Approximately 13,000 fire investigators and inspectors are employed in the United States. Local fire departments, individual state fire marshal offices, insurance companies, engineering firms focused on understanding fire, and private industry employ fire investigators. Some investigators are employed by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and similar state and local agencies. Others work independently as consultants.
There is no straight path to becoming a fire investigator, and it is not an entry-level job. Most of the investigators who come from fire departments start out in the fire-prevention bureau. Others come from police departments. Fire investigation is a multidisciplinary field, which requires skills in many areas, including fire fighting, law enforcement, mechanical engineering, materials science, mathematics, and chemical engineering.
Fire investigators can rise in rank within the department. Many become lieutenants, captains, and fire marshals within their jurisdictions. Some start their own consulting businesses. Other teach fire science at colleges and universities.
Tips for Entry
Read Fire & Arson Investigator (https://www.firearson.com/Publications-Resources/Fire-Arson-Investigation-Journal/Default.aspx) to learn more about careers in fire investigation.
Visit https://www.firearson.com/Member-Network/Find-A-Job for job listings.
Visit https://www.atf.gov/questions-and-answers/careers-qas and https://www.atf.gov/careers to learn more about a career as a fire investigator with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.