Getting Educated About Being COLLEGE Educated

Ron Wakeham and Bill Lowe discuss how to determine which program is best for you in and the benefits of having a college degree.


The fire service is slowly, although most certainly and with more momentum, evolving from loosely organized but dedicated volunteer fire departments into career public safety organizations. Expanded public expectations in the post-9/11 era and the realization that a weapons of mass destruction (WMD...


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The fire service is slowly, although most certainly and with more momentum, evolving from loosely organized but dedicated volunteer fire departments into career public safety organizations. Expanded public expectations in the post-9/11 era and the realization that a weapons of mass destruction (WMD) incident can occur within the United States is causing community leaders to evaluate the ability of fire departments to respond to catastrophic events.

As part of this evaluation process, it’s apparent that firefighters possessing more educational credentials and certifications in various occupational specialization areas will enhance the delivery of quality public safety services. This article seeks to educate firefighters of all ranks on the many aspects and issues for earning college degrees.

The fire service can be proud of its many service innovations, such as EMS, public safety education, paramedic engines and advanced rescue capabilities, but the authors suggest equal attention to firefighters’ educational development is warranted. While fire service leaders have for years advocated that civilians should be more educated regarding community safety and fire safety topics, the messages challenging firefighters to acquire more education has not been promoted with the same passion. Law enforcement leaders have generally done a much better job instilling into their culture that college education is an important career accomplishment for police officers and sheriffs’ deputies.

The topic of education for firefighters is often debated in fire stations, as firefighters ask their officers, “I’d like to consider going to college. What are your thoughts regarding the career benefits for earning a college degree?” Unfortunately, too many fire officers will respond that they do not view educational credentials as important for achieving a successful fire service career. This viewpoint is in direct conflict with the preferences that most public and business organizations have a strong preference for leaders who possess strong academic credentials and strong business expertise.

Command in a Complex World

Increasingly, fire officers face dwindling or unpredictable resources, new and sometimes unrealistic public expectations, demographic changes, political and labor union oversight, and uncertain and interconnected external issues. Fire officers are more directly involved with human resource management, financial management, public relations, implementing technology and addressing world events than ever before. As practitioners, fire officers must be at the forefront in developing new methods improving the operational safety of firefighters’ roles and practices. To stay proactive and visionary with the ever increasing demand for critical analysis and planning to forecast future fire service needs, fire officers’ educational requirements must increase.

Today’s and tomorrow’s performance competencies will require fire officers to possess a broad spectrum of theoretical and technical skills to strengthen their expertise and credibility. For many fire officers, the acquisition of this knowledge involves attending a regionally accredited college or university. During this academic journey, the destination is reached after mastering course and program objectives.

Many officers will decide to select a program addressing topics such as fiscal policy, public administration, public relations, human resource development, labor negotiations and other professional skills. Firefighters and fire officers should carefully evaluate how academics can help them advance within their professions, enhance fire service operations and safeguard their communities.

Educational Benefits

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