1. #1
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    Default Degrees as Conditions of Employment

    Just wondering aloud here. It seems that there are many, many applicants for very few FF positions nowadays. Actually, it's pretty much always been that way, just more so nowadays. Additionally, there seem to be many firemedic applicants that just take some five month crash course for their card just to get the job and could care less about riding the box.

    My question is, should (could) employers require job specific degrees as a condition of employment? FD's would require a fire science degree to be considered, medics could be required to have a two year EMS degree, or enter a written agreement to upgrade their P-card to a degree at a local community college within a certain time period as a condition of further employment. LEO's could require a criminal justice degree, and maybe some do, not sure.

    I know that some depts require a certain amount of college before applying, but I'm referring specifically to these job specific degrees. It would certainly weed out any illiterates that can't pass these "biased" entry exams that an eighth grader would laugh at.

    Before anyone jumps on me, let me point out that while I'm currently enrolled in college, I don't yet hold any degrees myself. I just thought that I would open up this discussion and view some opinions on the matter. Consider that many professions, such as nursing, started out as diploma programs and now require degrees just to get hired.

    With job competition as fierce as it is, I would think that requiring job specific degrees would weed out some of the nut jobs and make the job something that not just anyone can be eligible for right out of high school or with just a GED. Having an education doesn't necessarily make one a competent firefighter, only experience in the field working with good officers can do that, but requiring a degree that directly relates to your job should hold a good deal of benefit. I would think that those who choose to spent the two years or more getting that education ought to be rewarded over someone who enters the hiring process just because the job sounds cool, or that it's a great way to make money and have a lot of time off without any educational requirements.
    Last edited by edpmedic; 02-26-2010 at 04:00 PM.

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    You bring up a very interesting topic, one that hits particularly close to home for myself. I have a justice studies degree from a major 4 year university. Though I only have 3 years of volunteer experience, I do have every certification that any rookie school or training academy in the area would teach me. I have been going through the hiring process at a local department since september, I was a step away from being hired when I received an e-mail stating that I was no longer in the running for the job. The recruitment officer informed me that it was because I didn't have a degree at the time of my application. Keep in mind that this job requires only a GED, however I am sure that the necessity for education was increased the further along we got in the process. I asked the Recruitment officer if everyone else left in the process had degrees and he said "everyone that is being examined based on education does have a degree." This leads me to only be able to assume that this department does not critique every candidate based on the same standard, thus indicating a serious breakdown regarding the equality and fairness of the process. Thus, in regards to your question, this department "does" and "does not" require a degree.
    While I am not sure that I agree that specific degrees may be necessary for employment, I do believe that they should be heavily emphasized for promotion opportunities. And again, these promotions should also use the same standards for everyone involved in that process as well.

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    From a candidate:

    I don't expect the degree to get me the job, but it will definitely help me do a better job and help with my career in the future (i.e. getting promoted). I figure I might as well start now, so if it comes time that I need it one day, I will already have it.

    Reply: Yes, having a degree will help with promotions but you won’t get a chance to use it in the fire service until you get the JOB!

    Once hired how long will it be before you will qualify to take a promotional exam?

    Answer: Engineer depending on the agency 3 plus years. An officer? Five or more years. So if you get on you could obtain the necessary education before your first promotional test to be in position. And, the department will pay for you to go to college. I did.

    Ask yourself who is getting the badges? A lot of the candidates we see get hired do not have advanced degrees. They're more in the line of EMT, FF1 academy, working on or have an AA, AS degree or medics. Some have no fire education or experience. Their biggest asset was they leaned how to take an interview.

    If you really want to get a firefighter job consider these points:

    Is there a requirement for an advanced degree to get a firefighter job?

    Answer: Some departments list an advanced degree as desirable but not required. Few agencies require so many fire college credits usually to cull the heard for testing.

    Where are up to 80% of the job offerings?

    Answer: Fire/medics

    There are up to 800 candidates chasing each firefighter job. How many are chasing a fire/medic job?

    Answer: 12-20. Which odds do you like better?

    But where are you going to get more bang for your buck as you go forward? You already have your EMT B and have an idea if the EMS side is for you. Becoming a paramedic could dramatically improve your odds.

    Can you continue your education once you’re hired? Will departments give you an education incentive?

    Answer: Yes to both.

    Reply: I read a candidates resume recently. It was packed with 2 degrees, certs, POC Volly experience, and every merit badge you could imagine. After taking a lot of tests without results he reflected that he would have probably been hired already had be become a medic. He wrote me this:

    I really feel that some of the departments in the south are afraid of the change that is occurring across the country in regards to the importance of higher educations. Mike

    Reply: What change? It's not just the south. Maybe it will be in the next generation but not now. I've been doing this for 39 years and have not seen the change you and others are talking about. I will sound the alarm when there is evidence it's on the horizon.

    Convince me how this is going to help you in a snott nose rookie oral board where many on the other side of the panel don't have an advanced degree? It's not just an advanced degree. It's medic school baby and learning how to take a firefighter interview that will open doors!

    From another candidate:

    With all due respect to all that was said, speaking as a volunteer firefighter who has a 4 year degree, I would say that getting your BA or BS for a firefighter job is not a good way to go. I got my BS, and $100,000 later, I'm hoping to work in a job that requires only a technical certification that costs $250. and having the BS with out the tech cert makes me pretty much unhirable.

    Get your paramedic. get your FF1 and FF2. get your hazmat tech. those are what is going to make you valuable to a company. A 4 year degree is worthwhile, but only if you use it. most departments aren't requiring them. some departments will even pay for you to attend college courses. yes, it helps if you want to become an officer or a chief officer. but your going for entry level. your going to have to pass the physical, pass the psych test, pass the written, and pass the oral board.

    Focus on your goal and don't let anything get in your way until you get it.
    _____________________________________________

    "Nothing counts 'til you have the badge . . . Nothing!"

    Fire "Captain Bob"

    www.eatstress.com

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    I would not support requiring a degree for an entry level position. The majority of applicants we see when we require a paramedic license are the late teen or twenty something kids that have lived at home with mom and dad while going to school. As a general rule (yes, I am stereotyping) these young men and women have absolutely NO life experience. Many of them have never lived on their own. For the record, I got hired at 20 years old and was pretty green. In retrospect, I was too young.

    Requiring a degree on top of a paramedic cert would increase the chances of getting a lifelong student. Not to mention the fact that it would severely limit the applicant pool.

    I am not against education. When I promoted to BC 5 years ago I was 9 classes short of an AA degree. I will graduate with my Masters degree in December. If I had it to do all over again I would have earned a 4 year degree and then worried about the fire department.
    Paul Lepore
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    Aspiringfirefighters.com
    AspiringFireOfficers.com

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    There are all too many that go to a five or six month quickie medic program only to get ahead of all the other applicants. That's not long enough. Nor is there much regulation for the instructors. The National EMS Instructor Course is maybe 40 hours long. Doesn't compare to the level of educator found in a college. Does the dept want a quality ALS provider, or just anyone with a card so they can say that they are "ALS". If given the chance, they'll drop the cert as soon as they can. The prevalent attitude is that riding the box is punishment, or paying your dues.

    Requiring a degree from an accredited college will ensure at least a legitimate, formal educational experience, not just some quickie patch factory that only teaches the students how to pass the test. Besides, an EMS degree is only two years, 68 credits or so. It's not a whole lot of time. A decent paramedic tech school can be 12-18 months anyway. Furthermore, you can take a P-card to any accreditied community college that has an EMS degree, and get a year's worth of credits towards that degree. As such, a medic from a quickie five month school could actually get a two year EMS degree in around 18 months if they time it right. An EMS AAS is a paramedic degree, a college version of a paramedic program, just so everyone knows.

    Regarding supply, it isn't necessary to have everyone become a medic. Additionally, places like FL and OH have too many medics as it is. Most of these medics are from tech schools, not colleges. Many depts don't care where you got your cert, as long as it's valid. How many stories do you see pop up with negative press regarding fire based EMS? Here's one article:

    http://www.ems1.com/ems-management/a...25-paramedics/

    I've heard that LA (I'm not sure if county or city) doesn't even read 12 leads. If the fire service wishes to safeguard the image that fire based EMS is the superior delivery model, then it's EMS operations, policies, staffing, and most importantly it's providers' proficiency and attitude toward EMS to include transport) need to be on point, not merely a token gesture, as in showing onscene solely to show call volume and not doing any real care. I haven't seen these problems around my way, but I know this stuff is a problem in certain regions of the country.


    Do we want to do EMS for real, or do we just want to boost our call volume and billing?
    Last edited by edpmedic; 02-27-2010 at 04:16 AM.

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    This brings up a question I've been thinking for a while now... How long do you think it will be before the market is completely flooded EVERYWHERE with newly certified medics who can't get a job because everyone else ran out and got their cert before they did, and all because everyone they talked to told them to get their ALS cert so they can get a job? It seems to be the standard for an agency to prefer medics over EMTs, but will this always hold true? Will departments become top-heavy as they get overloaded with medics, or is this a trend that is here to stay? And if that does happen, would a department ever choose one candidate over another simply because they chose a more unique major (or specialty), because so many others chose the EMS degree?

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    The market is already flooded with medics, particularly in NY, FL, OH, and CA. Why do you think single role EMS pays so lousy? There are patch factories all over the country pumping out legions of medics in as little as 5-6 months in many cases. Most employers don't even ask where you got your card, only if your state cert or NRP card is in date.

    I personally find it absurd that there are depts that are mandating that everyone become medics. There's no need. I don't understand the logic.

    With this last economic downturn, more and more people are realizing that the business world won't provide them with job security or a secure retirement, either. Jobs being outsourced overseas, being let go for someone half your age and half your salary, takeovers, layoffs, failing businesses, no pension, only a 401k, so on and so forth. Many are turning to fire, police, and EMS for safe, secure careers, decent benefits, and a generous pension/DROP. As such, the number of applicants for each available spot has spiked. A slowdown in hiring plays a role in this of course.

    Employers can afford to be more selective, and require degrees as a condition of hire, or at least give preference. This is what happened with many of the medical professions, such as RN's, RRT's, physical therapists, and various techs, such as echo, x-ray, etc. RN's started out as OJT at hospitals, diploma only, then a 2 year degree, and now a BSN either required or at least preferred for certain areas. Employers can do the same, particularly with EMS, as the supply continues to grow. If employers require medic degrees, that would weed out some of those who want their P-card solely for preferential hiring.

    Outside of the fire service, the one saving grace for medics seeking employment is that the field is transient, and many either burn out, or get degrees and move to other fields. This constant supply lowers compensation, though.

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    Do you think then if an employer requires more education, the employees will demand higher salaries? And that employers realize this and may be reluctant to do so for budget concerns? I'm just playing devil's advocate here; I do mostly agree that a 2 or 4-year degree requirement will draw more serious applicants and ultimately result in better patient care... which is what we're all in this for anyways right?

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    Having the degree as a minimum standard is only the first step. You also need to lobby for increased reimbursement from insurance companies. That's what these other medical professions did. They increased their education first, got organized, then successfully increased their reimbursement rates, thus allowing higher compensation. These fields got their degrees before the compensation was there, then went with the angle that they were able to do more for their pts, that they became more educated for their pts benefit, and thus deserve a higher reimbursement.

    As far as stand alone EMS, it's too fragmented and transient to really have any strong organization. The IAFF would be in a much better position to lobby for higher insurance reimbursement for EMS should the degreed medic become the minimum standard.

    If and when the degree becomes commonplace, I would think that hosp based EMS would be the first to compensate for the degree. The privates are strictly profit driven, so they'll just keep hiring regular tech school medics as long as they can. EMS only depts typically don't pay well or staff enough units to begin with, so maybe the more progressive depts, like Wake Co NC or Lee Co FL would be more apt to pay in line with education. Otherwise, employers will seek to keep the salary low so long as there are those willing to work for peanuts. The fact that a good number of organizations use system status management to run the least amount of rigs as possible and also squeeze the maximum productivity out of their workers, I would think that increasing compensation would be challenging.

    I would like to think that degreed medics would be more serious about their chosen profession, and thus be more apt to organize, since the field would then be less transient. EMS unions could then force the dept's hand in bringing salaries in line with other public safety depts. The problem is, unless employers require it, no one wants to get a degree if it doesn't produce a salary boost. Catch 22.

    As long as these patch factories keep pumping out medics, and employers accept that as education, the salaries will remain stagnant.
    Last edited by edpmedic; 02-27-2010 at 08:36 AM.

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    Are there any major city departments that do require a degree to be hired?

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    I could only think of Oregon for sure and maybe a lot of Kansas.

    In Oregon, to be a paramedic you must have a college degree. Therefore if you wish to work for any FD as a medic/ff, then the answer is YES, you need a degree.

    I mentioned Kansas off hand as I do not have first hand knowledge or experience but I heard they are following Oregon's lead with the state requirement for medic cert, which again would force one to need a degree to compete for fire jobs.

    As I said, this is hearsay, something I have not looked into and is one of the very few times I post "rumors.

    Oregon is fact and easily verifiable with some "Google-Fu".

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    Quote Originally Posted by edpmedic View Post
    EMS unions could then force the dept's hand in bringing salaries in line with other public safety depts.
    There are some private EMS companies in which the EMTs and medics belong to the IAFF. Wouldn't that be just as good as an EMS union?

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    Quote Originally Posted by synergy View Post
    There are some private EMS companies in which the EMTs and medics belong to the IAFF. Wouldn't that be just as good as an EMS union?
    Not necessarily. If the FD wants to assume EMS duties for whatever reason, it's easy to do since the EMS members are part of the union. That happened with Local 42, who at one time represented MAST, their EMS in Kansas City. They took them in, then merged EMS into their FD. MAST members couldn't do anything, as that would be going against the union.

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