1. #1
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    Default Value of a 4 year degree

    I'm currently 19 years old and have just started my second year of college. I'm seriously considering a career in firefighting and the school that I am currently at offers no programs at all related to either firefighting or EMS training. I'm trying to decide if I should leave the school in order to take classes to obtain my AS in fire science and take the fire academy. My parents tell me that having a 4 year degree would help a lot in getting hired at a department but I think that they're not understanding the situation at all because if I stayed at my 4 year school that would mean that I would still have to do my firefighter training (and later paramedic training as I plan on doing this too) after I graduate. It seems that it would make more sense to start firefighter training and work as an EMT (I obtained my EMT-B certification last year) than to stay at the school I'm at. Also I'm trying to get hired as a seasonal firefighter and this seems hard to do with no training. Anyways I was just hoping for some feedback, maybe from people who have been in the same situation or just anyone who has any information. Thanks!

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    You have a couple of angles going here.

    The idea of trying to get hired as a seasonal FF or completing EMT and trying to get an ambulance job are probably good routes to pursue while you are in school. The seasonal FF may be hard because the fire season and school semesters don't line up but some places will work with students others won't.

    I would highly advise you complete a 4 year degree though, even if it means you have to postpone getting hired by a fire department. Particularly if your parents are helping you. It may not help you get hired as a firefighter but it will likely help you promote once you are in, many chief level jobs these days require a 4 year degree and there are many Captains and BC's who wish they had completed a degree when they were young instead of taking night classes on their days off now. The other thing is it gives you back up in case the fire service doesn't work out (never hired, injured on the job, you just don't like it etc). Also at 19 you are well under the "average" hiring age (I belive the average in CA is 25-30) and even at 23 still have 2 years to get FF1 and paramedic done before hitting the peak ages. While many do get hired young I wouldn't look at it like the fire service is passing you by while you finish school.

    Perhaps you could take a semester off or find a summer session to get some basic fire classes and EMT so you can start testing for FD jobs while finishing your degree. The hiring process is something to learn all on its own and practice is good.

    EMT and either a CDF 67 hour academy or a basic wildland firefighting class S130/190, I 100 would probably be worth looking at for possible employment while you go to school. It is hard to recommend anything specific without knowing the area you are in.
    Last edited by NonSurfinCaFF; 10-07-2004 at 12:33 AM.

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    Rick, from everyone I have talked to a four year degree is crucial. The reason being is that entering most fire departments a 4 yr degree is not mandatory, however, highly respected and valued. Also to move up the ladder I know a lot of departments require at least a four year degree to move up to Lt. Needless to say, what happens if you get injured on the job. You are going to need a college degree and a fall back plan, right. So my advice is definetly get your four year degree even your graduate later on. It will most likely help you in the long run. Also just do FF1 over the summer thats what I did if thats offered. It was easy only two days a week but it depends on the area.
    Good Luck Bro

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    Default My 2 cents

    Is your goal to be a firefighter? At your age you certainly have plenty of time. But where are you going to get the most bang for your buck? We have enough chiefs. We need more indians.

    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 to the board with 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 of our 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, "Screw you! 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 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 into the fire service. It could hurt you.

    I look for the shortest distance to the badge. If I were starting out, I would run to paramedic school. It looks like Pennsylvania College of Technology could accomplish the goal and you would be near home.

    Yes, you can get on without it. I have 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.

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

    Fire "Captain Bob" Author, Becoming A Firefighter
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  5. #5
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    Default 4 year degree, paramedic card, etc

    Captain Bob:

    I always appreciate your advice and perspective. But as a retired east coaster, I disagree with your assessment of the value of obtaining a four year degree prior to fire department employment.

    First - I am in complete agreement that ANY candidate that obtains a National Registry EMT-Paramedic (or EMT-Intermediate) certification significantly increases their employability in big-city, urban county and rural communities. It remains a thin commodity for fire-based ems systems.

    Of all the academic things to do, getting a National Registry EMT-Paramedic certification remains the biggest bang for the buck. The need for certified paramedics in some departments overshadows other preferred pre-employment candidate attributes.

    Second - I appreciate the reality that a firefighter candidate with a BS/MS in a pre-employment interview with a board consisting of folks with high school diplomas can be disasterous. It is one of those attributes you should NOT showcase in the pre-employment phase.

    With some notable exceptions, obtaining an associate degree in Fire Science does NOT provide preferential consideration in the hiring process. Most older departments still work from the concept of hiring someone with physical and mental capability - the employer will provide the job training. As you point out in your book, the candidate must research the requirements for the departments he/she wants to work for.

    The same can be said for extensive volunteer firefighter experience. It does not translate into preferential considerations in the metro Washington DC area - they still must attend the local jurisdiction or regional recruit school. (Including a Ventura County captain who came east to care for his aging parents!)

    Third - The value of a four-year degree is after the candidate is hired and off-probation. The first problem is that once the person is on-the-job, the ability to start (or finish) a degree diminishes as overtime, new wheels, spouse, children, second job, second spouse, alimony, etc. compete for time.

    The second problem is the changing demographics of the incoming firefighter work force. In my neck of the woods, about 40% of the rookies have a two-year degree (about half of them are paramedics), another 30% have a four year degree and 10% have an advanced degree. Very different from my recruit school! The recruit without the academic background may have to work harder once he/she gets on the job and prepares for further promotions.

    As the parent paying for school - I want my child to get a degree and THEN go play on the fire trucks.

    But for Rick - if firefighting is going to be his life, then get to a college/university that runs a paramedic training program and obtain his National Registry EMT-Paramedic. That provides both college and a valuable job skill.

    Mike

    Fire Science Program Head
    Northern Virginia Community College
    http://www.nvcc.edu/home/mward/

    Adjunct Assistant Professor of Emergency Medicine
    The George Washington University
    http://www.gwumc.edu/ems/ward.html
    Last edited by MikeWard; 10-09-2004 at 11:36 PM.

  6. #6
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    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 techincal certificationm that costs $250. and having the BS with out the tech cert makes me prety 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.

    if you want, go to UofMd, and get your BS in Emergency management. that way you have your 4 year degree and your paramedic when you graduate. and you can gain the experience and training of the maryland departments.

    focus on your goal. and don't let anything get in your way until you get it.
    If my basic HazMat training has taught me nothing else, it's that if you see a glowing green monkey running away from something, follow that monkey!

    FF/EMT/DBP

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    I moved from pennsylvania to maryland. 1. to go to UMUC for fire science. 2. Attend MFRI, another well known fire school 3. to gain experience in a busy volunteer system with a known reputation.

    If i dont make it into a big fire department, i can fall back on what i learned and what ive done, to get into a smaller department that will take those steps into consideration.

    I doubt that i will go for my paramedic certification, due to the fact that i want to be a firefighter, not taking a whippin' 24(hours) straight on the medic.

    Moving from philly to the west outward, you see more vollie companies cant get out, so they start hiring daylight crews. More and more of these positions will be created to meet the goals of serving the community and they dont go through the big process a metro department would do.

    Just how i see it.
    chris

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    Originally posted by PGPipeMan
    I doubt that i will go for my paramedic certification, due to the fact that i want to be a firefighter, not taking a whippin' 24(hours) straight on the medic.
    And I doubt that you will be quickly hired by either big city or rural department.

    Most of the rural suburban volunteer departments that are starting to hire "day dudes" are requiring/preferring paramedic certifications. Only 11% of Phoenix 911 calls are for fires. Most of the PG 911 calls are for ems. 76% of DCFD Engine 10's nearly 7000 calls a year are ems.

    That does not mean I think you should choose to be an "Emergency Rescue Technician" as a career - just that between your experience (UMD degree, MFRI certified, crusty PG urban experience) and another candidate (national registry paramedic with no fire experience) the OTHER candidate will recieve preferential hiring consideration.

    But what do I know ...

    Good luck either way.
    Last edited by MikeWard; 10-20-2004 at 11:50 AM.

  9. #9
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    TIME OUT!!! Forget being fireman for a second, someday you're going to be the head of a household, who is going to balance your checkbook? Who is going to help you understand interest rates, should you go for a 15 year loan or a 30 year loan? Know how to use a computer? Do you know how to following directions, do you have the discipline to save, not spend on a impulse?

    Do you know how to work in a team, under pressure, meeting deadlines, follow directiosn? I think you get the picture.

    Finish school, you need those building blocks for life. Rememeber, most fireman have a second source of income. You're only 19, do you have any other skills? What if you decide to start a business on teh side?

    Bottom line - get your degree first, then work on your fire resume. If you stay focused, disciplined, and motivated you'll get what you want. Good luck.
    Jim
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    BETTER TO DIE ON YOUR FEET THAN LIVE ON YOUR KNEES!

  10. #10
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    Originally posted by sbfdco1
    TIME OUT!!! Forget being fireman for a second, someday you're going to be the head of a household, who is going to balance your checkbook? Who is going to help you understand interest rates, should you go for a 15 year loan or a 30 year loan? Know how to use a computer? Do you know how to following directions, do you have the discipline to save, not spend on a impulse?

    Do you know how to work in a team, under pressure, meeting deadlines, follow directiosn? I think you get the picture.

    Finish school, you need those building blocks for life. Rememeber, most fireman have a second source of income. You're only 19, do you have any other skills? What if you decide to start a business on teh side?

    Bottom line - get your degree first, then work on your fire resume. If you stay focused, disciplined, and motivated you'll get what you want. Good luck.
    Hear, Hear!!!!
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    Learn from the mistakes of others; you won't live long enough to make them all yourself.

    Quote Originally Posted by nyckftbl View Post
    LOL....dont you people have anything else to do besides b*tch about our b*tching?

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    You have your doubts, and so do I. But I included as an example pertaining to pennsylvania. Most organizations in Pa are private ems. Fire departments in Pa provide fire services, and basic emergency medical services. A few hire paramedics, but most paramedic services are provide by large EMS companies or Hospital based units.

    what do large fire departments do to people with medic certification... they ride the Medic unit...what could happen to people who have their medic certification and want to be a firefighter but ride the medic unit all the time...it could lead to poor patient care.

    Rick,
    South carolina is always hiring firefighters with FF1,Emt-B,hazmat ops, and Evoc.

  12. #12
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    Default Decide where you want to work

    To reinforce what Captain Bob advocates:

    1) Decide where you want to live for 10 - 20 - 30 years

    2) Identify the departments that exist in those type of areas.

    3) Determine how busy you want to be. Look at the annual report to derive the departmental workload.

    4) Do the research to identify the specific requirements for fire fighter candidates. Some have residency requirements, others require some type of pre-employment training/certification/semester hours. More-and-more departments are requiring that you pass a Candidate Physical Aptitude Test.

    5) Meet the requirements and start the hiring process

    Good luck

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    PGPipe, I don't think a paramedic worth his name would allow patient care to suffer before he raised a stink about being stuck on the meat wagon. Now, the fire service is a food chain, where new guy in is certainly the grunt. A firefighter doesn't get hired out of rookie school as chief, right? A paramedic pays his dues, and if he's on the ambulance his first couple years... that's how it goes. However, would that paramedic have gotten into this big municipal department if he hadn't been a paramedic? Who knows! My thought is that being a paramedic automatically puts someone on an ambulance more frequently than the BRT, and it's something you have to accept to be part of the team. It's fire-based systems that hire ONLY FF/P's that make promotion & truck assignments easier. I absolutely love the department in my area here that has 70 line people with nearly 60% paramedic.

    Hail to SBFD for looking at the big picture! We so often forget that there is a world out there beyond the station doors. I have to laugh as I ask the question, what do we do off shift? (haha... wait for callback!) But seriously, yes we have families, households, OTHER jobs, and what about the time we decide to retire in 20,25,30 years? Now, I applauded my buddy Bill Parker who retired from the fire service as chief after 25 years and then took paramedic the same time I did, as his "second" career in life. Gotta love it! Finish the degree if possible, gaining whatever experience you can to make yourself more valuable. However, it's not just fire experience that gets the job anyway (as much character & life experience). Best of luck!
    ~Kevin
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    Of course, that's just my opinion. I could be wrong
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  14. #14
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    Default Stay in school

    I wish I would have listened to my parents and gone to college. While a 4-year degree will certainly not get you a job in the fire service it will give you a great educational foundation.

    I got hired at 20 years old as a single function paramedic for a major southern California fire department. A year later I went to another major FD as a dual function FF/PM.

    I got busy buying real eatate, starting a business, getting married, having kids and writing books. All this while working as a firefighter and promoting through the ranks.

    At 40-years old I have found myself back in the classroom completing my AS and BA degree simultaneously. What I wouldn't give to have done it when I was younger.

    It would have been so much easier to get doen without the demands of everything listed above.

    Let me see if I can make this any clearer: LISTEN TO YOUR PARENTS AND STAY IN SCHOOL.
    Paul Lepore
    Battalion Chief
    Author of Smoke Your Firefighter Interview and The Aspiring Firefighter's 2-year Plan
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    Default Re: Stay in school

    Originally posted by FDengine13
    At 40-years old I have found myself back in the classroom completing my AS and BA degree simultaneously. What I wouldn't give to have done it when I was younger.
    On the other hand, some aspects of higher education seemed easier when I went back to school (I got a BS after high school and went back after working several years for another BS and an MBA).

    I think the younger students hated me because I was blowing the curve and making it look effortless.

    I found that I was much more focused on my studies than when I was younger. All the extra time pressure meant that I couldn't postpone studying. I was not distracted by the "normal" college student social life. Rather than studying to pass a test as I had earlier in life, I was serious about learning. The tests took care of themselves.

    Of course it was all on my dime and it took working two jobs to make it possible. I was determined to get my money's worth.

    It is certainly possible to get your degree later in life, so if that's how the cards fall, don't give up on that goal.

    For what it's worth, I think that fire science degrees are much more useful if you take them after being in the fire service for a while. Real world experience is an important point of reference if you hope to take much more away from the curriculum than a nifty piece of paper, suitable for framing.
    ullrichk
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