including fires, earthquakes, and hurricanes. There must be evacuation plans and clean-up plans in place at all times. Emergency management directors have the challenging job of predicting possible scenarios to mitigate damage from inevitable environmental disasters. 

Most emergency management directors work for local governments. Others work for state governments, hospitals, or universities. The work will be a mix of meetings in the office and time in the field. Long hours may be required during emergencies. As leaders in high-stress situations, emergency management specialists must be able to remain calm and think quickly to save lives. 

Emergency management specialists have to coordinate many different agencies and institutions such as firefighters, police, and hospitals. They must also have detailed knowledge of laws and regulations in their area. Lastly, emergency management directors should remember that fires can occur as part of other natural disasters like hurricane winds breaking a power line. For these reasons, a fire science degree is essential for emergency management specialists. 

Average Salary: $88,890 (2022)

Want to help people when they need it most? Consider one of these natural disaster response jobs

Fire Equipment Sales Representative

A good salesperson is passionate about what they are selling. If you are passionate about fire safety, then you may excel as a fire equipment sales representative. Fire protection salespeople may sell indoor and outdoor equipment such as:

  • Fire extinguishers
  • Smoke alarms
  • Sprinkler systems

This job can be done from almost anywhere in the country. You may be self-employed or work for a manufacturer as a sales representative. Some fire equipment salespeople sell products to individuals and families such as smoke detectors and fire extinguishers. You may even offer an installation service as well. However, for a higher earning potential, consider working with a wholesaler or manufacturer to sell to large companies, farms, and government agencies. Based on BLS data, wholesale and manufacturing sales representatives selling technical and scientific products make significantly more than all other salespeople. 

Average Salary: $109,950 (2022)

a wildland fire specialist standing in a forest shoveling dirt to put out a fire

Get Your Fire Science Degree At Unity Environmental University

What can I do with a fire science degree? A lot! With a degree in fire science, there are so many more opportunities to work with fire than just being a firefighter. You can work in a managerial capacity helping to oversee controlled burns, evacuations, and other activities. You could also work as an inspector, engineer, or fire equipment salesperson. Fire science degree jobs range from enforcing fire codes for city buildings to fighting wildfires in remote backcountry areas. 

Fire science professionals are vital to protecting the environment and saving the lives of people and animals. Start your career path in fire science with a B.S. in Wildland Fire Science and Management. This bachelor’s degree can be earned completely online. With rolling admission and eight start dates per year, you can apply today and be on your way to your new fire science job in no time. Or, explore other environmental science careers in high demand to find the best option for your future.