How to Become a

Fire Investigator

The complete career guide to be a Fire Investigator: salary, job growth, employers, best schools, and education you may need to get started.

Why We Love It

  • $59,800
    Potential Avg. Salary
  • 5.6%
    Job Growth Rate
  • Growing Demand
    Job Outlook
  • Investigative
    Career Attribute

A fire investigator or an arson investigator takes the lead on examining the cause of a fire or an explosion once it has been extinguished, and when required, produce evidence that a criminal act was involved.

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What is a Fire Investigator?


A fire investigator’s role involves significant responsibilities as detailed below:

  • Prepare a thorough analysis of the scene of the fire, to assess its starting point and cause using scientific practices.
  • Track down and interview every witness or person involved in the fire, who might have further knowledge of how it took place, a particular motive or any relevant evidence.
  • Take part in any legal proceedings that arise as a consequence of the incident under investigation, as a certified technical specialist who can report clearly on the origin and causes of the fire or explosion concerned.
  • Organize and maintain claims files in confidence, while notifying senior management as and when new developments emerge in the case that may impact claims.
  • Build a strong network with federal, state and local law enforcement and government authorities for future support during an investigation.

Day In The Life

As a fire investigator, you are specifically trained to observe and understand how various types of fires originate and draw determinations as per their cause. In relation to this, you will spend time closely interviewing and interacting with potential suspects in relation to an incident that occurred. When necessary, you will be called upon to do a complete inspection of private residences, office buildings and other building structures to ensure that they comply with the latest fire safety standards as a preventative measure, to minimize risks of a major fire.

The type of investigation tactics you would use to examine a crime scene may involve interviewing, interrogating and negotiation techniques, backed by a strong grasp of fire science. In addition, you will monitor that latest possible information pertaining to existing laws on the right to privacy and the availability of public records to assure that all investigations are managed in keeping with legal and ethical standards.

Work Schedule And Typical Hours

A fire investigator typically works full-time yet hours tend to be irregular, since this type of role requires you to respond outside regular business timings. A fire may occur at any point and it is the duty of a fire investigator to rush to the scene, whether it is weekends, holidays or evenings. You may have to visit a wide range of places such as storage yards, manufacturing areas, factories, corporate buildings, private homes and warehouses. The nature of the work also brings greater risk of getting injuries or illness from exposure to smoke and unstable buildings. It is protocol to wear protective gear to minimize such effects.

Growth Of The Job

As per the Bureau of Labor and Statistics’ Occupational Outlook Handbook, careers like that of a fire investigator are expected to increase at 9%until the year 2020.  While this might be lower than the national average, there is a high turnover in this line of work from early retirement, leading to more openings in the field.

Typical Employers

A fire investigator only responds to requests from different agencies or departments in the event of a fire that needs investigation. This means that you may be employed by fire and police departments, private companies like insurance or claims management firms, and research labs.

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How To Become a Fire Investigator

It is observed that most fire investigators possess at least a high school diploma and have past experience at a fire or police department, along with the required certification and training. Some also start out in this field as a fire fighter or volunteer and then get promoted overtime with enough experience. To work for an agency, you need to have become a Certified Fire Investigator (CFI) and have specialized training.

For instance, if you are an investigator working with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF), you will have to complete a training course that lasts two years, and have examined at least 100 fire scenes to determine the cause and origin, under the guidance of an experienced CFI. However, if you have joined a claims management service, you will also have to build an extensive knowledge of the area in order to carry out inspections of available public documentation such as land deeds, lawsuits, mortgages, wedding and divorce data, etc.

Fire Investigator Salary Data

We’ve provided you the following to learn more about this career. The salary and growth data on this page comes from recently published Bureau of Labor Statistics data while the recommendations and editorial content are based on our research.

National Anual Salary

Low Range




High Range


National Hourly Wage

Low Range




High Range


How do Fire Investigator salaries stack up to other jobs across the country? Based on the latest jobs data nationwide, Fire Investigator's can make an average annual salary of $59,800, or $29 per hour. On the lower end, they can make $43,430 or $21 per hour, perhaps when just starting out or based on the state you live in.

Salary Rankings And Facts

  • #273 Nationally for All Careers

  • Above Average Salary Nationally

Programs and Degrees

Here are the most common degrees for becoming a Fire Investigator. a is usually recommended and specifically a degree or coursework that prepares you for the particular field, see below.

Highest Education Among Fire Investigators

  • 0.5%   Doctorate
  • 5.5%   Masters
  • 22.8%   Bachelors
  • 16%   Associates
  • 33.4%   College
  • 18.4%   High School
  • 3.4%   Less than High School

Job Growth Projections and Forecast

2014 Total Jobs


2024 Est. Jobs


Job Growth Rate


Est. New Jobs


How does Fire Investigator job growth stack up to other jobs across the country? By 2024, there will be a change of 700 jobs for a total of 13,100 people employed in the career nationwide. This is a 5.6% change in growth over the next ten years, giving the career a growth rate nationwide of Above Average.

Growth Rankings And Facts

  • #397 Nationally for All Careers

  • Above Avg. Growth Nationally

What Companies Employ The Most Fire Investigators

Industry Current Jobs New Jobs Needed % Increase
Local government, excluding education and hospitals 9,500 500 1%
State government, excluding education and hospitals 1,200 --- ---
Self-employed workers 400 --- ---

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