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Fire Protection Engineers: What do they do and how do you become one?

By October 18, 2023No Comments3 min read

What do fire protection engineers do?

Fire protection engineering helps to prevent fires, and keeps buildings and their occupants safer in the event that a fire does occur. Similar to other types of engineering, fire protection engineering involves the application of science and engineering principles. The Society of Fire Protection Engineers (SFPE) explains that fire protection engineering includes the analysis of fire hazards, mitigation of fire damage through proper design, construction, arrangement, and use of buildings, materials, structures, and industrial processes.

Fire protection engineers study the causes of fires and how aspects like design and architecture can influence the prevention and suppression of fires. These individuals examine the building design plans and fire safety systems, make recommendations, and design fire protection technologies. They also look at things like paths of entry and exit, fire walls and barriers, the purpose of the building, and other factors.  In addition to engineering design, fire protection engineers are sometimes called upon to help determine the origin and cause of a fire. This is sometimes referred to as investigative or forensic engineering.

How do you become a fire protection engineer?

There are a few different things that you need in order to have a career as a fire protection engineer. Many companies require a fire protection engineer to have a bachelor’s degree in a related field such as mechanical or electrical engineering. However, with an increased focus on fire protection design in recent decades, fire protection engineering has evolved as an engineering discipline of its own. Fire protection engineering programs teach the basics of how fires start and spread, how to assess fire safety in different situations, and how to design systems to prevent, detect, and suppress fires. Many professionals in the field also opt to get experience as a firefighter because it can provide valuable hands-on experience with fire control and safety. Once you have your degree, you will want to apply for engineering jobs related to fire safety in order to gain experience. To obtain a professional engineering license in fire protection, you are required to have at least four years of experience, and requirements may vary from state to state.

Taking the Fundamentals of Engineering (FE) exam is the first step in getting licensed as a fire protection engineer. Once you take the initial FE exam, you have to gain a few years of experience before you can take the final certification exam. Passing the FE exam makes you an Engineer in Training (EIT). Following the FE exam, you must gain additional experience in order to take the Principles and Practice of Engineering (PE) exam to become a licensed professional engineer. A PE license means that you have demonstrated your ability to bring credibility, dependability, and competence to your designs, and you have the responsibility to sign and seal drawings, calculations, and reports.