Schaumburg's public safety committee has recommended lowering the maximum starting age from 40 to 35 for newly hired police officers and firefighters, as well as requiring new firefighters to hold bachelor's degrees as village police officers already do.  READ MORE

Does having a bachelor's degree upon hiring make a better firefighter?

Do you think four-year degrees could be connected to officer development?

More on higher education from FireRescue Magazine/

The Importance of Higher Education in the Fire Service (Broman)

How Education Helps Beyond the Fire Service (Mangeri, MPA)

The Higher Education Experience (Foskett)

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Does having a bachelor's degree upon hiring make a better firefighter?


I think this type of topic has been hashed out numerous times already with the general consensus being a degree does not make one a "better" firefighter.


Do you think four-year degrees could be connected to officer development?


It already is, in places.




IMO, a degree in itself does not make one a better firefighter, the only thing that makes one a better firefighter is training. You hone your skills to become a better firefighter, you learn more about your profession, you keep abrest of the latest issues concerning the profession, those are what makes one a better firefighter, not a piece of paper. A degree doesn't necessarily delve into the same issues that affect the day to day aspect of the job. Sure you can become more well rounded, gain insight into the managerial aspects and so forth, but the degree in itself doesn't make one a better firefighter.


As for Schaumberg requiring a 4 year degree, I disagree with it, but it is their call. They will most definately narrow down their candidate pool and that may or may not have the intended results. Not knowing their hiring practice, rate of turnover and so forth, this could be a non-issue. On the other hand, if there aren't enough qualified candidates, you may end up taking whoever meets the criteria, which may not be a good fit for the dept, or you may find that OT costs increase because you don't have enough qualified personnel to take the jobs. Bottom line is the actual job of firefighter is blue collar, dirty, messy, and difficult, a four year degree doesn't necessarily prepare one for that.


I further do not believe a 4 year degree should be a requirement for any entry level, blue collar, type of job, be it firefighter, police officer, nursing, etc. Within those jobs there are ways to move up and further education, requiring such education up front starts to diminish the roles of those higher ranks. IE, if a cop is already educationally qualified to the job for chief, where is the incentive to pursue it? Where is the incentive to work up the ladder? There are already way too many entry level jobs being filled with people with higher degrees, there is already too much emphasis on a 4 year degree when an associates or other experience can adequately suffice.

I agree with John Crabbe.  Requiring a degree does decrease the pool of applicants that you can choose from.  As John stated, we do have a blue collar job.  As a company officer, I need firefighters that know how to "work" and that are willing to "work."  Getting dirty and using our hands are essential traits of a good firefighter.  However, I also need them to use their minds also.  I want a hard-working, quick thinking firefighter.  Fireground knowledge does not usually come from a degree program but from certification level training.  In North Carolina, we have a great training program to certify firefighters to a standard that has been adopted by the state.  These courses provide excellent training that the company officer can build on.  In my department, an officer candidate school is required for the company officer level and education is highly favored to become a Chief Officer.  With these requirements, firefighters have to commit to earning a degree to compete for jobs in the future.  In the case of Schaumburg, how can you set yourself apart if all firefighters are educated to the same level, Masters degree, Doctorate?  Maybe Schaumburg will have a better pool to pick from when they are promoting officers.  If only a few candidates have higher education, then they may be assured of a promotion while someone without an advanced degree can't compete as well on promotional exams.  In smaller departments, there may be only a couple of officers competing for staff positions due to their education, Schaumburg may eventually have a large group of officers that are educated to the same level and this will give them a larger pool to choose from as they fills the ranks will the most qualified firefighters.  Education is a valuable tool.

I have seen more than my share of "educated fools" in my life, and not only in public safety. That is not to say that an education is not an important part this job, especially if one wants to advance. But I have a hard time accepting the addage that someone with a degree is going to be a better firefighter just because of a piece of paper.

Having a degree for advancement and officer developement could be beneficial if it were in something like;  Business, Emergency Management, Accounting, etc. Having a degree from Julliard in dance? Not so much.

I have been working on an associates degree, and I wish to continue my education. Even though I am focusing on EMS and Fire Science, I do not believe it will make me a better Firefighter than the next guy. A degree is simply a self gratifying achievement, that will open options if you wish to take your career to the administration or federal level. 

Does having a bachelor's degree upon hiring make a better firefighter?

The real answer here in this scenario is if you want to work fr Schaumburg according to their hiring practices it does.

The more practical answer is education with no real world experience does not make for a better firefighter.  It takes a combination approach to develop a seasoned, experienced, well trained firefighter.


Do you think four-year degrees could be connected to officer development?

Perhaps, but truly the question I have always had was why do we expect a firefighter who has been on the job for anywhere from 6 to 20 years and has done absolutely nothing outside of normal department training to be good officer material?

Seriously, we can't live in our own little cocoon world of our own crew, our own station, our own department any longer and pretend that the world isn't advancing outside.  The amount of change that has occurred since I got my associate degree in 1980 is staggering, so much so that I am seriously looking at going back to college at 55 to get my bachelor's degree.  I can say that my career FD has added the requirement that candiadtes for promotion have the state certified officer's course.  Prior to that testing was all it took added to seniority to get promoted.


If you truly believe it won't make you better, then your attitude and perception of your degree, and the time it is taking to get it, is completely and utterly wasted.

For new hires, a degree doesn't seem necessary. The fire service needs to recruit young members, as young as 18 and fresh out of high school. Their academy experience as new firefighters will be enough to get them started in their career. If the fire service requires advanced degrees for new hires, recruiting will be difficult.

However, a degree of some sorts should be a requirement for officers, especially chief officers. There are many programs that allow firefighters to obtain their degree, whether it be an Associate's Degree, Bachelor's, or Master's.

Having a degree does not make for a better firefighter. However, the classes that are taken during the pursuit of a degree can be valuable training.

Good lord I smply cannot believe I am reading people saying that a degree won't make you better.  Geezus no one is saying a degree only, but if you believe a degree won't make you better by advancing your knowledge then I pity you.



I don't know if you were referring to my post, but I wasn't too clear. I was saying that for new hires, it probably isn't necessary. For officers, yes, it should be required.

In fact, my last statement was "the classes taken during the pursuit of a degree can be valuable training."

Does having a bachelor's degree upon hiring make a better firefighter?
Being a Fire Fighter it all about being practical skilled. I have a degree and 28 years’ experience. For me any qualification is as good as you being able to practically implementing your qualification.
Do you think four-year degrees could be connected to officer development?
Degree is for top management or for self-Improvement. I have fire fighter under me, they never completed degree and they have 20 to 30 years’ experience, when used as acting officer proof to be excellent officer. They received severe practical and officer training.

A colleague of mine once said  "the fire department is a trade and mostly hands on, but of you're going up in the administrative food chain, the tassel is worth the hassle"

Thank God I live in a mountain county in the South that will let Volunteers be just about any age as long as your physically able and pass MOD and state HAZMAT and Rescue Specialist. I am almost 47 and just joined in Jan. not knowing anything about firefighting, I lucked out that two weeks after volunteering they started MOD and I'm now a State Certified Firefighter 1 and now becoming NPQ certified, At the same time I'm studying to become a FF2. And who says you can't teach an old dog new tricks.   

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