Distance Learning

Harry R. Carter discusses distance learning and the opportunities that are available to earn a college degree through on-line education.


I have long believed that there is a close tie between knowledge and success. This basic principle, which has guided my life, was driven home by my parents in the early part of my life. College was a prized commodity in the eyes of my parents. I was imbued with a thirst for knowledge and have...


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Do not limit yourself to the fire service world, and most assuredly do not limit yourself to the associate or undergraduate level. There are a number of outstanding, distance-learning opportunities at the graduate level. You should consider broadening into the world of management, public administration, or business administration. I am personally aware of fully-accredited graduate programs at:

  • Capella University
  • Duke University
  • Norwich University
  • Syracuse University
  • University of Phoenix
  • Walden University

Many people in the fire service make the mistake of limiting themselves to fire courses and degrees. Each of us needs to be able to operate within the broader world. Each of us needs to gain knowledge about such important topics as financial management issues, budgets, planning, management, leadership and public administration.

I am completing a doctoral program in the business school at Capella University in Minneapolis. I was scheduled to begin my comprehensive examinations in April and I hope to enter the research phase of my dissertation process by July 1. You may well become the future beneficiary of my research. I will be studying the impact of leadership on retention in the volunteer fire service. To date, I have completed my mandatory residence work in Virginia and Florida, and have faced some serious academic challenges. Like I said earlier, on-line learning is convenient, but it sure is not easy.

If your schedule and circumstance permit, and you are able to gain admission into a residential program, by all means do so. I can assure you that I made some really good friends during my years at dear old Jersey City State. There is also the added advantage of engaging in an on-going discourse with your fellow learners. All of us in the fire science program at JCSC learned a great deal of added knowledge over a cup of coffee at the old diner down by Highway 440, or over a bit of something stronger at Roy’s on Kennedy Boulevard near the school.

This article is by no means an all-encompassing coverage of the distance-learning phenomenon. However, I want you to be aware that there are opportunities to gain knowledge and earn your college degree that do not involve a great deal of classroom time. Let me reinforce the fact that you will have to work for what you wish to achieve. On-line education may be your ticket to future success in the fire service. Go for it.


Harry R. Carter, Ph.D., MIFireE, is a Firehouse® contributing editor. A municipal fire protection consultant based in Adelphia, NJ, he is a former president of the International Society of Fire Service Instructors (ISFSI). Dr. Carter is an associate professor at Mercer County Community College and a past chief and active life member of the Adelphia Fire Company. A fire commissioner for Howell Township District 2, he retired from the Newark, NJ, Fire Department in 1999 as a battalion commander. He also served as chief of training and commander of the Hazardous Materials Response Team. Dr. Carter is a Member of the Institution of Fire Engineers of Great Britain (MIFireE). You can contact him through his website at Dr.Carter@HarryCarter.com.