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How to Become An Arson Investigator

Arson investigators work for the fire departments, police departments and state law enforcement agencies. They are trained to examine the fire scenes and investigate the causes of fire.

If you enjoy solving puzzles and are interested in fire science and investigations, then a job as an Arson Investigator might be best suited for you. Skim through this comprehensive guide to learn how to become an Arson Investigator in the U.S.

Should I Become an Arson Investigator?

Since Arson and Fire Investigators often visit fire scenes, they may be exposed to fumes, smoke, poor ventilation and other hazardous agents. Moreover, these professionals must always be ready to respond whenever a fire breaks out – this means they may have to work during holidays, weekends and evenings. If you are comfortable with working at odd hours and don’t mind working under stressful conditions, then you should definitely consider this field.

The US Bureau of Labor Statistics has published the following employment data for Fire Inspectors. The table lists the training requirements, growth prospects, and wage statistics.

Education Required High school diploma or equivalent. Should have also completed a postsecondary program for emergency medical technicians (EMTs).
Training/Work Experience < Training requirements vary by state. In addition to on-the-job training, candidates may be required to attend a fire academy.
Licenses/Certifications Many states have their own certification exams.
Key Skills


Critical Thinking Skill, Communication Skills, and Physical Strength.


Annual Mean Salary (2019) $64,730 (Fire Inspectors and Investigators)
Job Outlook (2018-28) 8%

BLS has further categorized Fire Inspectors into two categories: (i) Fire inspectors and investigators and (ii) Forest fire inspectors and prevention specialists. Since the first category is relevant to our discussion, hence we will use the employment figures of that category.

Career Outlook for Fire Inspectors and Investigators

According to BLS, Management, Scientific, and Technical Consulting Services industry was the highest paying industry for Fire Inspectors and Investigators, paying a yearly mean wage of $106,580 in May 2019. Moreover, it has been reported that the industry that had the highest employment level in this occupation was the Local Government (excluding schools and hospitals), that employed 10,580 workers in May 2019.

States with the Highest Employment Level of Fire Inspectors and Investigators

The following U.S. states had the highest employment level of Fire Inspectors and Investigators in 2019: Florida (2,290), Texas (1,680), New Jersey (1,590), California (680), and Illinois (640).

Top paying States for Fire Inspectors and Investigators

In 2019, the top paying U.S. state for Fire Inspectors and Investigators was California, which paid a yearly mean wage of $107,270. California was followed by Washington ($94,410), Oregon ($93,080), Nevada ($88,380) and District of Columbia ($80,220).

Steps to Become an Arson Investigator

The procedure of becoming an Arson and Fire Investigator is mentioned below.

Step 1: Graduate from High School

The first step of the process is to complete a high school diploma or its equivalent, such as a GED.

Step 2: Obtain an Associate or Bachelor-level Degree

According to BLS, many employers prefer applicants that have a 2 or 4 year degree in Chemistry, Engineering or Fire Science. So after completing high school education, you should try to major in one of these subjects. Moreover, you should also obtain an emergency medical technician (EMT) certification. During college, you can also work as a volunteer at your local fire department to gain some field experience.

Step 3: Apply for Firefighting Positions

The next step is to search for firefighting positions. These vacancies are announced by several organizations such as the US Fish & Wildlife Service and the US Department of the Interior. If you come across a relevant position, you should apply right away. Once your application is shortlisted, you will be expected to take a written exam and a physical exam. These exams will test your firefighting knowledge, strength and endurance. After passing these exams, you will be sent to the fire academy to receive further training.

Step 5: Gain Work Experience

Most Fire and Arson Investigators are required to have work experience as a firefighter. Thus, you will have to gain some job experience before applying for a senior investigator position.

Step 6: Get Certified and Land A Job!

This step involves enrolling in an Arson Investigator training program. Upon completion of the program, you can apply for a job as an Arson Investigator.

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