Arson investigators, also known as fire investigators, examine the complete fire scene and determine the cause of fire. They search for evidence and document it to figure out if it was a criminal activity or not. These professionals work for state, local or federal firefighting or law enforcement agencies. They interview the witnesses as well. Arson investigators are expected to prepare reports for the police regarding their findings. They may have to testify in court as well.

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Should I Become an Arson Investigator?

Education RequiredAssociate’s degree
Major RequirementFire science or related field
License/CertificationRequired in some states
Key SkillsCritical-thinking skills, Communication skills, Physical strength, Detail orientation skills
Annual MeanSalary-(2019)-National$64,730 (Fire inspectors and investigators)
Job Outlook (2018-2028)8% (Fire inspectors)

Source: US Bureau of Labor Statistics

Career Requirements

Aspiring arson investigators are required to have a bachelor’s degree. These professionals are required to have strong critical-skills so they can analyze the evidence taken from a crime scene and figure out the cause of the incident. They should be able to determine how the fire started and should use their knowledge of the physical properties to figure out if it was intentional or accidental.
Arson Investigators are also required to have physical strength so they can move the debris during the investigation. Even though the number of fires has decreased, the employment rate in this field is projected to rise because arson investigators will be needed to figure out the causes of any explosions or fires. According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, the annual mean salary of an arson investigator was $64,730 in 2019.

Steps to Become an Arson Investigator

Step 1: Learn about the Types of Arson investigators

Arson investigators are employed in multiple fields like police departments, fire departments and insurance companies, etc. Knowing your preference will help you get the required training. Those who want to work for a public fire department will have to start as a fire fighter; while those who want to work at an insurance company may want to pursue a college degree.

Step 2: Get Training

Some people choose to become an arson investigator by beginning their career as firefighters, while others choose to pursue a college degree in a fire science or any related program. Candidates who want to take the firefighting route should at least have a high school diploma. Arson investigation classes are also organized by law enforcement programs or a police academy. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Explosive (ATF) also offers a 2-year course program called the Certified Fire Investigators (CFIs) which provides training as well.

Step 3: Seek Employment

Once all aspiring arson investigators have completed their education, they need to start finding employment in their preferred field.

Step 4: Complete a Certificate Program

Some aspiring arson investigators want to get certified by a professional organization. The US Fire Administration and the National Association of Fire Investigators (NAFI) offer certificate programs. Having these certificates indicates commitment and training.

Step 5: Continue Training

Once you become an arson investigator, you have to keep yourself updated with the latest technology, techniques and changes in the industry. Various organizations like the US Fire Administration and NAFI offer continuing education courses to help arson investigators stay on track.

How Long Does It Take to Become an Arson Investigator?

To become an arson investigator, students have to pursue a college degree. Some students choose to do a four-year undergraduate program, while others opt for a two-year associate degree. After completing their degree, students have to become Certified Fire Investigators (CFIs) and obtain specialized training.

What Are the Requirements for Becoming an Arson Investigator?

A few requirements vary with the nature of the job but there are a few common requirements as well:

  • Getting the required education
  • Becoming a Certified Fire Investigator (CFI)
  • Completing on-the-job training
  • Keeping updated with the latest changes in the field

How Much Can I make after becoming an Arson Investigator?

Arson Investigators have the option to work in multiple fields like police departments, insurance companies, fire departments, public and private agencies, etc. As per the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, the annual mean salary of a fire inspector and investigator was $64,730 in 2019. Salary potential would vary according to the industry of employment and credentials.