Pathways to a Career in FPE

Intrigued about Fire Protection Engineering?

If you are interested in the idea of fire protection engineering, it is good to know there are many ways to get involved in this career path. People have entered into fire protection engineering at the Bachelor’s, Master’s, and Ph.D. levels. They have also studied fire protection from the beginning or joined the field from other areas of study. It is quite common for fire protection engineers to have migrated from a background in civil, mechanical, electrical or other engineering fields.

The first path is to partake in a university program for fire protection engineering or other fire protection related field. These programs start with a solid base in calculus, chemistry, and physics and then build to include analyzing fire hazards, mitigating fire through design and construction of buildings, the examination of building uses and industrial processes, and design, installation, and maintenance of fire detection and suppression systems. Numerous schools around the globe offer programs related to fire protection. This guide contains a list of known programs at the time of publication. Some of the programs are also available in an online format where global participation is possible.

Even with the growing list of university programs available, other fire protection professionals begin by working in the fire protection industry. Since there are more jobs in fire protection than graduates each year, on-the-job training is a must to get the work completed. After years in the industry, many professionals decide to continue their education with a degree in fire protection engineering. Depending on what level of formal education a person has this may be for a bachelor, master, or post-doctorate degree.

Once in the fire protection industry, it is also important to maintain one’s technical knowledge. This is where continuing education is important. The world around us continually changing from construction materials to new equipment, keeping up with materials, technology, and methods is a necessity. Professional development, such as the many courses, webinars, and publications offered by SFPE ensure that a fire protection engineer’s skills are fine-tuned and ready for action.

Engineering and Engineering Technology Programs

Both fire protection engineering and fire protection engineering technology programs are available at universities. These programs, although with their differences, are closely related. These programs are available in both undergraduate and graduate education. In general terms, engineering programs have a theory and conceptual design aspect, whereas engineering technology programs focus more on practical application, with emphasis on the end product through operation and implementation of the designs.

Depending on the career path someone is seeking, either an engineering or an engineering technology degree may be more appropriate. Recent graduates with an undergraduate engineering degree typically find employment as an entry-level engineer. Engineers often analyze the scenarios to provide fire protection solutions that reduce the risks and impact of fire. Typically, those graduates with a 4-year engineering technology degree can find employment as either an entry-level engineer as described above, or as a technologist. Those graduates with a 2-year engineering technology degree typically find work as technicians. Technicians and technologists apply their knowledge in areas such as product and system design, technical services, and even sales. Any of these degrees in a fire protection program can lead to a fruitful career.

There are also exciting opportunities for those seeking graduate education in the field of fire protection engineering. Masters programs and Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) are available both in the U.S. and Internationally. Masters programs are excellent ways to move into the field from related disciplines, such as other engineering fields. A Ph.D. program is an opportunity for those interested in research or academia to grow their body of knowledge.

Program Accreditation & ABET

With the many options available for higher education, ABET (Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology) accreditation can set a university program apart from others in the United States. Founded in 1932 ABET accreditation is now a well-recognized mark specifically for applied science, computing, engineering, and engineering technology programs. There are also accreditation opportunities for graduate programs through ABET.

Although the accreditation began in the United States, many countries currently have accredited programs in a variety of fields including engineering disciplines. Outside the United States, there are groups such as the International Engineering Alliance (IEA) that work toward accrediting programs to ensure quality in engineering education through partnerships of accreditation bodies. There are accreditations available to recognize engineering education around the globe for associate (2-year), bachelor (4-year) and master (post-graduate) level programs.

The accreditation process reviews programs to ensure that they meet a set standard for quality. There are also periodic reviews to confirm that these standards are maintained, and students are receiving an education that prepares them for the field they will eventually enter. The criteria for the programs is set by the technical profession through work with its coordinating society. For fire protection engineering and fire protection engineering technology programs, these standards are set through the Society of Fire Protection Engineers (SFPE).