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Thread: Having a GED & how it Affects Employment

  1. #1
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    Jul 2014

    Question Having a GED & how it Affects Employment

    Many people in this day and age are opting out of a high school diploma and getting a GED instead, some out of laziness and a lack of will and others out of initiative. My question for this forum would be this; If I had a GED high school equivalency instead of a high school diploma would the certification hinder my employment opportunities at a fire dept? My next question would be this; Lets say I had a GED certificate, however, I also had a year of experience volunteering in a fire dept and a college degree in fire science including certifications like: Fire I, Fire II, EMT, paramedic and hazmat ops. Would this look better to an employer than a simple high school diploma?
    Last edited by Wandering Walrus; 07-29-2014 at 10:38 AM. Reason: Switching,

  2. #2
    IFR is offline
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    This is my opinion, and I am sure others may disagree.

    At age 16 I got my GED. At the time, people told me it would be harder to get a job, etc. I now work for a large metro department.

    When I was 17 I joined the local cadet program. When I was 18 I started working as a FF/EMT part-time for the county I lived in. I got all my certs (EMT, FF1 & 2, etc.), and took some college classes. When I was 19 I got hired as a full-time industrial firefighter, and got some extra certs under my belt (Hazmat Tech, Ropes, etc.).

    From 18 onward, I began testing for large departments all over the east and west coast. At age 21 I was hired full-time.

    At no point did I feel I was hindered or looked at differently because of my GED. If you do decided to take the GED route, I encourage you to take at least few college classes. On most applications they ask you to indicate your highest level of education. If you are able to put "Some College" or better in that box, the GED vs HS Diploma pretty much becomes a non factor.

    Hope this helped! If you haven't already, I encourage you to start volunteering, building up you certs, and testing all over the place!

  3. #3
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    Mar 2003


    While a GED is OK, we want to hire people who are SMART. Someone who has a GED does not come across as someone who values education. Additionally, I would have concerns that he or she would have difficulty learning technical and complex material. Our academy is very mentally and physically challenging. I would have questions as to whether you would struggle with EMT, hazardous materials, paramedic school or any of the other academically challenging aspects of our job.

    It's important to remember that we have dozens (even hundreds) of people to choose from. We want to hire the best!

    Lastly, people in my position generally have a Bachelors or a Masters degree. While I understand that firefighting is a hands on profession, we really value education.
    Paul Lepore
    Division Chief

  4. #4
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    Nov 2009


    As far as I know all states have to honor a GED as a High School diploma by law. But the GED is just one thing on your resume, work on other aspects to make up for the GED.

  5. #5
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    I have to disagree with Chief Lapore on this one. Some individual departments might look down on a GED, while others simply acknowledge that it's equivalent to a HS diploma and move on the rest of the hiring process.

    That being said, the workforce that the fire service is drawing applicants from has changed dramatically in the past 20-30 years. It's now common for applicants for to hold at least a 2-year college degree if not a bachelors and sometimes a masters. Our last recruit school graduated with a former federal prosecutor as well as a former high-ranking (read: lots of education and lots of pay) county official from another locality as well. Keep in mind that these are the folks that you'll be competing against, so do what you need to do to prepare yourself for the process.
    Career Fire Captain
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    Never taking for granted that I'm privileged enough to have the greatest job in the world!

  6. #6

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    Nov 2004
    Norfolk Virginia


    I have many thoughts on this issue. I for one have a GED and no college experience and have been on the job for 5 years. It has not held me back from obtaining the job at either of the career departments I have worked. One place where it is going to hurt myself currently is with career advancement. Most places are requiring at least a 2 year degree for promotion up the ranks.
    I will somewhat disagree with Chief Lepore in that I have never had trouble with any EMT , Tech Rescue, Hazmat Tech, and or any other job related education. I have completed two career academies combined of 46 weeks of education and physical training. Furthermore, throughout my 15years in the fire service, I have worked under and with highly educated firefighters who are poor leaders and or performers of the job. It all depends on the individual.
    My best advice is to obtain as much job related education as you can. (Pro-board, IFSAC Certs) If you can obtain a formal college education at the same time, power to you, but don't feel inferior if don't have that degree. In my humble opinion, common sense out weighs book smarts any day!
    BoxAlarm187 likes this.
    Don't be a know it all! Be a know a lot!

  7. #7
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    I appreciate the perspective that there are plenty of people in the fire service with a GED. As was pointed out above by BoxAlarm187, times are changing (and have already changed). I can tell you that I am intimately involved in the hiring process and a candidate with a GED instead of a high school diploma is absolutely a topic of conversation for all of the reasons listed above.

    As I have stated on this board before, some of the best firefighters I know have little to no education. Some of the most educated firefighters lack common sense (since they spent most of their adult life in school).

    In today's day and age, we have a bunch of really qualified candidates. Getting hired TODAY with ONLY a GED is going to be an uphill battle. There are always exceptions to the rule.

    Shawshank (my favorite movie)
    I completely agree with your view on what it takes to be a good leader. Education does not make a leader. There are so many other things that go into being a good leader.

    On a personal note, I hope you are in school working toward your AS degree (online classes are your friend!)

    To be completely transparent, I promoted to BC with only a high school diploma. I committed to returning to school to and earned an AS, Bachelors and Masters. I promoted to BC 10 years ago. Since then, many departments require at least an AS (often a Bachelors) to qualify to take the BC exam. As I said, times have changed.

    IF you are a young man or woman who is considering getting a GED instead of a high school diploma, my advice is DO NOT! Buckle down and earn your diploma - it does make a difference. IF you are a person who has a GED, I am telling you that there is a difference. You cannot change the past, but an AS degree essentially erases a GED.
    Last edited by paulLepore; 08-11-2014 at 01:11 PM.
    fire49 likes this.
    Paul Lepore
    Division Chief

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