More Jobs than Candidates in Fire Protection Engineering

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The demand for life-saving fire protection engineers is rising, and now exceeds the supply of qualified personnel. Surveys indicate that this imbalance in demand will continue for at least five more years.

Those surveyed believe this imbalance in demand will continue at least five years into the future

The demand for life-saving fire protection engineers is rising, and now exceeds the supply of qualified personnel. Surveys indicate that this imbalance in demand will continue for at least five more years.

"Fire protection engineers are in high demand and short supply," said Chris Jelenewicz a fire protection engineer with the Society of Fire Protection Engineers (SFPE). In a recent survey by SFPE of the largest employers of fire protection engineers, an overwhelming majority currently have difficulty recruiting enough qualified engineers. "Those surveyed believe this imbalance in demand will continue at least five years into the future," said Jelenewicz.

These employers cover a wide range of industries, including private consulting firms, large corporations, fire departments, local building code officials, insurance firms, federal, state and local government agencies and architectural and design firms. Frequently, fire protection engineers assist architects, builders and fire departments in the design and construction of new facilities.

Fire is a danger that can affect entire communities. For example, each year in the United States more than 3,000 people die as a result of fire. To combat its destructive force, fire protections engineers use their own skills and the latest technology.

Fire protection engineer Tony Caro studied industrial engineering at New Mexico State University before switching to an education in fire protection engineering. "I realized I wasn't as interested in industrial engineering as I was in the fire service. I also knew that I wanted to do more than just fight fires, while still providing a service to society," he says. "Fire protection engineering was the right fit." Caro now works for the City of Denver's Fire Prevention Bureau and Investigation Division.

Using science and technology, fire protection engineers perform a wide range of roles that make the world safer from fire. Fire protection engineers:

  • Evaluate buildings to pinpoint the risks of fires and the means to prevent them;
  • Review building design documents for fire departments, fire marshal offices and/or code enforcement agencies to assure compliance with the applicable building and fire regulations;
  • Design building systems that: detect fires, control the spread of fires, control the movement of smoke, alert people to danger and provide a safe means for building occupants to exit a building;
  • Conduct fire safety research on consumer products and construction materials;
  • Investigate fires to discover how they spread, why protective measures failed, and how those measures could have been designed more effectively.

Stacey Welch graduated from the University of Maryland and began working for Marriott International. In her work, she faces many obstacles, but enjoys navigating around them. "The most challenging part is working with all the different parties involved - from the contractors and architects to the owners," she says. "The most exciting part is seeing a project from start to finish. That whole evolution - and what goes into a project - is amazing."

Welch traveled to Hong Kong to survey hotels not even two months after she began to work for the corporation. "That was unbelievable! The whole trip lasted only two weeks, but it was terrific," she says. "Traveling has remained an integral part of my job ever since."

Vidar Landa grew up in Norway, attended Massachusetts' Worcester Polytechnic Institute and currently works in Los Angeles for Schirmer Engineering Corporation. A true globe-trotter, he now fondly recalls his senior thesis. "My thesis was on nightclubs and restaurants," he says. "It specifically dealt with exits from nightclubs. I worked with a lot of local fire departments and interviewed a large number of people from the restaurant and entertainment industry, and at the end of the semester presented my work."

Investigating fires is often part of a fire protection engineer's career path. Amanda Moore, a Worcester Polytechnic Institute graduate and current employee of Arup, investigated the Station Night Club fire in Rhode Island, which resulted in 100 deaths. "That definitely made an impression on me," she says. "It was really interesting work, and it felt like I was doing something useful."

Like many industries, fire protection engineering is ever-changing. New technology is constantly incorporated in the profession. As Welch says, "Fire protection engineers will be considering new situations and taking on new responsibilities in the future that go well beyond just fire protection." Even with these heavy responsibilities, fire protection engineers enjoy a sense of pride and honor in their jobs. "I feel like there's a 'big reason' why I go to work each morning," Welch says. "It gives me an incredible sense of purpose."

What is a fire protection engineer?
According to the Society of Fire Protection Engineers, a fire protection engineer uses science and engineering principles to protect people, homes, workplaces, the economy and the environment from the devastating effects of fires. Fire protection engineers analyze how buildings are used, how fires start and grow, and how fires affect people and property. They use the latest technologies to design systems to control fires, alert people to danger, and provide means for escape. Fire protection engineers also work closely with other professionals, including engineers of other disciplines, architects, state and local building officials, and local fire departments to build fire safe communities.

About Society of Fire Protection Engineers
Organized in 1950, the Society of Fire Protection Engineers is the professional society for engineers involved in the field of fire protection engineering. The purposes of SFPE are to advance the science and practice of fire protection engineering, maintain a high ethical standing among its members and foster fire protection engineering education. SFPE's worldwide members include engineers in private practice, in industry and in local, regional and national government. Chapters are located in Canada, China, France, Italy, Hong Kong, Japan, Korea, Malaysia, New Zealand, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, Spain, Sweden and the United States. Visit the SFPE at

For more information about a career in fire protection engineering go to SFPE's career website at:


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