How To Become A Fire Investigator

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How Long Does It Take, What Degree Do You Need, and More

Fire Investigators

Fire Investigators conduct investigations to determine causes of fires and explosions.

Salary
$67680
Becoming One
Medium
Education
Associate's degree
Job Satisfaction
Job Growth

Personality
Interest Match




Table of contents
  1. Summary
  2. Steps to become one
  3. Popular degree levels
  4. How long does it take

Summary

Degree At least an Associate’s Degree or a certificate from a qualifying training program
Degree field Fire Science Technology, Criminal Justice, and related fields of study
License or certification Mostly required
Duration to become one 7 to 9 years
Difficulty to become one Medium

Fire Investigators typically need to have at least an Associate’s Degree or a certificate from a qualifying training program to work for state or local agencies. Federal Fire Investigators often need a Bachelor’s Degree before gaining employment. The most common majors for Fire Investigators include Fire Science Technology, Criminal Justice, and related fields of study.

Many Fire Investigators are required to earn the Certified Fire and Explosion Investigator (CFEI) credential after gaining employment. Fire Investigators remain on a probationary period until earning the necessary certifications.


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Fire Investigators Requirements

Step 1: Study Math and Science in High School

Fire Investigators need to investigate scenes of fires to determine the cause, which requires knowledge of math and science. Aspiring Fire Investigators should excel at these topics and begin exploring fire science through online research. As this career requires experience as a Firefighter, maintaining good physical health is also important.

Step 2: Earn an Associate’s Degree or a Bachelor’s Degree

Fire Investigators often have an Associate’s Degree or a Bachelor’s Degree. Most state and local agencies prefer to hire individuals with an Associate’s Degree while federal agencies tend to require a Bachelor’s Degree.

Aspiring Fire Investigators often major in Fire Science Technology or Criminal Justice. Degrees in Engineering and Chemistry are also common among Fire Investigators. However, Fire Science Technology is more directly applicable to this profession, as it covers the science behind how fires spread. Students learn more about fire protection, prevention, and investigation.

Some Fire Science programs also provide the training needed to earn the Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) certificate and meet state requirements for becoming a Firefighter. Earning a degree in Fire Science may allow aspiring Fire Investigators to skip the next two steps.

Step 3: Become a Certified Emergency Medical Technician

Most employers require Fire Investigators to have Firefighter work experience. Becoming a Firefighter involves completing an Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) training program, which lasts about six months. The National Registry of Emergency Medical Technician (NREMT) accredits the training programs and issues the certificate to individuals who pass a national exam.

Step 4: Complete a Fire Department Training Academy

Firefighters typically need to complete training at a state- or federal-run firefighting academy unless they have already completed the required training through a Fire Science Degree program. The academy may last several months and includes up to 300 hours of training. Students learn basic firefighting skills, such as raising ladders, rescuing survivors, and using ventilation equipment.

Step 5: Gain Work Experience as a Firefighter

After completing the training academy, new Firefighters enter a probationary period. Aspiring Fire Investigators should continue working as Firefighters for several years before progressing to the next step.

Step 6: Complete a Fire Investigator Training Program

Fire Investigators need to complete a designated training program. Many state and local agencies require applicants to complete programs offered by the National Fire Academy or the International Association of Arson Investigators. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) manage their own training programs.

Fire Investigator training programs may last up to two years. However, the length varies. For example, some programs allow students to continue working while they complete the training, which can result in a longer timeframe for completing the program.

The training programs include a mixture of classroom learning and supervised fire investigations. Students who work for the ATF complete a minimum of 100 fire scene investigations during their mandatory training.

Step 7: Look for Job Openings for Entry-Level Fire Investigators

After completing the required training, candidates can start applying for Fire Investigator jobs. Fire Investigators need to pass a background check, which may involve a drug test. The completion of a Fire Investigator training program often leads directly to career opportunities.

For example, training programs run by the ATF or the FBI are used to vet future Fire Investigators. Individuals who complete training for state or local agencies may receive assistance with job placement. Newly hired Fire Investigators often complete additional on-the-job training and classroom training.

Step 8: Earn Professional Certifications for Fire Investigators

Fire Investigators who want to enhance their training and seek more responsibility should consider earning voluntary professional certifications. The National Association of Fire Investigators (NAFI) offers the Certified Fire and Explosion Investigator (CFEI) certification. The International Association of Arson Investigators offers the Certified Fire Investigator (CFI) certification. Both organizations require certified Fire Investigators to renew their licenses every five years.

What degree do most Fire Investigators have

Certificate

We did a survey to ask other Fire Investigators what degree they had when they first became one. Here are the results.

Certificate
47.93%

Post-secondary certificate
20.25%

High School Diploma
19.69%

How long does it take

7 to 9 years

Fire Investigators often need an Associate’s Degree or a Bachelor’s Degree in Fire Science Technology or a related field of study. An Associate’s Degree typically takes two years to earn while a Bachelor’s Degree typically takes four years. Fire Investigators also need experience as a Firefighter, which may involve several years of training and work. Another two years are spent completing a Fire Investigator training program.


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