Does everyone feel getting a college degree in Fire Science is the best way to assist in getting a Professionial position or getting another degree path? I'm currently enrolled at a college to receive my AS degree in Fire Science. I am hoping that i picked the right area.
Let me reinforce George's point that GETTING THE DEGREE is more important than WHAT DEGREE you want to complete.
When I ran a large community college fire science program, about one-third of my students were 40 to 50 year olds. They accomplished much in their fire service career, becoming subject matter experts (SME) in hazardous materials response, USAR, fire investigation, etc.
Working in suburban Washington DC, many of them were working part-time as SMEs for the feds. They anticipated retiring from the fire department and getting a cushy federal job at $90K.
One problem - most had little formal education. No associates degree, no bachelor degree and no graduate degree. The few that did (degrees in Fire Service Admin, History, Business Admin and Music) were able to score those jobs. IT MADE NO DIFFERENCE WHAT THE DEGREE WAS IN, THE KEY WAS THAT THEY EARNED A DEGREE.
The ones that did not were looking at a $35K federal job as a low level technical specialist, reporting to a "know-nothing" 20-something with a degree.
Outside of the fire service, a bachelor degree is the key to initial employment.
There are exceptions to this general rule:
If you want to be a registered professional engineer, need to obtain the appropriate degree.
Need to have enough science and math classes to qualify for medical school.
Allied health professions (nursing, respiratory therapist, paramedic, etc.) also have specific requirements.
If you are under 25 years old, and are are considering a municipal fire department career, getting a bachelor degree is vital for your long-term career success.
In my preferred world, a high school graduate will attend college and obtain an undergraduate bachelor’s degree PRIOR to getting a “real” job. GeorgeWendtCFI illustrates the values of going to college and getting to experiment and become an adult in a semi-protective environment.
My teaching experience goes from high school vocational EMT (three years) to community college (20 years) through university (four years). My personal educational journey includes flunking out of engineering school, while living in a fire station and spending my parent’s money. I returned to obtain a bachelor and master degree years later.
Firefighting is one of the few middle-class jobs not requiring college education as a pre-employment requirement. I think that distinction will evaporate in the next generation.
THE BRUTALITY OF THE HIRING PROCESS
Fire departments continue to hire as if it was 1899 – you are a slab of meat evaluated for your physical, mental and moral capabilities. The regional or local fire academy will provide the needed on-the-job training. Most of them do not care about your volunteer experience or existing fire service certifications. But many will treat you preferentially if you are a National Registry EMT/Paramedic.
You may have forgotten what it is like to be on the outside with a burning desire to be a full-time firefighter. That desire results in an endless “what-if” game that reminds me of high school dating.
I do not completely agree with Captain Bob’s approach, but his focus on only doing things to get the BADGE is like the suggestions I provide to younger wanna-be’s.
There may be another reason why an 18 year old wants to go to work right away. Many graduates of American high schools lack the reading, mathematic or study skills to start freshman college.
In the 1990’s the largest growth in Virginia undergraduate programs was the preparatory classes to raise incoming freshman skill sets in writing (English 001) and math (Math 003).
MORE RECRUITS START THE JOB IN 2005 WITH COLLEGE EXPERIENCE
My experience in the metro Washington DC area shows that the percentage of recruit firefighter candidates with college education is continuing to rise. From my Spring 2005 FIR program evaluation report:
Newer firefighters are starting the job better educated. About 75% of new recruits will have 15 or more semester hours PRIOR to employment. Of that group, about half already have a bachelor degree. A few have graduate or professional degrees.
Just like preparing for the Candidate Physical Aptitude Test, I believe that a career firefighter candidate will need to have a college education to succeed once off probation.
IT IS EASIER GOING TO COLLEGE AT 19 THAN 29
It is a no-brainer to appreciate that a single 19 year old living in a dorm will have an easier time completing college than a married 29 year old parent working as a firefighter.
COLLEGE EDUCATED FIREFIGHTERS DO MUCH BETTER ON PROMOTIONAL EXAMS
In a 1984 survey, 85% of the northern Virginia firefighters who scored high on the Sergeant, Lieutenant, Captain or Battalion Chief promotional exam had taken at least 15 semester hours of college. I work with a career development coordinator for a large suburban fire department – that statistic remains valid in 2004.
THE BRUTALITY OF RETIREMENT
Many of the firefighters that started the job in the 1970’s are retiring. Most of them took a couple of fire science courses in preparing for promotional exams. They are discovering that they cannot use their valuable emergency service experience in their second career because they HAVE NO COLLEGE DEGREE.
Over a third of the community college students I work with are the 40 to 50 somethings that are suddenly trying to cram credits so that they can qualify for federal homeland security jobs, positions as federal arson investigators or other real world jobs that require a bachelor degree as a pre-entry requirement.
It is not pretty - they have the skills and experience but without a degree they never get past the application process.
THE REALITY OF 21ST CENTURY FIRE SERVICE PROMOTIONS
Right behind them are the 30 to 40 somethings that have to deal with a “sudden” change in department policy. They now need 30 semester hours of college credit to take the next Captain exam, or the new fire chief is passing over promotion candidates that do not have a degree. Some departments are requiring a two-year degree for first line supervisor and a bachelor degree for battalion chief and higher.
If you can, go to college and get a bachelor degree. Have fun, try out new things, see the world. Get your degree in whatever interests you, since 80% of your fellow graduates end up in jobs different than what their degree says.
After you get your badge and get off probation, you can take whatever fire science, emergency management, WMD, ICS, or XYZ classes required by your department. Generally, they will pay for those classes.
I see by your profile you are a divorced 26 year old military policeman in South Hill, VA.
1) Almost all of the Department of Fire Program vocational training (since 2005) includes American Council of Education academic credit ... all of the Virginia Community College System fire science programs AND the Jefferson College of Health Sciences (Roanoke) will grant advanced standing for your 2005 or newer certifications.
2) Work backwards. Determine which fire department you want to work for and determine their employment and residency requirements. If you are a majority male, you may need to think about getting a paramedic certification to put you at the top of the preferential hire list. That is pretty true for the larger Virginia departments.
3) There will be almost no hiring in 2009, so you should hustle to finish your studies when the hiring gates reopen in 2010 or 2011.
(Wow, about the same response you got when you posted the question September 16th :) )
Well I officially finished my final class through Columbia Southern University last week and have submitted my graduation form.....so in 6 to 8 weeks I will recive my BS in Fire Science.....and if I chose to I can walk in Octobe r of this year at the annual commencment in Pensacola Florida. It was tough but I am quite happy I did it. For thos eof you struggling or maybe not sure it is and was worth the work, just for the personal feelng of satisfaction.
Having a degree in fire science does not help you get a job w/ a career dept. because most dept.'s are civil service jobs and you have to take a entrance exam like everyone else. I went this route hoping to get into a federal agancy but it didn't help there either. If you wanna be a career fireman thats great but do something you can do in the meantime and while a FF. You will most likely not get a FF job right away. It will take a while so your gonna need to do something else. I wish I had done nursing. A lot of guys I know did that and are actually in school for it now so they can do it on the side and make extra dough.
I have an Associates in Fire Protection Technology, as well as an Associates in Fire Science from the Community College of the Air Force. While attending Onondaga Community College in Syracuse, New York; I was a student live in for the East Syracuse Fire Department. Being a bunk in was one of the best experience to apply the classroom knowledge to incidents I would respond to.