What's a Degree Worth to Your Career?

How one college gears its fire science program to give professionals an edge in obtaining employment.


Firefighters just put the wet stuff on the red stuff. The cops are the ones that need a formal education. Unfortunately, this is still the way that some people think. Fortunately, it seems that the negative attitude of these misinformed people may be changing. In Massachusetts, for example, there...


To access the remainder of this piece of premium content, you must be registered with Firehouse. Already have an account? Login

Register in seconds by connecting with your preferred Social Network.

OR

Complete the registration form.

Required
Required
Required
Required
Required
Required
Required
Required
Required
Required

Firefighters just put the wet stuff on the red stuff. The cops are the ones that need a formal education. Unfortunately, this is still the way that some people think. Fortunately, it seems that the negative attitude of these misinformed people may be changing.

In Massachusetts, for example, there are civil service and non-civil service fire departments. In the civil service system, applicants take a state-administered test and list the cities or towns where they would like to work. The test is given and you are ranked in order of your score. You get extra points if you are a survivor of a firefighter who died or was severely injured in the line of duty, if you are a military veteran of a war, and if you are an EMT or paramedic. Education does not help you at this entry level.

The state also conducts the civil service promotional exams; this is where you get test points for having a fire science degree. The scenario is slightly different with non-civil service fire departments. Non-civil service fire departments run the hiring process themselves or hire outside companies, education becomes very important in your marketability when applying in this process.

Many career fire departments provide educational incentives for degrees in fire science. In Massachusetts, they range from $250 to 5% for an associate's degree, $500 to 6% for a bachelor's degree, and $1,000 to 10% or more for a post-graduate degree.

Because of my commitment to education in the fire service, I was approached with an offer to teach at the college level at a small Catholic college, Anna Maria College, in Paxton, MA. Anna Maria College is known for its course concentrations in the public safety field: criminal justice, emergency management, nursing and a program that was growing by the day, fire science. The goal of the fire science program is to produce a well-rounded and experienced fire service professional who has the necessary foundation knowledge, training, and certifications to have a competitive edge in obtaining professional fire service employment. Anna Maria College offers a full- and part-time bachelor's degree programs and a part-time graduate program.

The full-time bachelor of science in fire science curriculum is designed for students interested in pursuing careers in fields related to firefighting, fire prevention and fire protection. The program integrates liberal arts education and career preparation and reflects the knowledge, skills and abilities outlined in the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) standards as well as the Model Curriculum set forth by the Fire and Emergency Service Higher Education Program (FESHE).

Emphasis is placed on the dynamic aspect of public-sector fire service leadership and administration. Students are required to complete a 120-credit curriculum. Within the 120 credits are 36 credits directly contributed to the fire science core curriculum. In years one and two, students take six lower-level core courses: Fire Behavior & Combustion, Fundamentals of Fire Protection, Fundamentals of Fire Prevention, Fire Protection Hydraulics and Water Supply, Fire Protection Systems, and Building Construction for Fire Protection. These courses prepare the student for six upper-level electives that range from Principles of Public Sector Management to Advanced Arson Investigation. In addition, students take classes in leadership, researching the social world, and applied statistics and quantitative analysis to enhance their understanding of the major.

Full-time students are mostly high school graduates who come from across the country to try to better themselves with advanced knowledge of the fire service as well as increase their marketability for future employment in the fire service. The greatest numbers of students are enrolled in the Division of Professional Studies (DPS) fire science bachelor degree program. The division integrates liberal arts education and career preparation to develop a well-rounded fire-service professional. These students are working firefighters who have come to the conclusion that education is a must in today's fire service. There are many reasons why these firefighters have come to this reality: promotional opportunity, educational incentive and even to gain knowledge. If you are an aspiring chief, you will see that most, if not all, chief jobs advertised require a minimum of an associate's degree.

This content continues onto the next page...