Fire investigators are responsible for fire prevention and it is also their duty to investigate the cause of fire in commercial and state buildings. It is the responsibility of a fire investigator to determine how and where the fire started and collect evidence where arson is suspected.

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All fire investigators are trained in collecting, securing, packaging, and transporting physical evidence. Highly trained, fire investigators have the skills of a detective and a scientist, and work with fire department, insurance companies, and law enforcement agencies. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS May 2021), fire investigators made an average mean annual salary of $ 69,680 and the demand for the job is expected to grow by 3% between 2021-2031.

Should I Become a Fire Investigator?

As a fire investigator, you will spend time in the field as well as in the office. After evaluating fire scenes and investigating the causes of fires/explosions, you will be compiling and submitting detailed reports on your findings.
There is certainly an element of risk involved when going into burnt buildings. Helmets and protective gear are available but there is often a chance of sustaining injuries. Therefore, you need supreme physical fitness to become a fire investigator. Check out the table below for major skill and education requirements along with information about salary and career outlook.

Educational RequirementsPostsecondary nondegree award
Licensure/CertificationCertification and License is mandatory
Experience/TrainingFirefighter Training Academy
Key SkillsQuick Response, Teamwork, Courage, Physical Fitness, Adaptability, Reason & Problem Solving, Understanding Written & Oral Communication, Trained in applying scientific methods, Perceive & Visualize.
Annual Mean Salary – US (2021)$ 69,680 per year (Fire Inspectors and Investigators)
Job Outlook – US (2021 – 2031)3% (Fire Inspectors and Investigators)

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (2021)

Steps to Become a Fire Investigator

Follow the process outlined below to become a fire investigator in the US.

Step 1: Complete the Needed Education and Join Your Local/State Fire Department

As mentioned already, starting off as a firefighter is the most common career path followed by fire investigators. In most cases, you will need just a High School Diploma or GED Certificate to enroll for basic firefighting training. However, if you decide to go for further education, then different options are available. These include Certificate programs as well as Associate’s and Bachelor’s degrees in Fire Science or a related field.

Step 2: Undergo Fire Investigator Training

After completing firefighting training and working as a firefighter for some time, you will have to undergo specialized fire investigator training. Such programs last for about 2 years on average. On top of that, if you have a professional degree (Associate or Bachelor’s) in Fire Science, then this will help you get ahead in your career. Educational background in areas like forensics, mechanical/civil engineering, law enforcement and emergency medical technician training will also be helpful.

Step 3: Obtain a Certification

Following the completion of fire investigator training, you can start your career. As you grow and work, you should build up your credentials as much as possible. One way to do that is by obtaining professional certifications in the field. The National Association of Fire Investigators (NAFI) is a major body that offers the following certifications for fire investigators.

  • Certified Fire and Explosion Investigator (CFEI)
  • Certified Fire Investigator Instructor (CFII)
  • Certified Vehicle Fire Investigator (CVFI)

How Long Does It Take to Become a Fire Investigator?

The time taken may vary based on the career path that you decide to embark upon. In general, basic fire academy training takes a few months while specialized fire investigator training may last up to 2 years. If you decide to go for higher education such as an Associate’s or Bachelor’s degree in Fire Science, then you are looking at a timeframe of 3 to 5 years for becoming a fire investigator.

What Are the Requirements for Becoming a Fire Investigator?

To become a fire investigator, you will have to train at your local/state fire academy to learn the basics of the field. For entry, you will need at least a High School Diploma or the alternative GED (General Educational Development) Certificate. Good near vision, communication ability and physical fitness are also important considerations for selection to a fire academy training program.
After that, you will need to gain experience as a firefighting professional while continuing to train on the job for a future role as a fire investigator. Some post-secondary education, though not mandatory for many employers, will also help. To that end, you can opt for a Certificate program or an Associate/Bachelor’s degree in Fire Science, Chemistry, Fire Engineering and Criminal Justice, etc.

The following requirements must be met to become a fire investigator.

  • At least 18 years of age.
  • A High School Diploma or GED Certificate is the minimum required education.
  • Previous firefighting experience.
  • Mandatory fire academy training and specialized fire investigation training.
  • Familiarity with fire equipment of all types.

How Much Can I Make After Becoming a Fire Investigator?

According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, Fire Inspectors and Investigators had an annual mean wage of $ 69,680 in 2021. Below are the top paying states for Fire Inspectors and Investigators:

StateAnnual Mean Wage
Idaho$ 111,910
Oregon$ 104,240
Washington$ 99,340
Iowa$ 98,750
Illinois$ 88,730

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (2021)

Fire Investigator Job Outlook

As per the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, the employment of fire investigators is expected to grow by 3% between 2021-2031. There will always be a need to determine the cause and origin of fires and this will drive the demand for fire investigators. Greater emphasis has been put on fire prevention, which involves educating the general public. The use of technology in investigating fires has increased which is encouraging more and more people to opt for the position, owing to the level of growth it brings to the job environment.

Below are the states with the highest employment level for Fire Inspectors and Investigators:

New York1,380
New Jersey850

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (2021)

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