No. Fire protection engineering is NOT the same as firefighting. In fact, most fire protection engineers are not firefighters. Some people do both, including some of our students. Housing and tuition reimbursement opportunities may be available to student firefighters at participating local stations.
Students interested in protecting people and the environment, conducting computer simulations, designing systems, creating products, and developing fire-safe materials can all pursue their interests by earning a B.S. and working in fire protection engineering.
Our students begin their undergraduate career with a strong engineering education grounded in the fundamental concepts of physics, mechanics, dynamics, fluid mechanics, thermodynamics and heat transfer. Combine these skills with the application and design of engineering systems, and the fire protection engineer will learn how to protect people, homes, workplaces, the environment and the economy from the devastating effects of fires. In their junior and senior years, students will focus on:
- Suppression and detection
- Fire-resistant materials
- Fire dynamics and behavior
- Smoke, soot and gases
- Human behavior and life safety
- Computer modeling of fire, smoke, suppression and evacuation
Additionally, students will have the opportunity to specialize in other portions of the fire protection engineering field when choosing coursework for the four required technical electives. Department of Fire Protection Engineering coursework offered on the elective level includes:
- Explosions and investigations
- Industrial fire Safety and process safety management
- Advanced fire protection engineering systems design
- Wildland fires
Some of our students pursue research opportunities with our faculty or at federal labs, study abroad, and internships in industry. Recent examples include visiting Europe to study how fire moves through buildings, evaluating safety systems for a company in Georgia, helping a professor’s research group define how plastics burn, and designing a high-efficiency wood stove for a national competition. Browse our undergraduate student profiles for examples of how our students have enhanced their studies by participating in activities like these.
Other department-run activities include:
- Chair's Invitation: Sophomore Research Experience
The Department of Fire Protection Engineering is proud to offer its underclassmen the opportunity to participate in research through the Chair's Invitation: Sophomore Research Experience. The Department Chair invites 6-10 students at the top of the sophomore class or entering transfer students to participate. Those who accept the invitation work as a team on the identified research topic during the spring semester. They are advised by a member of the FPE faculty. In recent years, an industry partner has collaborated on the project, acting as a catalyst to assist in defining the project scope and to supply equipment for the experimental portion of the research. The culmination of the experience is for students to present their findings to the industry partner. Recent projects have included a study of stove top fires in the home and the development of a test that assesses the susceptibility of beam detectors to nuisance fire alarms.
- Senior Capstone Design Project
Capstone, taken in senior year, is one of the most important courses in the Clark School's engineering program. In it, teams of students utilize what they have learned throughout their undergraduate studies to create their own engineering designs, conceptualize a product, and/or solve a real-world problem. In FPE's Capstone design course, students evaluate a real building, identify potential fire scenarios, and develop trial designs for systems that will protect the people and property within. Finally, they use tools including advanced calculations and computer modeling to evaluate their trial designs against their fire scenarios to make sure that people and property could survive a fire in the building.
- High School Outreach–FPE Design Challenge
The FPE Design Challenge is a design-build project that offers small groups of students the opportunity to build a model house, utilizing fire protection principles (such as compartmentalization, ventilation effects, material flammability, fire detection and fire suppression) to limit the spread of fire and smoke through a house. On a volunteer basis, upper-level undergraduate students worked with a doctoral student and FPE professor and chair Dr. Jim Milke to create the design problem specifications and fire protection engineering principle teaching curriculum. Now, FPE students visit local high schools in the spring semester to teach the fire protection engineering principles and guide the high school students in the construction phase of their model house. The culmination of the project includes a presentation regarding what the groups learned, explanation of their design and a hypothesis of the fire-performance of their design. Finally, all model houses are set on fire in a controlled manner to test the proposed designs of each group.
Fire protection engineers are in demand all over the world! Every building, every vehicle, and every industrial and consumer product must be tested and understood by fire protection engineers to ensure human and environmental safety. Everyone needs fire protection engineering, but most people don’t know it exists. That’s why there are typically two open positions for every student who graduates from our program. It’s also why we have one of the closest-knit, most supportive alumni networks around. Our graduates’ employers include consulting firms, large corporations and government agencies. Every year, we host a dedicated career fair.
Fire protection engineers may be involved in:
- the design of fire protection systems for high-rise buildings and industrial complexes;
- fire investigations;
- protecting people, property and the environment from wildland fires;
- analysis of the level of fire protection in commercial or residential buildings, nuclear power plants and aerospace vehicles; or
- and the research of fire propagation, detection and suppression.
In each of these cases, the fire protection engineer needs to be competent using state-of-the-art procedures in analysis and design techniques, including computer models for fire prediction. Through the use of engineering fundamentals, research and fire analysis, the fire protection engineer assesses the problem confronted and formulates a solution that is not only functional, but economically feasible and practicable. More information about career paths in fire protection engineering can be found on the Society of Fire Protection Engineers' web site.
Admission for first-time freshmen is highly competitive. All FPE students must meet the admission and progress standards of the A. James Clark School of Engineering. It is recommended that applicants have very good grades, very good SAT or ACT scores, and preparation in math and the sciences. See admissions.umd.edu for more information.
Transfer admission to the Clark School of Engineering is possible. Transfer students are not competitively reviewed, but must meet the requirements of the University of Maryland's Limited Enrollment Programs.
Many FPE-specific scholarships are available and most can be applied for using the Clark School’s centralized application process. Many of our students are supported by scholarships. They may also pursue internships, part-time positions and research experiences.
We’re a small department in a big university, which means you’ll have the advantages of both. Our students get to know each other very well, receive more personal advising, and develop relationships with our faculty that last beyond graduation. They also get Big 10 sports, all kinds of student organizations to join, and the chance to explore the nation’s capital.