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  1. #1
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    Question is a degree better?

    i have a question thats may sound stupid but o well is it better to have a college degree for paid employment in the fire service? i have been a volunteer for 2 years and rewally want to go to a paid dept but i am not sure if i shoud get a degree first.


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    I was wondering this to. I dont think it can hurt any to walk in knowing a little more and it helps to have something over other people applying for the same position.

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    MembersZone Subscriber CFD Hazards's Avatar
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    Some departments are requiring an Associate's Degree or at the very least, 30 college credits. Having a degree would certainly help if the choice came down to you and someone with out one. More departments are requiring EMT or Paramedic licenses. I would look into those first. They may even be part of the degree program.

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    Forum Member CaptOldTimer's Avatar
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    Thumbs up

    Having a fire science degree or another type of degree will indicate that you have some thing on the ball other than just looking for a job that isn't flipping burgers. It goes further than someone that doesn't have a degree.

    A lot of fire departments now require at least an associate degree or 2 years of college. You can of course contuine your knowledge and education after you get on the job.

    Out department has career development programs for all members. To apply to take the test for Lieutenant, you have to have taken college courses and to have "X" number of eductional points. As you move on up the promotional ladder for Captain and Battalion Chief, more points are required. As you advance upward in the career development path, you receive in rank promotions and more money! Just graduateing from Recruit to Firefighter 1, after recruit school get you an 2-1/2% pay advance.


    Education is very important in the fire service. If you have degrees now it will help you in the future. If you don't have any and don't extend your self to achive any, then you will remain as a firefighter grade throughout your time in the department.




    Stay Safe & Well out there.....

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    Will it help you get on the job or get promoted?? Yes. Will it make you good on the fireground, I dont think so.

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    Forum Member kghemtp's Avatar
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    I agree with a few of the captain's points, as departments might use the degree as a qualifying criteria. However, oral boards don't seem to put as much stock in credentials as much as presentation. Will I as a paramedic with a degree automatically be ahead of someone with more time or better interview skills? Probably not. Paramedic is a buzz word, but it's not the golden ticket. I wouldn't get the degree as a sure thing for finding a job. Prove yourself as a firefighter, obtain what's required for certs to MAKE yourself a better firefighter, and go the extra mile with a few extra modules here & there, but don't do the degree for the wrong reason. Matty probably has it right about not necessarily being a "better" firefighter because of the degree. The degree shows you score well on tests and have ability to write. Do you have time doing medical and the certs needed to provide care? Have you thought about going ALS, like Intermediate or Paramedic? Yeah, I've heard the cracks, "Damn paramedic pushing EMS on everyone!" Hey, it's a thought ya know? I mean, someone took a damn paramedic & showed him fire... same could be true for you as a firefighter! And don't get me wrong about being a medic, either... there are SO many fantastic firefighter/EMT's out there who may never stick an IV, and they're the best in their field. Be that kind of guy, and think of EMS if you want to. Good luck!
    ~Kevin
    Firefighter/Paramedic
    --^v--^v--^v--^v--
    Of course, that's just my opinion. I could be wrong
    Dennis Miller

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    Depending on where you are looking you must have your EMT-P ticket to even test. No ticket, need not apply.

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    Permanently Removed CALFFBOU's Avatar
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    Default Wake up call...

    I am going to list several reasons why YES!!!
    I would work on getting a 2 or 4 year degree
    aka "paper gold." Also consider Paramedic
    school and then you can get a degree in that
    field as well.

    #1. Please ask yourself. "How bad do I want to
    get hired?" On the West coast, it is about 500
    applicants for one FF/EMT opening. No joke. And
    ALL of them have some sort of volunteer, paid-call
    or reserve experience. Get an edge and bring
    something else to the table other than "I just
    really want the job and I am a teamplayer, blah,
    blah, blah..."

    #2. Consider this- The Chief sitting on your oral
    board most very likely has a degree(s). Most
    administrators must be educated to head a public
    service department. He/she paid their dues and
    reached for higher education. Now, who do you
    think they are going to favor?

    #3. Do it young, especially if you can still live
    with your parents. As you get older, buy things, work
    to pay for your apartment, home, insurance, vacation,
    car, food, kids, etc. It gets harder and harder to
    get in that classroom and/or study. SERIOUSLY
    Consider online courses as well. A 2 year degree
    could go by fast.

    #4. Promotibility- YES! You will have that same
    edge in the future when you got that degree a few
    years ago when its time to promote. Imagine going
    into your oral board for Captain and being able to
    say "Yes, I have complete my Management degree back
    in 2004 along with my Officer certificate."

    #5. BACK-UP PLAN. Ok, youre hired and now you get
    injuried on the job. Now what are you going to fall
    back on? McDonalds? Burger King? No, You got your
    degree and now you are going to instruct at the fire
    academy or become middle/upper management with your
    department. Dispatch, finance, computers, city and
    county mamangement want higher education. AND SOME
    DEPARTMENTS AND COMPANIES WILL PAY FOR YOUR
    EDUCATION. HELLO, McFLY??? Grants and scholoarships...
    There for the taking.

    #6. And guess what- You are actually educated! The
    entry written exams are NOT getting easier. You
    are now able to answer an intelligent question someone
    from the public throws at you about high rise
    construction, history, biology or other topics.
    You bring more creditibility to yourself and
    respect.

    #7. Once you get your degree, NO one can take
    it away from you. You earned it and it doesnt expire.
    In 1999, the City of Santa Barbara, CA hired
    5 Firefighter/EMTs. All had bachalor degress.
    Hmmmm- can you blame them for hiring the best of the
    best to fight fire and represent their city for the
    next 30 years? Even a 2 year degree is good!

    Lastly- PRIDE. Just think, once you do graduate,
    you can look back and know youve accomplished
    something major. You worked hard, paid your dues
    and you have the fruits to show it. To me, being
    a paid Firefighter is the best job and feeling in
    the world. Knowing you worked hard and above the
    standard to get there...priceless.
    Last edited by CALFFBOU; 03-08-2004 at 02:49 PM.

  9. #9
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    Bou
    Lastly- Once you get your degree, NO one can take it away from you.
    I agree with you. I am working full time and pursuing my Bachelor's in Fire Science part-time online through UMUC. All of your points are outstanding and as you say above, once I have it, it is mine (and even better for each Fire Science course I also get my certificate from the National Fire Academy!). I say go for it. You have absolutely nothing to lose and everything to gain Antioch.

    Cheffie

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    Default Remember, You're Just a Rookie

    Remember, You're Just a Rookie

    We have enough chiefs. We need more indians.

    I believe in education. If you want to get a Public Administration, Engineering or any other degree as a career track, great. Donít think it will be the key to get you into the fire service.

    Iíve coached several candidates who have had B.S./BA degrees in Public Administration areas. They have been misguided by counselors that said this would be an asset to get into the fire service. What ends up happening is these candidates show up at an entry-level oral board boasting about their degree. What they donít understand is not many on the other side of the oral board table have this degree. And most of these candidates will never have a chance to use it in the fire service. Can you get hired going the education route? Sure. It happens all the time. Many non-medic candidates just started the LA City Academy.

    An associate sent me this information from a fire officer who instructs Fire Protection and Fire Management programs at California State University Los Angeles. With the subject of wanna-bees desiring to get their BA/BS degrees confirmed what you and I already know about candidates in interviews showing up with BA/BS degrees. And that is they get either laughed out of the room or the interview panel becomes resentful and down goes the interview score! DUH!

    This from a SF candidate: I'm currently on the SFFD H-2 list "4th Generation hopefully SFFD"! I'm also a volunteer firefighter/EMT. My volunteer Fire department requires Paramedic certifications for entry-level firefighters. After graduating from a four year university... I had an administration internship with my volunteer department where I wrote and designed the District's Master Plan and preformed statistical analysis for "time respond" for Fire suppression and medical calls. I also went on ride alongs with the engine, truck and even with the chief himself. I was told by the chief if I went out to get my paramedic license... I would be hired on the spot. Becoming a paramedic is not my cup of tea... it's been beaten in my head as a child "from my grandfather and father" to be a firefighter not a medic... ! All of the paid firefighters like my work ethic and all say they should let me in as a Firefighter/EMT.

    My reply: With all due respect to your family members, the playing field has changed. It must be killing you to see these guys hired and it's not you. Like it or not, understand that 75%+ of calls are medical in nature. Eighty percent of the job offerings are for fire medics. Had you gone to medic school as I encourage candidates to do, gained the valuable in service medic street time, you wouldn't be trying to fight your way into a department as an EMT. You would be wearing the H-3 badge for SFFD (I'm 3rd generation San Franciscan myself) or another department.

    John came in for a coaching session after not being able to pass any oral boards. He was one of those candidates who I think was misguided into a Public Administration Degree. During his coaching, he kept trying to come back to his degree. I finally told him, "Who cares Rookie! You want to come into my oral board and try to hammer me with a degree you may never use?" Youíre applying for a snotty nose rookie position as a firefighter!" John dropped his head and said, "Maybe thatís why I canít get through any orals."

    John ended up going to paramedic school (which he should have already done instead of the B/A degree). Although he mentioned the B/A degree in his oral board answer "What have you done to prepare for this position" he focused on his personal life and paramedic experience. He got his badge!


    I look for the shortest distance to the badge. If I were starting out, I would run to paramedic school. Yes, you can get on without it. I know candidates all the time who get a badge without being a medic. But for the time spent and with more than 80% of job offerings being fire/medic, the odds are better.

    Many departments have educational incentive programs where they will pay you to go to school. I took advantage of this program and received an additional 5% pay. This 5% was included in my retirement.

    As Steve Prziborowski, Fire Captain - Santa Clara County Fire Department wrote:

    Do what you have to do be more marketable so you can take more tests and have something more to offer a department, but remember that it all comes down to that 15 to 30 minute oral interview. I've seen some awesome candidates with resumes packed full of accomplishments that couldn't sell them self in an interview to even make the top 50%.

    You can find more on testing secrets in the Career Article section from the Jobs drop down menu just above this posting.

    ďNothing counts Ďtil you have the badge . . . Nothing!Ē

    Fire "Captain Bob"

    www.eatstress.com
    Last edited by CaptBob; 03-08-2004 at 03:17 PM.

  11. #11
    Permanently Removed CALFFBOU's Avatar
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    Default Bob is right...

    Being a Paramedic will unlock the fire service
    career door the fastest. I should have written
    more about it. Oversight on my part.

    You can get your medic cert and then go back
    and finish up a degree in the same field. Again,
    most departments are hiring for
    "FIREFIGHTER/PARAMEDIC" and not
    "FIREFIGHTER/BA DEGREE."

    Hope both of our posts helped you out.

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    thank yall very much i have been planning to enroll in the fall EMT basic course and go up to paramedic eventually yall have been very helpful. with only 2 years exp. i am still learning alot and i am glad to have found a site where veteran FF are willing to share there knowledge once again thank you

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    Thumbs up Work Up To A Degree

    I would have to say that my counter parts have given you some pretty good information to get started in the right direction. I would like to add one thing here I don't think anyone might have stated yet. The degree in fire science is a nice piece of paper to add to your resume, but may still not get you the job. Most of the full-time departments in the State of Michigan have went to Advanced Life Support capabilities. It has been a long time since I saw an add in the paper requesting any less than a Firefighter/Paramedic. I would recommend that you get your Paramedic License. Then I would recommend that you get the Hazardous Materials Operations level certification (or comprable in your state), because all departments in the last 4 years (and for years to come) will have to address Hazardous Materials. I would also think about taking some techinical rescue classes, as that we are always going to have high angle, trench, and confined space resue. What would look more attractive to a fire department, a guy that can jump right into the hazardous materials and technical rescue, or a guy with a piece of paper that tells the cheif he has been to college. Well Just my opinion...every state is different...Everybody Be Careful Out There!!!

  14. #14
    Forum Member kghemtp's Avatar
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    Default To "P" or not to "P", that is the question

    While I know a vast majority of our work in the fire service involves EMS in various capacities, it isn't everyone's interest. Are we all gonna do some kind of EMS whether we roll up in an ambulance, engine, rescue, or truck? Of course, but Paramedic is much like Haz-Mat Technician or high-angle/confined space rescue systems in that we don't all want to do it. I hate to be the critic, but the last thing we need is someone who chose paramedic because it will get him a job. Do you want a firefighter backing you up who came to this job for the wrong reason? It's the same for EMS. I urge everyone to get as much medical training as they can, and to like it because with the right attitude this can be very rewarding AND a help in getting the great job. Don't be a medic because you like the uniform or popping bicarbs like Johnny & Roy. The golden patch is like a wedding band: it's not so much what it is but what it represents.

    The degree is valuable beyond all belief, just as our colleagues have written here. We just have to keep the right perspective about what our goals & motives are. I'm doing a BS in Administration right now, not because I want a job but because it will better me in management as time goes along and I earn rank. We're not all gonna be firefighters forever, given retirements and unfortunately injury too. Yeah, I want the degree that makes me valuable IN the fire service as well as out. Give that some thought.
    ~Kevin
    Firefighter/Paramedic
    --^v--^v--^v--^v--
    Of course, that's just my opinion. I could be wrong
    Dennis Miller

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    Instead of asking "Is a degree better" I think you should have asked "Is a degree worth it?" I don't think there is any doubt that having a college degree when applying for any job is better than not having a degree at all. But since going to college is so damn expensive, is it worth it to pay that much money to have a degree? Personally, I would try to get hired without one - unless I came from a wealthy family and my parents paid for me to go to school. Then I would definately go. I would like to see other FFs answer the question. It is better to have a degree, but is it worth it?

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    Default Critical

    You need to heed Kevin's warnings if youíre considering becoming a paramedic to get into the fire service. Here's more:

    From Paul Lepore, Captain, Author, "Smoke Your Firefighter Interview"

    Many EMTís get their ďexperienceĒ for paramedic school by transporting elderly patients to and from convalescent hospitals. While this is an admirable service they are providing, this is not preparing you for the rigors of a paramedic internship.

    Believe me that it is extremely difficult to be on top of your game as a paramedic trainee when you are working on a shooting victim, extrication, severe shortness of breath or chest pain patient when you have minimal experience as an EMT. It is overwhelming to expect a candidate to run the call, give directions to the crew and know the medication and transportation protocols when they are seeing the call for the first time.

    If they don't step up and take charge, the firefighters will step in and take over the run. It makes it even more difficult since over 1/2 of my department is currently certified or was a paramedic.

    Once you get your feet knocked out from underneath you, it can be difficult to recover. This is especially true when you are running 20 calls per shift on the rescue.

    Will it help you become a firefighter YES, WITHOUT A DOUBT? The problem is that these candidates are being told that it's a breeze. I see one candidate after another being terminated during their internship. It breaks my heart to see their dream come to an end because someone gave them the wrong advice.

    If someone has a wealth of EMT experience and is extremely comfortable with their EMT skills and has taken a course on EKG's and anatomy and physiology, then I say go for it! If there is any doubt, I strongly recommend doing some soul searching.


    This from firefighter Chris Bertrand:

    I hope I can throw in my humble opinion amongst those who have a lot more whiskers than me. Your education will take you a long way, but there is no substitute for field experience. If the medic route is the one you decide to take, spend the time working as an EMT but steer clear of ambulance companies that only run interfacility transfers. All you do is take sick people from one hospital to another. You get no on-scene experience.

    There are a few ambulance companies who have 911 contracts with local fire departments. This is the difference. If you want to be a firefighter/medic, you need to be exposed to countless emergencies to prepare yourself mentally. Being book smart is one thing, but on an emergency everyone is counting on the medic to make heads up decisions when the chips are down. This comes naturally for very few people. For others it takes some getting used to and the best way to get used to it is by being exposed to it. For others, it never comes. Before you commit yourself to medic school, work for one of these companies that run 911 calls.

    As the EMT, you will only be expected to assist the medics. This way you will be able to see how they think and how to make good decisions under pressure, which as I am sure you know is also critical to being a good firefighter. If you are lucky, the fire/medics may take you under their wing and help you prepare for medic school. If you try to go directly to medic school from EMT school, you will fall apart during your field-testing because it is very intense. If you donít make it through the field portion, you fail, and all of your preparation is wasted.

    I was accepted to UCLA Daniel Freeman Paramedic Program. Two weeks later I was hired by a fire department. I took the job and did not go to medic school. I felt I was ready and the L.A. County medics told me I was ready. I think my experience with them made all the difference. Good luck in making your decision.

    You can find more on testing secrets in the Career Article section from the Jobs drop down menu just above this posting.

    ďNothing counts Ďtil you have the badge . . . Nothing!Ē

    Fire "Captain Bob"

    www.eatstress.com

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    Lightbulb

    I'll offer my opinion. I'll try to keep it short. However this discussion has many different sub-topics that I see have sprout from others answering the original question.

    First I have been a fireman in many different depts vol, small town, suburb, major urban city. One required college, some prefered it, one, many believed actually thought of it a disadvantage.(more on that later)

    -Should you get a degree to better your chances of getting on an FD?

    I say no, go to college to improve ones knowledge and as something to fall back on if either you never get hired or you retire early on a disablity. Thats what I did. Regardless if I was to become a fireman or not I was getting a degree to fall back on. What it really shows a prospective employer is that you can basicly teach yourself, though applying yourself and self-motivation to study. Why does a Chief hire a guy with a Sociology degree? Is it because
    he wants a sociologist? No it increases the probability that the person you are hiring isn't stupid. Although I know many college educated firemen who are completely brain dead! (some have argued I'm one of them )

    Is it mandatory? No. I know many accept an equivilant such as two years military service, etc.

    The Paramedic thing...

    Before some guys make you think you need a doctorate in protology to be a firefighter I'll give you my view from my travels.

    This is another factor that depends on where you are looking to get hired? On the West coast and Florida for whatever reason it is almost mandatory in many depts to be a paramedic. They do have large retired populations which might have some effect on the numbers.

    From my experience many depts and Chiefs have used this as a crutch and a marketing tool that has many ill effects on the fire service and Emergency Medical Service. They will cite all kinds of stats on why they need medics but they don't have a clue why a 2 man Truck Co. is criminal!

    I've had the opportunity to meet many FFs from all over the country when they visit my city...we usually swap the same old questions and I've seen a common thread amongst most of them...it is all in the "statisics". In one of my former depts I saw many paralells between these other depts and mine that was at the time I left, they were pushing for paramedics. Vast majority of calls were BS. This isn't recorded as a false alarm like fire calls are but as a medical run. So some companies did 70% EMS runs...but actually maybe 20% were actuall borderline medical emergencies, and of that maybe 5% were actually serious. Have I seen paramedics save peoples lives? Yes Pretty rare though. Most times as an EMT I could say we slowed the progression of death. Hospitals are where people are really saved. I can say I've seen more lives saved with a nozzle.

    Guys like yourself, who might(I don't know) have no interest in being a paramedic are more or less corerced into getting your paramedic certification just to achive your goal of being a firefighter. What does the city and the citizens get in return. A paramedic who really isn't that interested in being a medic...what kind of service do you think he will provide if he really isn't interested in this kind of work...yet to reach his dream of being a FF he must be on a meat bus for 3 years or whatever? Don't force yourself to do something you have no interest in at all. It doesn't benefit anyone.

    Much of what you are asking also depends on where you are to apply. On the East Coast and midwest where I have spent my career, many places have the civil service system that requires only merit and fitness. Larger & older cities usually are the ones who employ such hiring practices. These are the ones where there is no "oral board" or "interview". These systems were delveoped to elminate political influence or discrimination. They do not discriminate agaisnt anyone, you score the highest you get the job. They might require a certain amount of college credits but no certian degree. The FD will teach you what you need to know and do not care that you have some certificate of FF 2 or whatever. It really tells nothing more than you learned very basic and general skills that some other dept might use. (I used to be an adjunct instructor for FF college classes.) Although some FDs actually put alot of value on prior experience and gerneral certifications such as FF1.

    As I mentioned before and others noted...you are applying for an entry level job. There can be problems hiring older canidates with higher education and previous job experience. The FD is looking for a probie who will not question anything, you are just like a pvt. in the Marine Corps, competely green, ears open, mouth shut. You must not fall into the trap of being that guy who tells the instructor or officer "This is how WE did it" or "this is what IFSTA says". I know guys who have FPE degrees from OSU and have had a hard time finding work because as was said before...Most Chiefs and FFs don't have these degrees and some view it as threating if a FF has a far superior education. I saw this first hand in a small college town FD I worked for years ago.

    My advice is to find a few depts you would like to work for. Look into them, find out if you like the atmosphere and promotional system. Find out what their requirements are and what they are looking for. Then attain those requirements. Don't worry about getting a degree first. Take some classes but still apply and if they say get some more college, next time return with some more college.

    Don't just apply everwhere to get a job, NOT ALL FDs are created alike. Some I can attest to are down-right miserable places to work.

    Get some college no matter what you decide to do. Some college is better than nothing.

    Best of luck,
    FTM-PTB

    PS: some FDs offer partial reimbursement of college classes leading to a degree program. Putting off some college until you are hired might actually be ecconomicly beneficial to you.

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    Glad you were trying to keep it short Fred

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    Default LOL...

    HFD66TRUCK...I laughed out loud...funny!

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    Default

    He must be married & unable to get very much into a conversation! Firehouse can be an outlet for emotions.
    ~Kevin
    Firefighter/Paramedic
    --^v--^v--^v--^v--
    Of course, that's just my opinion. I could be wrong
    Dennis Miller

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