Is A Career In The Fire Protection Industry Right For You?

With the construction market beginning to reclaim its pre-recession highs, building engineers, architects, and other construction professionals are seeing an expansion in the number of jobs available and an increase in the salary and benefits offered for many jobs. Indeed, the number of construction workers needed to keep up with demand is predicted to rise faster than average during the next decade, making the construction industry a good career choice for many beginning (or reevaluating) their careers. However, one niche of this industry you may not have previously considered is fire protection. Read on to learn more about fire protection engineering to determine whether this is the right job for you.

What does a fire protection engineer do?

Fire damage to residences and commercial buildings can be incredibly costly -- in terms of lives, health, and finances. Even a minor cooking fire with no injuries may top $30,000 in damages when all is said and done, and cooking fires alone account for nearly $1 billion in economic damages every year. Fires that break out in crowded commercial buildings or apartments can quickly spread, causing even more damage and risking lives. As a result, it's important for all buildings, new and old, to have provisions in place to protect against fire damage.

A fire protection engineer helps design and retrofit buildings in a way to make them as fireproof as possible -- from ordering the replacement of potentially flammable insulation or paint to installing sprinkler systems and other fire-suppression devices. Fire protection engineers' jobs aren't only limited to the indoors, and these engineers may also design landscape elements like windbreaks to prevent the fire from spreading to vulnerable areas. Many fire protection engineers find this a rewarding career because of the high pay and wide variety of projects available. 

How can you know whether this is the right career choice? 

Although becoming a fire protection engineer can be a lucrative and emotionally rewarding career choice, there are some factors you'll want to take into consideration before committing to this career path. First, you'll need to be in good enough physical shape to climb stairs, lift, bend, and potentially fit yourself into tight spaces. While much of your actual engineering work will take place behind a desk, you'll need to perform quite a bit of in-person examination of the structures and environments you'll be working on in order to thoroughly do your job.

You'll also need some time to devote to your education. If you don't already have a college degree, you'll likely need to complete a full four-year program majoring in engineering or a related specialty. Those who already have a college degree not related to engineering may just need to take a few additional classes to complete this concentration. After you've obtained your degree, you'll need to take the Professional Engineering (PE) exam in order to become a licensed engineer. Once you've become licensed, you can expect to earn around $85,000 or more per year throughout your career.