Fire Investigators


Education and Training Requirements

High School

In high school, take classes in chemistry, physics, biology, mathematics, and computer science. You’ll need strong writing and oral communication skills, so be sure to take speech and English courses.

Postsecondary Education

Fire investigators must have knowledge of fire science, chemistry, engineering, and investigative techniques. However, a fire-related diploma is not always necessary, although some employers may prefer candidates with a two- or four-year degree in fire science, engineering, or chemistry. Eastern Kentucky University, in Richmond, Kentucky, offers the a bachelor’s degree in fire, arson, and explosion investigation in the United States. University of New Haven (West Haven, Connecticut) offers a degree in fire science with a concentration in fire/arson investigation. An engineering certificate with fire-service experience is sufficient in many cases, depending on the job description and whether the position is in the private (corporate) or public (fire department) sector.

Once hired, fire investigators participate in on-the-job training and often go through a probationary period. During this time, they shadow an experienced investigator to build their skills.


Many community colleges offer certificates in fire investigation, fire science, or other fire-related areas. Contact schools in your area to learn about available programs.

Other Education or Training

Participating in continuing education (CE) classes is a great way to keep your skills up to date and learn about new developments in fire investigation; CE credits may also be required to renew one’s certification. These opportunities are offered by unions, associations at the national, state, and local levels, and government agencies. The National Association of Fire Investigators, for example, offers an annual International Fire Investigation Training Program, which focuses on topics such as fire investigation chemistry, the physics of fire behavior science, advanced fire pattern analysis, and fire/explosion scene investigation techniques. The International Code Council, International Association of Arson Investigators, National Fire Academy, and the National Fire Protection Association also provide CE opportunities. Contact these organizations for more information.

Certification, Licensing, and Special Requirements

Certification or Licensing

Fire investigators can earn the certified fire investigator designation from the International Association of Arson Investigators, or the certified fire and explosion investigator designation and other certifications from the National Association of Fire Investigators. The International Association of Arson Investigators offers the certified fire investigator credential. Additionally, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives offers the certified fire investigator designation for its employees.

Other Requirements

Fire investigators typically are asked to undergo a background check, which may include a drug test. Most employers require investigators to be U.S. citizens.

Experience, Skills, and Personality Traits

Many fire investigators have prior experience working in either a fire or police department. They often have experience as firefighters, fire safety technicians, or police investigators. The U.S. Department of Labor reports that “some fire departments or law enforcement agencies require investigators to have a certain number of years within the organization or to be a certain rank, such as lieutenant or captain, before they are eligible for promotion to an inspector or investigator position.”

Because fire investigators must gather information from fire sites and synthesize that information into cogent reports, organization is key. If you are not well organized at the site of a fire, you might not obtain the right information for your report. And if your notes and diagrams are messy, the report-writing part of the job will be more difficult. You also need to be detail oriented, and be able to spot the smallest piece of evidence that will prove that a fire has been deliberately set.

Investigators should be in good physical condition to adapt to extreme weather or fire scene conditions and should be able to withstand long hours in unfavorable conditions. Most of all, investigators must have a great deal of integrity. Without this, they will not be credible witnesses in court.