1. #1
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    Default Career as fire investigator with BA in English?

    Hey everyone! Here in a week I'll be starting my sophomore year at a local community college, which means I'll be graduating soon with an AA in English or General Studies. After that, I plan on going to Colorado to complete a BA in English, but I've really been looking into fire investigation, and it seems like a great fit. I'm a volunteer at the local department now, so I do have an idea of what I'd be doing.
    My question is: if I were to pursue the English degree, would I still have a good chance of being hired as a fire investigator without copious amounts of further education?
    Of course, I would work toward a certificate of some kind (achievement, completion, etc) for fire science/investigation, but I'm trying to avoid having to dedicate another 2 - 3 years of my life to getting a second degree.
    I understand that as an investigator, reports would have to be written quite often, so I see the English degree helping possibly in that regard. I just wanted to get some advice from others out there!

    Sorry for the long-winded question!!
    I appreciate any help

  2. #2
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    Do you want do investigate on the public side of private???

    Unforunatly fire investigation over the last few years has changed and come under attack

    Yes you will need a lot of advanced courses related to fire investigation

    Yes you will need a lot of scene work

    If you go public it depends on the department you work for

    Some you have to be in operations for awhile then transfer to investigation

    Some cities you have to be police certified, so that is another academy to attend

    Best advice is find a good size department that has paid investigators and set down with them and ask a lot of questions

    Also sometimes the state is involved in the certification process

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    Thanks for your info! I would be content working in either the private or public sector. If I can start fresh out of school as an inspector for an insurance agency or something, I would definitely hop on that chance.
    Unfortunately, the only department even remotely sizable is the one I'm on in rural Kansas. We have 6 full time employees and the rest are volunteer (maybe 25-30?). But I have spoken to the chief and he's helped a bit. He, personally, worked his way up from probie all the way to chief and investigator!

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    Should have said also a degree in crimminalogist is good

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    Fire investigation is a very technical, scientific vocation. Although a degree (in anything) is not bad, you'll need to be trained and licensed/certified according to industry standards if you want to land a legitimate fire investigation job.

    Working as a fire investigator can be achieved by several means. The more common routes are through private industry, through fire departments, and often, through law enforcement agencies. The common thread is that there is no "short" way to gain employment in this field. It has historically been a sought-after position.

    Attaining a position as a fire investigator with a public agency (i.e. fire or law enforcement) takes many years as these are often staffed with tenured folks. Private industry employment is very competitive as many of the folks hired by private industry are retired fire department and law enforcement personnel.

    You'll find that training and certification, coupled with alot of fire investigation "street" experience is what counts when it comes to employment in this specialized field. Only book "smarts" or only "street" smarts will not land you a job as fire investigator. You must have both. Many firefighters think "I know fire... I've been putting them out for years. I know alot about it" will land them a job as a fire investigator. It will not. The same goes for cops: "I know the laws; I have arrest powers; and etc." Although training in those areas will definitely benefit you regarding personal enrichment and a diversified level of experience, they will not land you a job.

    There is alot of information available via the internet regarding this field. The International Association of Arson Investigators website (http://firearson.com/home) has alot of useful information. also, contact public as well as private industry fire investigators and ask them how to get into this field.

    Good luck.
    Last edited by dfwfirefighter; 08-20-2012 at 11:41 PM.
    DFW



    "There's no such thing as a free lunch."

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    The best fire investigator I ever worked with had a undergrad degree in Classical Greek and did some post-grad work in Applied Math. He did however work as a firefighter, apparatus operator, and code enforecement official for a medium(ish) municipal fire department. (300 persons covering a population of 200K).

    There are a lot of investigators without a fire background who work for insurance companies (they also usually make more money). If you have an issue becoming affiliated with a fire agency, look toward the private side. To prepare, as another poster pointed out, look to the national organizations such as the IAAI and NAFI, who have courses and certification programs available. Additionally, take some classes at a local community college. Chemistry, Physics, Math, Construction, Engineering, etc would be excellent primers to get you up to speed and show a potential employer that you have the aptitude for the work.

    Good luck

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